The pandemic may have shifted the working schedules and driving habits of many Americans, but owning a car is still integral. The most recent U.S. Census survey found that 91.6% of American households owned at least one vehicle, even as daily personal car trips dropped in 2020 compared to previous years.

What this means for most Americans is that the cost of car insurance is still a necessary expense. Bankrate conducted a deep dive into the latest available data to give more background on the state of car ownership in 2022.

Car ownership statistics

Auto Car
  • In 2020, there were 272,402,478 personal and commercial vehicles registered to drivers in the United States. This dropped by around 500,000 cars in 2021 to 271,811,005 vehicles. (Federal Highway Administration – FHWA)
  • California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania have the most vehicle registrations, due to their size and population. (FHWA)
  • Rhode Island, Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont and Washington D.C. have the least amount of vehicle registrations. (FHWA)
  • In the most recent census survey, only 8.5% of American households did not own a car. (U.S. Census)
  • The majority of Americans own at least one car, with 37.1% owning two vehicles and 22% owning three or more vehicles. (U.S. Census)
  • The average American drove 13,476 miles per year in 2022. (FHWA)
  • Male drivers tended to drive more than female drivers, with an average of 16,550 miles per year driven by male drivers and 10,142 miles per year driven by female drivers. (FHWA)
  • Young drivers aged 16-19 and senior drivers over 65 drove a similar annual mileage of around 7,600 miles. (FHWA)
  • Compared to June 2021, travel by car on roads and streets decreased -1.7%, or -4.8 billion vehicle miles in June 2022. (FHWA)
  • The greatest decrease in miles traveled was in the western states, which was down -3.0% or 62.5 billion miles in June 2022 compared to June 2021. (FHWA)

How many cars are in the US?

There were a total of 275,913,237 vehicles registered in the U.S. in 2020, including 105,135,300  automobiles. More trucks are owned in the U.S. than any other vehicle type, with cars coming second before motorcycles and buses.

U.S. Private and Commercial Ownership By Vehicle Type (FHWA)

Automobile Buses Trucks Motorcycles ALL
103,796,315 568,959 159,147,338 8,298,394 271,811,005

There is also a very pronounced difference in the type of ownership of U.S. vehicles. While there are less than 4.1 million publicly owned vehicles, there are more than 272.4 million privately owned vehicles. Together, they comprise the more than 276 million vehicles owned in the U.S.

U.S. Vehicle Ownership by Type (FHWA)

Private and commercial Publicly owned vehicles Total motor vehicles
271,811,005 4,102,232 275,913,237

Car ownership statistics by city

Vehicle ownership varies significantly based on where you live in the U.S. The information below is gathered from the U.S. Census Data American Community Survey from 2020. Car ownership is higher in areas outside of U.S. metropolitan areas, likely due to urban sprawl and the necessity of a car for daily life.

10 U.S. Metro Areas with the Highest Percentage of Vehicle Ownership

Rank City Percentage of households that own vehicles
1 Provo-Orem, UT 97.43%
2 Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, AL 96.87%
3 Greeley, CO 96.83%
4 The Villages, FL 96.78%
5 Twin Falls, ID 96.66%
6 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 96.66%
7 Midland, TX 96.63%
8 Coeur d’Alene, ID 96.60%
9 St. George, UT 96.57%
10 Logan, UT-ID 96.35%

Some of America’s biggest metropolitan areas have the lowest vehicle ownership in the U.S., which is most likely primarily due to ready access to public transportation and the high cost of parking your car in these cities. New York, Newark and Jersey City metro areas have the lowest percentage of households with a vehicle, with Ithaca, Boston, Cambridge and Newton metro areas coming in second and third place.

10 U.S. Metro Areas with the Lowest Percentage of Vehicle Ownership

Rank City Percentage of households that own vehicles
1 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 69.40%
2 Ithaca, NY 87.01%
3 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 87.13%
4 Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ 87.34%
5 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 87.58%
6 San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA 87.98%
7 Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY 88.01%
8 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 88.03%
9 Springfield, MA 88.70%
10 New Haven-Milford, CT 88.84%

Car ownership statistics by state

The rate of car ownership varies significantly between states. The Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Highway Policy Information offers the latest highway statistics based on the most recent data from 2020.

Several of the biggest and most populated states in the U.S. also have the most vehicle registrations, such as California, Texas and Florida. Accordingly, some of the smallest states in the country also have the lowest rate of vehicle ownership, like Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont.

Cost of car ownership

The cost of car ownership includes a myriad of expenses, and with rising inflation, it has just become a lot more expensive compared to previous years. Surging gas prices throughout the country have significantly increased the cost of commuting. The cost of maintaining and repairing your car may have been impacted by inflation as well, as the cost of parts and labor continue to increase.

These factors all have an impact on insurance premiums as well. Vehicle repair costs are estimated when determining car insurance premiums, so when inflation, supply chain issues and labor costs make this more expensive, policyholders might see this reflected in their car insurance premiums, too.

Expense Car insurance Car maintenance Commuting Annual total
Average cost per year $1,771 for full coverage $9,666 $8,466 $19,903

Learn more: Comparing Car Insurance Rates

What percentage of Americans own a car?

Overall, vehicle ownership is on the rise in an analysis of a five-year period ranging between 2015 and 2019. The number of households with one or two vehicles has decreased over time. However, there has been a steady increase in vehicles of three or more per household. There is a strong indication that because American households are growing in size, the number of vehicles is also increasing to accommodate them. The data also indicates a rise in steady income, allowing Americans to afford both the car payment on three or more vehicles in addition to the costs of maintenance and car insurance.

However, for those Americans without a car, it can present several challenges. Those who do not live close to city transit lines can face serious challenges in getting to school, work and appointments. Those families with children can be challenged with even greater demands, given childrens’ busy schedules.

U.S. Residential Vehicle Accessibility

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
No vehicles available 8.5% 8.6% 8.7% 8.8% 9.0% 9.1%
1 vehicle available 32.5% 32.7% 33.0% 33.2% 33.6% 33.7%
2 vehicles available 37.1% 37.2% 37.3% 37.4% 37.3% 37.4%
3+ vehicles available 22.0% 21.4% 21.0% 20.6% 20.1% 19.8%

Car ownership statistics by year

On an annual basis, the number of total registered vehicles in the U.S. is steadily increasing year-over-year. There was consistent growth over six years ranging from 2014 to 2019. In 2020, the number of total registered vehicles declined to 2019, but was still higher than 2018.

Car Ownership Year-over-Year, 2014-2019 (FHWA)

Year Total U.S. registered vehicles
2020 275,913,237
2019 276,491,174
2018 273,595,656
2017 272,429,803
2016 268,799,083
2015 263,610,219
2014 260,350,938

Car ownership outside of the US

Looking to the rest of the world, global car sales reached 66.7 million in 2021, which was significantly higher than the 63.8 million vehicles sold in 2020.

There is only one country that surpasses the U.S. in car ownership, China. In 2021, the total sales for passenger vehicles exceeded 26 million units, which represented 31.4% of global sales. Additionally, while international automobile companies used to enjoy strong dominance in the Chinese market, Chinese vehicle manufacturers grew their market share to 44.4% domestically in 2021.

Looking forward, the market for electric vehicles is expected to grow in the coming years. By 2025, EVs may account for 7.4% for car sales internationally. By 2025, internal combustion vehicles may decline to about 20% of sales, with EVs accounting for 80% of vehicle sales.