Household, Individual, and Vehicle Characteristics
Nationwide, about 88 percent of persons 15 or older are reported as drivers (table A-1). Interestingly, while the mean number of vehicles in households is 1.9 personal vehicles, households in the United States on average have 1.8 drivers who are 15 years or older (table A-2). Thus, it appears that households on average have more vehicles than drivers. Not surprisingly, households with more members are likely to have more personal vehicles available for regular use. For example, single-person households average about one vehicle while households with two members average about two vehicles (figure 1, table A-3). However, households with seven or more members average about 2.8 personal vehicles. Not all households have vehicles8 percent of households in the nation do not have a vehicle (figure 2, table A-4). Households without a vehicle are not spread uniformly across the population. For example, households with an annual income of less than $25,000 are almost nine times as likely to be a zero-vehicle household than households with incomes greater than $25,000. Though these measures are related, households living in a rented residence are almost six times as likely to be a zero-vehicle household compared to nonrenters. Similarly, households living in a condominium or apartment are almost five times as likely to be a household with no vehicle compared to those living in single family or other nonapartment dwellings. Nineteen percent of the single-person households have no vehicles compared to 4 percent of the multiperson households. Households in urban areas are also more than twice as likely to be zero-vehicle households as those in rural areas (figure 2, table A-4).
The NHTS data demonstrate a widespread prevalence of drivers and personal vehicle use in the nation. There are about 204 million personal vehicles available for regular use3 in the United States, and over half (57 percent) of these vehicles are cars or station wagons (figure 3, table A-5). About a fifth (21 percent) of these vehicles are vans or sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and one-fifth (18 percent) of these vehicles are pickup trucks. Ninety-one percent of the adults commute to work using personal vehicles (table 1). In comparison, only 5 percent of adults nationwide commute to work regularly using public transit. Seventeen percent of adults report having used public transit in the last two months (table A-1). Despite the presence of almost one adult-size bicycle per household (table A-2), on average only about 8 percent of adults report taking a bicycle trip in the last week (table A-1).
The prevalence of personal vehicles makes it important to understand the nature of personal vehicle ownership as well. Not only is income related to the availability of household vehicles, but it is also related to the age of the vehicle. For example, households with a household income of $100,000 or more had a vehicle with an average model year of 1996, while households with a household income of less than $25,000 had a personal vehicle with an average model year of 1991 (figure 4, table A-7). Other factors appear to be related to the age of the household vehicle, like the number of adults in the household. Single-adult households had a vehicle with an average model year of 1993 compared to the average model year of 1994 in households with two or more adults, regardless of the presence of children (table A-7).
The next sections focus on the nature of daily and long-distance trips in the nation.
3. This is not a measure of the total number of registered vehicles in the United States. Respondents to the household interview were asked about the number of vehicles that were owned, leased, or available for regular use by the people living in that household.