Car Ownership Statistics in the U.S.

Car Ownership Statistics in the U.S.

The rate of car ownership in the U.S. has been trending upward.

We found that 91.55% of households reported having access to at least one vehicle in 2020, up from 90.82% in 2015.

Some states, however, are bucking this trend with a decline in the number of registered vehicles in the same period.

National vehicle ownership statistics

According to an analysis of 2020 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data, 8.45% of U.S. households don’t have access to a vehicle — a decrease of 0.73 percentage points from 2015.

Northeastern states, including New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, tend to have the lowest car ownership rates per household. For example, 29% of New York households don't have access to a car — behind only the District of Columbia at 35%.

Map showing which states have the lowest rates of car ownership in the United States

States with lowest rates of car access

Rank
State
% of homes without a car
1District of Columbia35%
2New York29%
3Massachusetts12%
4New Jersey11%
5Illinois11%
6Pennsylvania11%
7Alaska9%
8Rhode Island9%
9Maryland9%
10Connecticut9%

Total number of registered vehicles per state

California, Texas and Florida lead the nation with the most registered vehicles, accounting for 26% of the U.S. total. This is fitting, considering these states make up 27% of the U.S. population.

In 2020, there were 275,924,442 registered vehicles in the U.S., compared with 263,610,219 in 2015 — an increase of more than 12 million vehicles.

Oklahoma, South Dakota and Montana saw the biggest increases in vehicle registrations from 2015 to 2020. These states have logged increases ranging from 19% to 25% during this span. On the other end of the spectrum, Vermont saw the biggest drop in registrations — decreasing 7% over the same period — one of only 12 states to see a dip.

State
# of registered vehicles 2020
# of registered vehicles 2015
% change in registered vehicles
U.S.275,924,442263,610,2194.7%
Alabama5,320,3405,400,419-1.5%
Alaska792,826815,122-2.7%
Arizona6,053,7815,630,6477.5%
Arkansas2,913,3692,772,2145.1%
California30,398,24929,424,0123.3%
Colorado5,350,7085,005,1726.9%
Connecticut2,867,5542,841,7640.9%
Delaware1,006,135964,3164.3%
District of Columbia356,537322,92910.4%
Florida18,464,50616,105,00814.7%
Georgia8,829,5968,137,6218.5%
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Registered vehicles per capita by state

Great Plains states Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota have the largest rates of vehicle registrations per capita, according to 2020 Census Bureau figures.

Montana has 184 vehicles registered per 100 people in the state — the most in the nation.

That's nearly two vehicles per resident, and more than triple the rate in New York, which has only 58 registered vehicles per 100 residents.

About 10 states have more registered vehicles than people, while New York and the District of Columbia are the only places to contain fewer than 60 cars per 100 residents.

Rank
State
Cars per 100 people
1Montana184
2Wyoming148
3South Dakota147
4Iowa120
5North Dakota118
6Idaho109
7Alabama109
8Alaska108
9Delaware104
10Minnesota102
11Nebraska101
12New Hampshire100
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Metros with the highest rates of vehicle ownership

Of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (or metros) in the U.S., Raleigh, N.C., has the highest percentage of households with access to at least one vehicle.

However, it's not the metro with the most vehicles per household — that's Riverside, Calif. There, the average household owns 2.14 vehicles — one of only three (joining Salt Lake City and San Jose, Calif.) with more than two cars per household.

Rank
Metro
# of vehicles per household
% of households with access to a vehicle
1Raleigh, NC1.9696.1%
2Nashville, TN1.9895.8%
3Riverside, CA2.1495.7%
4Austin, TX1.8595.6%
5Dallas, TX1.9195.4%
6Orlando, FL1.8095.2%
7Charlotte, NC1.9295.1%
8Oklahoma City, OK1.8995.1%
9Houston, TX1.8894.8%
10Salt Lake City, UT2.0494.7%
11San Jose, CA2.0494.7%
12San Diego, CA1.9694.6%
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Figures come from 2020 U.S. Census American Community Survey.

Metros in the Northeast — including New York, Boston and Philadelphia — rank lowest for vehicle ownership.

New York ranks as the metro with the lowest rate of vehicle ownership, with 31% of households lacking access to a car.

The low rate of car ownership in New York could be partially due to its sophisticated public transportation network as well as the high cost of car insurance in the city — among the highest in the nation.

Methodology

Data on vehicle registrations by state is from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. To estimate state- and metro-level car ownership, we utilized U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2016-2020 and 2011-2015. We considered households that reported having access to five or more vehicles in their home as having five vehicles.

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