Nearly 10% of Americans Are Carless

Libby Kane

car ownershipDo you have a car?

It seems like a straightforward question—after all, access to a car is a necessary and expected part of life in most of the United States.

Or at least, it used to be.

Increasingly, Americans are falling out of love with the idea of owning a car. Gen Y doesn’t seem to have inherited the want or need to own a car, new cars have in many cases lost their appeal, car insurance is staggeringly expensive in many states and ride-sharing is facilitated by all manner of convenient apps and websites.

Now, CNBC reports that the number of American households without a single car has doubled over the past 10 years, up to 9.3% of the population. A survey conducted by CNW Marketing found that a notable increase in carless households began in 2007, shortly before the 2008 recession. The rise might be associated with the lack of car ownership among Gen Y, the firm posits, combined with the aging U.S. population moving into no-car-needed retirement communities.

The idea that everyone must have a car might not just be outdated—it might not have ever been practiced. Data from the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, reported in The Atlantic, found that among highly developed countries, the U.S. ranks only 25th in the world when it comes the percentage of the population that owns a car.

If you do have a car, enjoy the freedom of going wherever the road leads … but keep an eye out for that pesky car ownership price creep.

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  • rubymer

    I think it has more to do with not being able to afford a car. I read somewhere it costs about 9,000 a year to have a car. I thought that number was huge! But then I thought about my car insurance at 1,400 a year, gas about 200 a month = 2,400 a year and my old car payments at 250 a month = 3,000 which adds up to 6,800 total before including maintenance and I bought a used car for 10,800 sticker price! I recently refinanced and cut my interest rate more than in half and extended my payments (bad I know, but I am actually still saving interest compared to my old loan because I went from 6.24% to 2.8%). I graduated in 2010 and has been working full time only for two years now. Along with student loans having a lower car payment really helps.

    • lucy00

      I agree. I’m about to move to an area filled with public transportation options and a car is starting to feel like a pricey burden. I’m thinking about selling it and saving on insurance, maintenance costs, gas, parking issues, registration fees and other surprise expenses. Maybe I’ll take a ZipCar for a try.

    • Val

      Ditto. I graduated two years ago and have never owned a car; my parents drove theirs until they gave out then traded in for new ones, so I never inherited a car. I’m lucky to live in a city with decent public transportation, because the last thing I want or need right now is yet another loan.

  • Carrie

    I have been carless for just over a year and I LOVE it!. I’ll tell you why: 1) I am in great physical shape from walking (and sometimes running) everywhere and for carrying my purchases (dorky, I know, but I do bicep curls with my gallon of water on the way home) from the store. 2) It has made me ALWAYS bring my own bags when I go out 3) The environment. This is the biggest issue. 4) Expense. I don’t have a car payment, or have to pay for insurance maintenance, fuel, parking. I don’t have to worry about tickets, fender-bender and worse. 5) If I need to go somewhere.. think about this- the money I save each month is more than enough for a plane ticket and a ride to the airport. Everyone is SO wasteful!