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Study shows recent increase in US households without a vehicle

A new report by Dr. Michael Sivak at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) shows a recent increase in the proportion of US households without a vehicle.

Sivak performed two analyses on data from the American Community Survey. The first analysis examined the changes in this proportion of US households without a vehicle for the entire US from 2005 through 2012. The second analysis studied the variations in this proportion among the 30 largest US cities for 2007 (the year with the lowest overall proportion) and 2012 (the latest available year).

The main findings were:

  1. In 2012, 9.2% of U.S. households were without a vehicle, compared to 8.7% in 2007 (the year with the lowest recent proportion).

  2. The proportion of households without a vehicle varies greatly among the 30 largest US cities: In 2012, the maximum was 56.5% (in New York) and the minimum was 5.8% (in San Jose).

  3. In six of the 30 cities, more than 30% of households do not have a vehicle.

  4. From 2007 to 2012, there was an increase in the proportion of households without a vehicle in 21 of the 30 cities examined.

  5. The 13 cities with the largest proportions all showed an increase from 2007 to 2012.

Recent studies have shown that—per person, per driver, and per household—we now have fewer light-duty vehicles, we drive each of them less, and we consume less fuel than in the past. These trends suggest that motorization in the U.S. might have reached a peak several years ago. … The recent increase in the proportion of households without a vehicle provides additional support for the hypothesis that motorization in the U.S. peaked during the previous decade.

—Michael Sivak


  • Michael Sivak (2014) “Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked? Part 4: Households without a Light-Duty Vehicle” (UMTRI-2014-5)



It may be just a question of plain affordability in most cases.

The economic health of many Americans was in poorer shape in 2012 than in 2007 and many more had to use public transportation and/or sell the car and stay home without as job.

This may change when unemployment drops below 6% and (if) more people start earning more $$. However, if the wealth disparity between the 3% and the 97% gets worse (and it may very do) more and more of the 97% will have to walk or use public transports.


Anecdotally, I know of people who have dumped their vehicle due to convenient car share/rental plans

So it is probably a combination of factors


If people learn to live without as many cars, they may be slow to go back. I know people who hate driving and hate car ownership. That was not true 15 years ago.


Yes, more of the 97% will soon have to re-learn how to walk, use bicycles, take the bus, subway etc and/or live down town in subsidized housing.


Large numbers drive golf carts especially in gated communities. These are probably not counted as street vehicles in the strict sense.


Shame. Witness the birth of the new under-performing, under-contributing, under-productive transit- and personal-power- dependent class. I certainly don't want to be on the road with those who only rent a car a few times a year - you lose your safety street awareness and intuition very quickly. Small-group (not public) sharing plans are becoming more popular - where you know all users - often through work, extended family, special groups, etc.


They are starting to build cities in the European style, with stores on the ground level and living quarters above them. This makes needing to leave the neighborhood to go shopping a thing of the past. Good old suburban sprawl is the result of separating stores from the consumers, as well as needing to travel miles to get to the stores. Walking becomes an option because it no longer takes driving for 10 minutes just to get out of your suburban neighborhood, and then once again driving another 10 minutes to the nearest grocery/Starbucks (or whatever). It also could mean the end of big box stores as once again local stores can support their local neighborhood. As long as these newer urban developments are near a public transportation, who needs a car?


Your utopian world could arrive when Amazon or Costco can deliver any product to the 7-11 on the first floor of your flat for you to pick up. It would be more efficient for the seller to deliver to one location on the block, and more secure and convenient for the purchaser. Then we can just repurpose all the existing retail buildings (Sears, Penny, Best Buy) into condos and yogurt shops.


If the current trend is maintained and the wealth disparity keeps growing, the 97% may not be able to afford full time ownership or rental of a private vehicle.

Currently, 80 of the 1200 billionaires have more wealth than 50% of the population of the planet.

Part time rental or car sharing may be all the majority may be able to afford.

Will it be 'back to the future' or will it be 'back to the have and have not days. If so, many will be walking.


The 2013 stats are out. USA's oil consumption increased by 4.5% (close to 400,000 barrels/day more than 2012) even when less people own cars and distance travelled per vehicle decreased slightly.

This is a huge surprise too many who were convinced that USA was wining its Oil addiction.

The current (2014) year will also see another rise in Oil consumption in USA, estimated to be between 4% and 5% or another 400,000+ barrels/day. It could be slightly higher if (the main driver, the) economic recovery is maintained.

There are many reasons for this surprising increase. The main reason is the rising economy (+3%), the purchase of more and more heavy pick-ups and SUVs, increased air travel, increased industrial activities etc.

The arrival of 200,000+ electrified vehicles had no significant effects (yet).

PS: Exports of diesel and gas was down.

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