To the surprise of literally no one, there are a hell of a lot of cars on the roads of the world right now – nearly 1.5 billion if we’re counting. That right there is a huge number even when you compare it to just a couple of decades ago. As recently as 14 years ago, that number was estimated to be in the millions, according to The Drive. With an exploding in vehicle production and reliability, that number has increased significantly.
It’s pretty hard to say exactly how many cars there are in the world, but automotive industry research firm Hedges & Company gave it their best shot. If you ask them, their best estimate is about 1.47 billion vehicles on the world.
For as car-centric as North America is, it actually does not top the list of regions with the most cars. In fact, it’s not even number two. I won’t keep you waiting anymore, so here’s the full breakdown by continent.
- Asia: 543 million vehicles
- Europe: 413 million vehicles (288 million in the EU and 125 million in non-EU countries)
- North America: 358 million vehicles (292.3 million in the U.S. alone)
- South America: has 84 million vehicles
- Middle East: 50 million vehicles
- Africa: 26 million vehicles
- Antarctica: 50 vehicles
Well, we’ve covered how many cars there probably are on Earth, let’s check out the concentration of cars to citizens of the world. If the WorldOMeter is to be believed – there are a little under 8.1 billion people on Earth right now. Some quick math from The Drive will show us that there is about one car for every 5.75 people.
That means that there are enough cars on the road for just 17% of the world’s population. However, that doesn’t mean that 17% of people own a car—that count doesn’t take into consideration people who own multiple cars, children, the elderly, and other people who don’t drive for a myriad of other reasons.
Despite China having such a large number of vehicles on the road, its 415 million only provides enough vehicles for one out of every 3.5 people living in the country, which totals a population of 1.43 billion residents. The remaining residents of Asia, however, bring the overall concentration of vehicles down quite a bit. When accounting for the rest of the continent, there are only 140 vehicles per 1,000 residents.
North America has the highest concentration with 710 vehicles per 1,000 people. The U.S. had about 278 million registered cars as of 2021, and the country spreads that number across its 331.9 million residents. This accounts for roughly one car on the street for every 1.2 people living in the country, or nearly three times more crowded than China.
I let those kind folks do the math because if you say my math scores during school, you’d think I’m some sort of idiot, which I promise I am not.
Anyway, here’s the concentration of vehicles by region:
- North America: 710 vehicles per 1,000 people
- Europe: 520 vehicles per 1,000 people
- South America: 210 vehicles per 1,000 people
- Middle East: 150 vehicles per 1,000 people
- Asia: 140 vehicles per 1,000 people
- Africa: 58 vehicles per 1,000 people
- Antarctica: 50 vehicles per 1,0000 people
Both the U.S. and New Zealand are pretty much tied for the most vehicles per capita in the world with 0.9 vehicles per person, according to Hedges & Company. Then, on the other side of the scale are Pakistan, Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana and Kenya. Those countries all have just 0.03 vehicles per person.
It’s a safe bet that trends like these will only continue. Unless something fairly major happens in terms of public transportation, we are going to keep putting more and more cars on the road. So, if you thought parking was already a nightmare, just wait a few years.