Road Trip: Car Sales In The United States – 65 Statistics And Facts 2021-2022

In the United States, we’re a nation of car lovers. Compared to our European cousins, who perambulate by nature, Americans are always keen to go for a ride.

As our cities have expanded with sidewalk-less streets, great highways have grown to iconic status. Whether you’re going out for groceries or undertaking the great American road trip, cars are at the centre of our lives.

And some cars are more centralized than others! From the classic Corvette to the humble Honda Civic, many cars have embedded themselves in our consciousness as emblems of American life.

US Car Sales

American car manufacturers are at the heart of our economy – brands like Chevy and Ford don’t just represent American dreams being made, they also actualize those dreams for hundreds of thousands of employees across the country. American manufacturing stretches back over a century, from the Ford Model A, produced in the first years of the 20th century.

Nowadays, car manufacturers like Tesla are hitting the headlines with high-tech electrics – is gas going to go the way of the dinosaur?

Either way, cars are our past, our present and our future. Here’s a deep dive into car sales statistics in the United States.

Pre-Pandemic Car Sales

To understand the state of the American car market, let’s start our story in January 2020: this pre-pandemic snapshot will help us understand what was happening with car sales before COVID struck, and give us a greater insight into how COVID affected car sales.

  • The automobile industry accounts for 3% of the United States GDP (gross domestic product). The nation’s economy is closely tied to car sales.
  • Car sales in 2019 were slightly down on the previous year.
  • 16.96 million cars were sold in America in 2019, whereas 2018 saw 17.21 million cars get shifted.
  • In January 2020, 1,144,279 new cars were sold.
  • That number was up 1% compared with January 2019: car sellers were looking forward to a bumper year.
  • Of the 1.14 million new cars sold in January 2020, almost 301,000 of them were passenger cars.
  • That means just one in four new cars sold were passenger vehicles.
  • The remaining 74% of new cars were SUVs and pickups: America loves a truck!
  • A grand total of 843,296 pickups and SUVs were sold in January 2020.
  • As the American market turned towards the truck, passenger car sales decreased by as much as 14.8%.
  • Meanwhile, sales of light trucks went up by 8.1% compared to January 2019.
  • The best-selling rigs were the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet’s Silverado, and the Ram P/U. American made, baby!
  • When it comes to SUVs, Japanese-made vehicles had the edge in January 2020.
  • Three of the four best-selling SUVs were from Japanese manufacturers: Toyota’s RAV4, Honda’s CR-V, and Nissan’s Rogue were top sellers.
  • And the Chevrolet Equinox joined these Japanese vehicles in the top four.
  • The Toyota Camry was the number one most popular passenger car – followed by the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.
  • And electric vehicles still lag far behind traditional gas vehicles: 22,350 Teslas were sold in January 2020.
  • The most popular model of electric car was Tesla’s Model 3, dominating Tesla’s sales with 19,000 units shifted.
  • Tesla’s sales jumped by just over 20% compared to January 2019, however: a growing market.
  • Nevertheless, low gasoline prices in January 2020 were still turning American consumers towards gas-guzzlers, over electric and fuel-efficient counterparts.
  • The pre-pandemic state of the market shows that American and Japanese models were dominating, as were bigger trucks and SUVs.
  • New car sales peaked in the previous decade at 17.46 million in 2017.
  • New car sales had slumped after the financial crisis of 2008 – just 10.4 million new cars were sold in 2009.
  • Car sales grew year on year from 2009-2017, before leveling off.

COVID and Car Sales

2020 seemed to be shaping up as a healthy year for car sales with SUVs and pickup sales growing in particular. Then COVID struck. Let’s see how this global crisis affected car sales in the United States.

  • Car sales decreased in every state in 2020 as the pandemic brought economic activity to an emergency stop.
  • Around 14.5 million cars and light trucks were sold in 2020 making it the worst year for new car sales since 2012.
  • However, among certain demographics, car sales actually increased. Predominantly urban young people, aged 18-35, were underserviced by automobiles at the start of 2020 and relied on public transport – but the COVID pandemic pushed them towards car purchases in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Urbanites also moved away from the rental market and towards ownership, further impacting car sales for city dwellers.
  • Whilst car sales were down, lockdowns and restrictions gave people more time to search for their ideal vehicle. In the first weeks of the pandemic, searches for the best truck deals leaped by 70% compared to previous weeks.
  • Economic contraction has meant tightened budgets: almost half of Americans are now planning on keeping their current vehicle for longer.
  • 47% of Americans are hanging onto their vehicles, contributing to depressed sales of new cars – a trend reflected in Europe and Asia where between 40% (Germany) and 65% (China) of people intend to maintain their current vehicle.

