FILE - Nashville Tennessee traffic

Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee

Getting a driver’s license used to be a right of passage for 16-year-olds. But increasingly, more teens are putting off getting their licenses. According to data from the Federal Highway Administration, fewer than 26 percent of 16-year-olds were licensed drivers in 2018, down from 44 percent in 1980. This phenomenon is part of a general shift in America’s car culture – auto sales have been declining for the last few years and there has been an increase in other forms of transportation, such as ride-sharing, bikeshare, and scooters.

While the country as a whole continues to rely heavily on cars, a new trend towards less car dependency is emerging among certain demographics. In addition to fewer teen drivers, more Americans are working from home. Between 2010 and 2018, the share of home-based workers increased from 4.3 to 5.3 percent, while the share of car commuters decreased from 86.3 to 85.3 percent.

Despite the decline in auto sales and increased popularity of alternative modes of transportation, America remains a global leader when it comes to driving. Compared to Western European countries, the U.S. is more car-dependent for a variety of reasons, including its size, suburban sprawl, less expensive gas, and underdeveloped public transportation. In many U.S. cities, driving a car is practically a necessity to get to work, school, or the grocery store.

Car-dependency varies widely across cities and states, depending on public transportation options, geography, bikeability, walkability, and culture. Nebraska and North Dakota claim the top two spots in the country for average annual miles per driver, with drivers in these states driving an average of 15,390 and 14,393 annual miles, respectively. The national average is 11,621 miles. Alaskan residents drive the fewest, at just over 8,000 miles annually.

To determine the most car-dependent cities in the U.S., researchers at CompareCarInsurance.com analyzed data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Transportation Survey and the U.S Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Major metropolitan areas with over one million residents were ranked according to the average annual miles per driver. The researchers also calculated the average annual miles per vehicle, the share of workers who commute by car, and the share of workers in households with two or more vehicles available.

The most car-dependent locations tend to be sprawling metropolitan areas with less developed public transportation systems. In addition to having higher average annual miles per driver, the most car-dependent metros tend to have higher annual miles per vehicle, more workers who commute by car, and larger shares of workers in households with 2 or more vehicles.

Many of the least car-dependent metros, such as New York, San Francisco, and Boston, have well-developed public transportation systems and a large number of people living in their urban cores. Other less car-dependent metros, including Seattle and Portland, are more bike-friendly and walkable. These metros tend to have fewer car commuters and fewer households with 2 or more vehicles available.

Here are the top 10 most and least car-dependent metros.

The Top 10 Most Car-dependent Metros

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Memphis, TN-MS-AR

  • Average annual miles per driver: 14,959
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,389
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 95.0%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 73.9%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

  • Average annual miles per driver: 14,745
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,262
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 90.2%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 80.6%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Oklahoma City, OK

  • Average annual miles per driver: 14,287
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 13,203
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 91.7%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 78.3%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. St. Louis, MO-IL

  • Average annual miles per driver: 14,114
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 12,216
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 90.5%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 77.2%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Richmond, VA

  • Average annual miles per driver: 13,632
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 12,284
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 89.8%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 79.5%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

  • Average annual miles per driver: 13,398
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,578
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 88.6%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 78.5%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

  • Average annual miles per driver: 13,347
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 12,841
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 91.8%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 76.1%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

  • Average annual miles per driver: 13,260
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,697
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 89.8%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 78.6%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Jacksonville, FL

  • Average annual miles per driver: 13,073
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,928
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 88.7%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 75.7%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

  • Average annual miles per driver: 12,996
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,694
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 89.7%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 77.1%

The 10 Least Car-dependent Metros

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

  • Average annual miles per driver: 8,400
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 9,191
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 76.1%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 74.3%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Average annual miles per driver: 8,801
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 10,699
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 56.5%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 51.7%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

  • Average annual miles per driver: 8,931
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 10,134
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 85.6%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 81.5%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

  • Average annual miles per driver: 9,376
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 10,526
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 66.8%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 69.5%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

  • Average annual miles per driver: 9,491
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 10,221
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 79.2%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 75.7%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

  • Average annual miles per driver: 9,545
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,402
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 88.5%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 73.1%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Pittsburgh, PA

  • Average annual miles per driver: 9,571
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 9,535
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 84.9%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 73.3%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

  • Average annual miles per driver: 9,611
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 12,007
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 79.6%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 70.6%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

  • Average annual miles per driver: 9,717
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 11,623
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 73.1%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 69.2%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

  • Average annual miles per driver: 9,946
  • Average annual miles per vehicle: 10,658
  • Share of workers who commute by car: 77.8%
  • Share of workers in households with 2+ vehicles: 70.4%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

To find the most and least car-dependent metropolitan areas, researchers at CarInsurance.com analyzed data from the Federal Highway Administration’s 2017 National Household Travel Survey and from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. Car dependency was measured by the average annual miles per driver. Researchers also calculated the average annual miles per vehicle, the share of workers who commute by car, and the share of workers in households with 2 or more vehicles available.

Only large metropolitan areas with over one million residents were included in the analysis.