And now for some hippie speak on why cars are bad.

First, a surprising statistic about per capita car ownership. The USA doesn’t even rank in the top five!

First, a non-surprising statistic about per capita vehicle ownership. The USA ranks at the top!

Per capita vehicle ownership

(Old Source – This data set was silly since it just measured cars and not motor vehicles per Bob’s comment below.)

Second, Americans spent about 52.2 cents per mile on their personal vehicles in 2007 after adding all the costs of ownership such as purchase price, insurance, maintenance, and gas. At an average usage of 15,000 miles per year, that works out to $7,800 per year per car.

Let’s compare that to the cost of public transit. It’s about 15 miles of BART rail from Civic Center to Richmond. At a fare of $3.80 that works out to 25.3 cents per mile, half that of a vehicle.

Third, Americans hold an average of $8,000 in credit card debt per household.

“Stop right now,” you say. “This is nothing but a silly conjecture! That credit card debt isn’t directly related to personal vehicle expenditure. And, your cute little Bay Area public transit system doesn’t exist in most other US cities.”

“True and true,” I’ll respond. “But, chopping transportation spending in HALF would significantly reduce a major household expense for many Americans. And, if we start investing NOW in smart public transit in the United States, we can reduce these significant (and quickly rising) expenses in the near future.”

Hmm. Public transit is good for the environment AND for the economy? And it decreases our reliance on foreign oil?

EXTRA CREDIT: This is a very well written post on calculating your actual per mile vehicle expenditure.

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10 Responses to And now for some hippie speak on why cars are bad.

  1. Bob says:

    Those figures are interesting. I wish I could ditch my car forever.

  2. iforgotagain! says:

    interesting that the top 2 countries have such drastically different public transportation systems (e.g. Italy’s is kinda old, slow, and grungy, whereas Germany’s is quite new, fast, and emaculately clean)

  3. Pingback: Why cars are bad « Stephen Rees’s blog

  4. Bob says:

    I was a bit dubious about the fact that the US did not handily top this list. After a few minutes of research on the site from which this table was drawn, I discovered a table ( that lists motor vehicles per capita. As you will see the US leads the pack.

    I was unable to find a definition of ‘car’ or ‘motor vehicle’ on the site, but my hunch is that ‘car’ does not include SUVs while ‘motor vehicles’ does.

  5. iforgotagain! says:

    @ bob. lol, i can’t say i’m surprised.

  6. kfarr says:

    @Bob: Thanks for doing the digging on that chart. I agree it seemed a bit odd that the USA wouldn’t top out the list.

  7. Daniel Khoo says:

    Interesting that Malaysia (a third world country) ranks number 3. That couldn’t be. I’m from Malaysia. I know that the number of cars on the road has increased very quickly the last 20 years. The traffic jam is worse than ever. But we couldn’t possibly rank number 3 in the world. 641 cars per 1000 would mean that are 3 or 4 cars per family. That can’t be right.

    Then it occurred to me. All those motorcycles on the road. I think they’re counted as “motor vehicles” too. There are lots and lots of motorcycles in Malaysia. They do not look like anything westerners will think of as motorcycles. No Harley or superbikes here. Though those exists, they are very rare. Most of the motorcycles in Malaysia have 70cc to 125cc engines, and look like this, you’d probably call them “mopeds”.

    My guess is, the 10 vehicles/1000 figures for China and India also include motorcycles.

  8. kfarr says:

    @Daniel: Thanks for the comment. I agree it seems odd (as did the chart I had posted earlier). Your hypothesis that those numbers include motorbikes/motorcycles seems accurate to me too.

  9. thefacts says:

    Public transportation is NOT good for the environment and is NOT good for the economy.

    A recent article in CAR and DRIVER quoted two important statistics: cost per passenger per mile, and energy used per passenger per mile. Public transportation was higher almost everywhere in the US, (including CA). Remember that even electrical energy has to be produced somehow, and most US electricity is produced by fossil fuels.

    Our modern clean-burning vehicles might be cheaper AND better for the environment.

    • sarah says:

      Great. Also interesting to think that the costs you included for the mass transit included infrastructure but the ones ones on cars didn’t. It would be cool to see those factored in. obviously we would still want roads for emergency vehicles, taxi cabs etc but the cost would be far lower than they are now with the huge amount of cars we have on the roads now.

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