The rate of car ownership in the U.S. has been trending up for most of the past decade.
We found that 91.3% of households most recently reported having access to at least one vehicle.
However, some states are bucking this trend, seeing a decline in the number of registered vehicles.
National vehicle ownership statistics
According to 2019 census figures, 8.7% of households in America do not have access to a vehicle — which is a decrease of 0.4 percentage points compared to 2010.
Household car ownership from 2010 to 2018 reached a low in 2011, with nearly 11 million households reporting to have no access to a vehicle.
% of Households without vehicle access
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, Nevada and California have seen the biggest increases in vehicle registrations from 2012 to 2018. These states have logged increases ranging from 14% to 17% during this span. On the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey saw the greatest decrease in private automobile registrations — dropping 33% over the same time period.
# of registered vehicles 2019
# of registered automobiles 2012
% change in registered vehicles
|Dist. of Col.||203,771||194,711||4.7%|
Registered vehicles per capita by state
Adjusting for population, Delaware, Alabama and Montana have the largest rates of vehicle registrations per capita according to 2019 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 33.2.
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 22.8, 24.4 and 27.1 vehicles per 100 residents respectively.
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,.
# of vehicles per household
% of households without access to a vehicle
|3||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||2.1||4.3%|
|5||Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX||1.8||4.8%|
|6||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||1.9||4.9%|
|7||Salt Lake City, UT||2.1||5.1%|
|9||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||1.9||5.4%|
|10||Oklahoma City, OK||1.9||5.4%|
|12||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||2.0||5.6%|
Figures come from 2019 U.S. Census American Community Survey.
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 more than 31% of households in the tri-state area 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 cost of car insurance in the city — which is some of the highest in the nation.
Data on vehicle registrations by state came from the 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.