Two Thirds of Americans Who Don't Own a Car Are Just Not Interested in Buying One

The share of people from developed countries who don’t own cars but want one is pretty low. In Japan, only 6% of car non-owners mean to buy one, whereas in the U.S., only 33% are thinking of getting one. However, in the developing countries, the shoe is on a completely different foot.
Audi Factory 11 photos
Photo: Audi
GM's Flint assembly plantGM's Flint assembly plantGM's Flint assembly plantGM's Flint assembly plantGM's Flint assembly plantAudi FactoryAudi FactoryAudi TransportAudi FactoryCar Factory
Remember when having a car was everything you ever wanted growing up? It was a status symbol within itself, especially in high school. And when you finally got one, you'd gather with your best friends just to cruise through town, simply having a blast. Even though you might have been riding in a rundown 1995 Honda Civic, you still felt like the king of the world. The novelty of it was like a rite of passage.

However, according to a recent year-long study, that might not be the case anymore. The research was done from summer 2021 to summer 2022, on anywhere between 1,033 to 8,400 people, depending on which of the 12 countries involved we're talking about.

The country with the highest rate of car non-owners that still want to get one was Nigeria, with an astounding 59% intention rate. Brazil was just below that with 51%, and South Africa with 50%. Pakistan followed with 46%, and India with 41%.

Now it gets interesting. The United States is roughly positioned in the middle of the roster with 33% of respondents meaning to buy a car if they don’t own one. That leaves 67% of Americans with no such intent.

Other highly developed countries like Japan sit at the bottom of the list, with a mere 6% of non-owners wanting to buy cars. After that is Finland with 14%, the Netherlands at 17%, Germany at 18%, and Canada at 23%.

The difference between Japan (6%) and Nigeria (59%) is staggering. The research attributes this 53% difference to each of the countries' respective economic development status. The more developed the country, the fewer people want to buy cars.

So where does that leave the U.S., the place that lit the fire under the automotive industry and ensured its continuous development well over a century? The answer might very well lie within the question itself. The United States' 33% share resides in the middle of the list for two possible (and opposing) reasons.

One reason why it’s closer to Nigeria than to Japan is that indeed the American car culture is among the most varied and wide-spread in the world. Be it classic, modern, or electric vehicles, the U.S. soil is host to millions of motorheads that are simply in love with the auto industry in some way or another, because they grew up neck-deep in car culture.

However, the very same position on the list tends to suggest that its economy should be somewhere in between Japan and Nigeria. Which is not the case at all.

According to certain criteria based on HDI, or overall human development index (things like education, health, and life expectancy), the U.S. is number 17 out of 186 total countries researched. Whereas Nigeria comes in at 158. Japan is just two spots behind the U.S. at number 19.

The math doesn’t pan out if we base this solely on economic status. But this is where the American car culture comes into place, and that’s what puts Americans right in the middle.

As for the other developed countries like Finland (14%), the Netherlands (17%), and Germany (18%), the surveys determined that the people consciously don’t desire a car, as opposed to simply not being able to afford one.

They prefer the public transportation system for getting around. At the same time, what sets these countries apart from the lower developed ones is the public transportation system infrastructure itself, which is above and beyond those at the top of the list where personal cars are favored.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)

Editor's note: Gallery shows various car assembly lines.

About the author: Codrin Spiridon
Codrin Spiridon profile photo

Codrin just loves American classics, from the 1940s and ‘50s, all the way to the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. In his perfect world, we'll still see Hudsons and Road Runners roaming the streets for years to come (even in EV form, if that's what it takes to keep the aesthetic alive).
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories