According to the US Census Bureau's table of estimated population as of July 1 each year, there were 268.3M people 14 years of age or older, including 260.1M people 16 years of age or older, including 251.6M people 18 years of age or older, as of 2017.

According to Statista, there were 272.5M registered motor vehicles in the US as of the same year, the latest for which data is available. (Statista's source for that number is hidden behind a $588/yr paywall).

There are plenty of people who cannot drive, e.g. due to a disability such as blindness which prevents them from doing so. Census bureau numbers for 2017 list 7.6M with a vision difficulty, including .6M under 18 years old. The Census Bureau is the first source referred to on the National Federation for the Blind's statistics page.

Some cannot drive due to legal restrictions, such as license suspension, never having gotten a license in the first place, or long-term incarceration. There are also lots of people who live in urban centers or other places where they don't need to drive, and where it's not cost-effective to do so. There are plenty of others who would like to drive and for whom it may even be cost-effective, but who lack the capital/credit/capacity to afford a motor vehicle (especially once including insurance, maintenance, and fuel.) Some families also have a single (or small number of) vehicle(s) shared among a larger number of drivers.

Despite these factors, is there really more than one registered motor vehicle per eligible person, on average, in the US? If so, and if you'll excuse the pun, what main factors drive that statistical outcome?

  • you don't need to be an adult to drive in the US. 14 years old in South Dakota. dps.sd.gov/driver-licensing/south-dakota-licensing-information – DavePhD Jul 10 at 19:13
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    This question follows bad form, (imho). You should be advertising the claim and not trying to justify it or source it in the answer. Explain what you're skeptical of, and if you want to give your own problem a shot do so in an answer (you may get two upvotes). Having read the question, I'm still not sure where the claim originated that you're skeptical of or what the exactly claim was? – Evan Carroll Jul 10 at 20:37
  • @EvanCarroll The original claim, in the title, was by a credible source but not in a linkable or easily citeable form. So, following the official site advice on how to ask a good question, I did some search/research and shared that in the question. – WBT Jul 10 at 20:56
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    As far as I can see, no one is making a claim to disprove here except you, interpreting data from various sources. If the original claim was by a credible source, you could start by actually telling us who it was. – pipe Jul 10 at 21:29
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    Given the large number of people driving a different vehicle for work than private, is this really a surprise? Think delivery vans for example, mobile cranes, crash tenders, etc. etc. etc.. And then there are the considerable fleets belonging to rental companies like Hertz and Avis. – jwenting Jul 11 at 9:44

The United States Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reports that there are 272,480,899 vehicles that are registered for for highway use as of 2017. An additional 63,759 mass transit buses are also registered. Given a population estimate of 327,167,434 as of July 1, 2018 of which 22.4% are below the age of 18, that gives a population of about 253,881,929.

That makes the claim to be plausible with about 1.07 registered highway vehicles in the United States per every resident 18 years or older, with a nominal increase if mass transit vehicles are included.

  • There are also a number of farm vehicles (pickup trucks, other trucks exclusively used for farming purposes) and other vehicles that might not be licensed for public road that can be included. – ventsyv Jul 10 at 21:41
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    What's included in this count you've given? Among the cars, vans, and trucks that people vernacularly call "vehicles", American DMVs also demand registration for boats, trailers, RVs, ATVs, snowmobiles, mopeds over 49cc, trailbikes if you want to legally ride on forestry roads, and many other wheeled things that most people wouldn't intuitively call "vehicles". – fredsbend Jul 11 at 0:36
  • @ventsyv and not just farm vehicles but other industries as well, like airport vehicles, many military vehicles, large factory complexes often have vehicles for use on premises only – jwenting Jul 11 at 9:41
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    @fredsbend Vehicles registered for highway use means that they meet the legal for use on public highways (i.e., trucks, cars, and motorcycles). Other than RVs (which are technically classified as trucks in most cases) most of the others are either not highway legal or cannot move under their own power. Since legal to drive on a highway is a pretty high barrier, boarding things to all other forms of motor vehicles is just going to run up ratio which isn't strictly needed to address the claim. – rjzii Jul 11 at 14:01
  • @rjzii I was worried they were already being included. Thanks. – fredsbend Jul 11 at 15:09

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