New vs. Used Car Sales

Whilst there’s nothing quite like that new car smell, new cars are a luxury that not everyone can afford. Let’s take a look at how used car sales are going in the United States.

  • Even before the pandemic, used car sales far outstripped sales of new vehicles in the United States.
  • In 2018, when COVID was merely the glint in a Chinese bat’s eye, over 40 million used cars were sold – compared to 17.21 million new cars.
  • In 2009, the worst year for car sales due to the global pandemic, new car sales slumped to 10.4 million. And whilst used car sales also declined, they stayed relatively higher with 35.5 million vehicles sold.
  • The highest number of used cars sold in America was 44.1 million in 2005.
  • For both new and used cars, Americans prefer to buy from a dealership with 61.4% of Americans reporting this preference.
  • And the pandemic forced car dealerships to update their business strategy, offering online estimates and customer support.
  • Some dealerships even began to offer delivery of vehicles purchased online, completing the virtual experience.
  • The used car market is going strong: between 2009 and 2019, the total value of this market grew from $77.8 billion to a whopping $117.9 billion.
  • The Ford F-150 is the most popular used car in 39 out of 50 states.

Car Sales Trends By State

  • In rural states, light pickups are the most popular vehicles.
  • In Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas, the Ford F-Series is the most popular new vehicle, with the Chevrolet Silverado and the Ram 1500/2500/3500 series coming in second and third.
  • In states with a more urban population, sedans and SUVs are more popular than pickups.
  • In New York, the Honda CR-V is the most popular new vehicle, whilst in Massachusetts, the Toyota RAV4 is the most popular, with the Honda CR-V coming in second.
  • Environmental legislation encourages Californians to buy fuel-efficient and economic smaller vehicles: the most popular new car is the Honda Civic.
  • In neighboring Oregon, however, the Toyota RAV4 is the most popular new vehicle, replicating east coast urban trends.
  • In Alaska, the most popular new vehicles are all trucks: the Ram 1500/2500/3500 series tops the list.
  • In Hawaii, the top three most popular cars are all Japanese-made: the Toyota Tacoma, Toyota 4 Runner, and the Toyota RAV4 dominate new car sales.
  • And the most popular used car in Hawaii is the Nissan Sentra, demonstrating further Japanese dominance of the market in this Pacific state.

US Electric Car Sales

Whilst low gas prices promote SUVs and trucks, an environmentally conscious class is increasingly turning to new technology. Electric vehicles (or EVs for short) are on the rise – let’s take a deep dive into all the electric car facts and statistics.

  • The market share of electric cars has been growing – albeit slowly. In 2018, 2.1% of vehicles sold in the United States were electric cars.
  • However, in California, 4.7% of cars sold in 2018 were electric vehicles – more than double the national average at that time.
  • California’s record as a progressive state, as well as its regulatory framework around emissions, encourages consumers to purchase electric vehicles.
  • Current estimates suggest that by 2030 there will be around 3 million electric vehicles being driven in California.
  • In 2018, there were 3.3 million electric vehicles worldwide. By 2030, California alone will contain this many electric cars.
  • Tesla is by far the biggest manufacturer of electric vehicles, both in the United States as well as worldwide.
  • Tesla’s Model Y was launched in 2020 and quickly became the best-selling EV. In 2021, over 130,000 of these vehicles have been sold so far.
  • In Hawaii, the top three most popular cars are all Japanese-made: the Toyota Tacoma, Toyota 4 Runner, and the Toyota RAV4 dominate new car sales.
  • Tesla’s Model 3 is the second most popular electric vehicle in the United States with 92,000 units sold in 2021 so far.
  • Chevrolet’s foray into the EV market is the Bolt EV and EUV. This vehicle is the best-selling non-Tesla EV in the United States.
  • Ford also has an electric model: the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Ford will have sold almost 20,000 Mach-Es in 2021: a small change compared to their dominance in the gas vehicle market.
  • Volkswagen and Nissan also offer electric vehicles and these models are making small inroads into the US market. VW’s ID.4 and Nissan’s Leaf have sold around 10,000 units each this year.

More Car Sales Interesting Statistics

Car sales are integral to the economy of the United States. Here are more car sale statistics that might surprise you.

  • Car sales aren’t steady all year – in fact, there are two peak seasons for sales. Car sales rise between February and May and from September to November.
  • Car prices rise during these peak times, as do interest rates on car loans.
  • The price of a car is 10-15% higher during these peak periods.
  • By the end of 2020, there were 286.9 million cars registered in the United States.
  • That’s six cars for every seven people – and more cars than there are drivers!

