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The rate of car ownership in the U.S. has been trending up, with 2017 marking a seven year high. During this year, 93.3% of households reported having access to at least one vehicle. However, some states are bucking this trend — with New Jersey seeing a 29% decline in the number of registered vehicles from 2012 to 2017.
National vehicle ownership statistics
According to 2017 census figures, 8.6% of households in America do not have access to a vehicle — which is a decrease of 0.5 percentage points points compared to 2010. Household car ownership from 2010 to 2017 reached a low in 2011, with nearly 11 million households reporting to have no access to a vehicle.
Total number of registered vehicles per state
California, Texas and Florida lead the nation in the number of registered vehicles, accounting for 28% of the nationwide total. This is fitting, considering these states make up 27% of the U.S. populace.
Washington, Arizona and Nevada have seen the biggest increases in vehicle registrations from 2012 to 2017. These states have logged increases ranging from 13% to 14% during this span. On the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey saw the greatest decrease in private automobile registrations — dropping 29%.
|State||# of registered automobiles 2012||# of registered automobiles 2017||% change in registered vehicles|
|Dist. of Col.||194,711||191,723||-2%|
Registered vehicles per capita by state
Adjusting for population, Delaware, Montana and Alabama have the largest rates of vehicle registrations per capita according to 2017 figures — the most recent available. In these states, there were over 40 registered vehicles for every 100 residents, which is 20% greater than the national average of 33.4. Conversely, New York, Alaska and Mississippi — which also ranked highly for the rate of uninsured motorists — had the lowest number of registered vehicles by population, with rates of 22.9, 22.9 and 27.5 vehicles per 100 residents respectively.
|Rank||State||Registered vehicles per 100 residents|
|48||Dist. of Col.||27.6|
Cities with the highest rates of vehicle ownership
Of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., Raleigh, North Carolina ranks as having the highest percentage of households with access to at least one vehicle. Furthermore, the average number of vehicles owned per household for Raleigh sits at 1.90, which is also one of the highest rates in the country.
|Rank||Metro area||Average # of vehicles per household||% of households without access to a vehicle|
|2||Austin-Round Rock, TX||1.80||4.52%|
|4||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||1.85||4.86%|
|5||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||2.00||4.95%|
|6||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||1.99||5.00%|
|7||Salt Lake City, UT||1.96||5.14%|
|8||Oklahoma City, OK||1.85||5.14%|
|10||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||1.82||5.41%|
|12||San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||1.89||5.63%|
|14||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA||1.82||6.01%|
|15||Kansas City, MO-KS||1.83||6.13%|
|20||San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||1.80||6.54%|
|23||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||1.84||6.68%|
|25||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||1.60||7.04%|
|26||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||1.83||7.25%|
|28||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||1.77||7.86%|
|29||St. Louis, MO-IL||1.78||7.86%|
|33||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||1.81||8.10%|
|34||Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||1.66||8.29%|
|35||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL||1.61||8.47%|
|37||Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT||1.74||9.37%|
|39||Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI||1.64||9.97%|
|41||New Orleans-Metairie, LA||1.59||10.37%|
|46||San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||1.70||12.22%|
|47||Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY||1.53||12.76%|
|50||New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||1.24||29.89%|
Cities located in the Northeast — including New York City, Philadelphia and Boston — ranked low for vehicle ownership. New York, in particular, ranked as the metropolitan statistical area with the lowest rate of vehicle ownership, with about 30% of the residents in the tri-state area not having 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 cost of car insurance in the city — which is some of the highest in the state.
Data on vehicle registrations by state came from U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. For purposes of estimating state and city level car ownership, we utilized census data on vehicle access by household. We considered households that reported having access to four or more vehicles in their home as having four vehicles.