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Media Post: How Many Cars on Planet Earth?

Ever driven over a bridge or overpass and seen a backup of cars below that goes on for miles? Does it seem a trifle scary how many cars there must be, well, on the entire planet? Do we have the natural resources to support all this? Well, not to be alarmist, the scary part isn’t just the number of cars that currently exist, it’s the velocity of increase. Here’s the details.

How many?

A few firms have given a shot at determining how many cars there are. According to Phil Smith Kia of Lighthouse, FL, who helped us with this article, the number is some 1.2 billion. They arrived at this figure by analyzing vehicle registrations in the US, and other countries that had electronic databases, and extrapolated them according to historical trends. It is important to note that this number includes passenger cars, trucks of all sizes but not off-road and other vehicles. Other firms have arrived at similar estimates.

The US leads the pack

In the US, there is approximately 1 car per 1.3 people, a ratio that has held for many years. If you take the total population, approximately 324 million, and do the math, you end up with about 250 million cars on the road. The next largest country is China. While the ratio of cars to population is less than what it is in the United States, 1 car per 17.2 people, there 1.3 billion people in China. Doing the math, 1.3 billion/17.2 yields about 76 million cars in the country. This is just a third of the United States, at least at the present time.

What are sales, though?

While the US has the largest number of cars on the road, it is not the largest marketplace for new car sales. That’s because the US is a mature market where car sales generally occur when an older vehicle is being replaced. Regardless of this, according to Edmunds approximately 17 million new cars were sold in the United States were sold in 2017. By contrast, the analysts at Edmunds feel the Chinese car market is on track to cross 30 million units sold, reaching as high as 40 million per year sold by 2020. That would more than twice the size of the U.S. market in just a few years.

More growth

While the possibility of such impressive sales numbers are exciting for the car manufacturers, environmentalists are concerned about the negative effects. And they have a good right to be concerned. At the present velocity, the number cars on the road is expected to double to 2.4 billion by 2025.  This obviously will provide opportunities and challenges for the industries involved in the automotive industry.

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