How Many Cars Does the Average American Family Need?

2017_Acura_MDX

How many cars should a family own?

According to Experian, the average family owns two cars, while 35 percent of American households own three cars or more.

Ownership rates vary greatly across the country and are influenced more by location than income levels. In fact, households with incomes over $250,000 are just as likely to own a single vehicle as households with incomes of $25,000. No matter what your income, is it better to own one car that is an all-purpose, all-season vehicle, or two or more cars that each serve a specific purpose and are used only in certain conditions?

For many families, owning a single car can mean splurging on a luxury brand or buying brand new, while a 4-car family might prefer older used cars that can be purchased with cash.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios. Which one is closest to your family’s preference?

Family One owns two vehicles. They have a fancy new Acura MDX for transporting the entire clan and towing a utility trailer, and they have a newer Subaru Legacy for Mom or Dad to drive to work. Both vehicles are AWD and are good for summer and winter driving.

Family Two thinks a little differently. They financed an older Toyota 4Runner that’s just for towing, hauling, and driving through winter storms. They also have a small loan on an efficient, low-priced Nissan Versa for single-person commuting, in addition to a high-mileage Subaru Outback for winter driving that they own outright. There’s also a paid-off Mazda Miata that’s reserved for summer fun.

Family Two has lower car payments and more flexibility in using a car for a specific purpose, but also has significantly higher insurance costs. Family One pays more per month but has newer, more reliable vehicles. However, Family One may get tired of their cars faster, while the drivers in Family Two can spread the love across more vehicles.

There’s really no wrong way to handle car ownership. Whether your family owns no cars, two cars, four cars, or more is completely dependent on personal preference.

But before you decide to get rid of your pricey newer cars and replace them with a stable of used cars, think about how much money you’ll save in monthly payments versus higher maintenance costs and increased insurance rates. The costs might end up being a wash, but there could be some value in always having something at your disposal that you haven’t driven in a while.

How many cars are in your family? Does it work for you or would you want to make a change?

-tgriffith

Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

Used Acura MDX
Used Subaru Legacy
Used Toyota 4Runner
Used Nissan Versa
Used Subaru Outback
Used Mazda Miata

2 Comments

  1. How did you calculate the insurance prices? What makes a car “good for summer driving?”

    The question you pose is a good one, but it would be more interesting if each “family” had to do the same things with the vehicles. Maybe commute in harsh winter, carpool with up to four kids, and tow their 6500lbs loaded trailer.

    Swapping the Miata for something older and more valuable would also add a different dimension (collector/antique tags and specialty insurance).

    In the end I think that location would be the biggest factor here. All the more if you live in a no-fault insurance state, or a state with high personal property taxes.

  2. We own 3 cars in our family. My husband’s Pontiac Grand AM that he drives to work. A 15 passenger van that we recently upgraded to because we’re expecting baby #7 this October and an old 70’s pick up used to haul garbage to the dump, get fire wood etc. I think it all depends on the specific needs of the individual family. It’s really nice to have all of our vehicles paid off. Especially needing to own 3. That’s definitely the way to go.

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