US Vehicle Sales Data – 2019 / 2020-2021

Model

 

Month

 

Monthly LY

 

Change

 

YTD

 

YTD LY

 

YTD Change

 

Ford F-Series

68,259

71,593

-4.66%

603,089

660,627

-8.71%

Toyota RAV4

24,994

40,717

-38.62%

338,441

343,291

-1.41%

Honda CR-V

25,393

32,415

-21.66%

315,533

259,749

21.48%

Toyota Camry

17,691

29,666

-40.37%

274,460

234,611

16.99%

Honda Civic

13,399

21,865

-38.72%

229,974

222,806

3.22%

Toyota Highlander

18,103

22,262

-18.68%

225,667

163,563

37.97%

Toyota Tacoma

14,650

23,774

-38.38%

215,251

187,392

14.87%

Toyota Corolla

8,420

21,569

-60.96%

200,369

187,783

6.70%

Ford Explorer

20,714

21,079

-1.73%

180,888

181,286

-0.22%

Honda Accord

15,386

19,185

-19.80%

173,374

164,476

5.41%

Mazda CX-5

10,177

11,890

-14.41%

143,012

116,167

23.11%

Subaru Forester

4,820

14,697

-67.20%

137,074

148,779

-7.87%

Subaru Outback

8,548

16,755

-48.98%

131,526

123,097

6.85%

Ford Escape

13,500

15,959

-15.41%

125,291

147,711

-15.18%

Honda Pilot

9,480

11,631

-18.49%

124,147

101,633

22.15%

Toyota 4Runner

13,032

12,940

0.71%

118,507

99,767

18.78%

Hyundai Elantra

8,447

11,428

-26.09%

117,491

86,531

35.78%

Honda HR-V

11,667

7,421

57.22%

117,065

69,220

69.12%

Hyundai Tuscon

9,735

10,898

-10.67%

115,554

102,037

13.25%

Subaru CrossTrek

10,591

14,994

-29.37%

111,658

91,918

21.48%

Kia Forte

7,523

8,107

-7.20%

97,671

71,018

37.53%

Hyundai Santa Fe

7,040

9,072

-22.40%

97,330

80,248

21.29%

Lexus RX

9,416

9,738

-3.31%

94,041

75,989

23.76%

Ford Bronco Sport

9,201

0

0.00%

90,405

0

0.00%

Ford Transit

7,862

12,403

-36.61%

86,661

106,074

-18.30%

Ford Ranger

7,218

8,779

-17.78

79,924

83,116

-3.84%

Hyundai Kona

8,440

6,540

29.05%

78,906

59,353

32.94%

Kia Telluride

7,695

9,687

-20.56%

78,419

56,302

39.28%

Kia Sportage

5,459

6,989

-21.89%

78,324

69,389

12.88%

Hyundai Sonata

5,561

7,570

-26.54%

76,313

60,696

25.73%

Toyota Tundra

9,750

9,999

-2.49%

74,763

86,813

-13.88%

Hyundai Palisade

8,670

7,519

15.31%

73,086

67,346

8.52%

Kia K5

7,427

7,528

-1.34%

71,257

18,190

291.74%

Honda Odyssey

2,704

8,001

-66.20%

70,145

67,692

3.62%

Ford Expedition

5,648

9,014

-37.34%

69,852

60,761

14.96%

Kia Sorento

6,195

5,832

6.22%

68,450

66,324

3.21%

Kia Soul

6,289

6,318

-0.46%

66,634

61,559

8.24%

Ford Edge

9,329

10,387

-10.19%

64,280

87,249

-26.33%

Subaru Ascent

5,221

5,865

-10.98%

62,934

55,700

12.99%

Lexus NX

4,133

5,470

-24.44%

54,677

41,399

32.07%

Toyota Venza

3,251

3,510

-7.38%

53,744

5,178

937.93%

Toyota Prius Family

2,142

3,633

-41.04%

53,180

36,199

46.91%

Acura MDX

3,157

4,732

-33.28%

50,971

37,285

36.71%

Acura RDX

5,313

5,022

5.79%

49,549

42,810

15.74%

Honda Passport

3,719

4,102

-9.34%

45,733

31,767

43.96%

Kia Seltos

3,274

5,542

-40.92%

45,626

35,051

30.17%

Mazda CX-30

3,147

3,214

-2.08%

45,616

31,007

47.12%

Ford Mustang

3,076

4,399

-30.08%

44,111

52,036

-15.23%

Lexus ES

3,587

4,117

-12.87%

37,640

33,901

11.03%

Mazda 3

2,514

2,570

-2.18%

37,325

27,739

34.56%

Ford EcoSport

1,398

4,210

-66.79%

35,892

51,409

-30.18%

Volvo XC60

3,032

3,571

-15.09%

34,615

24,033

44.03%

Honda Ridgeline

3,257

3,401

-4.23%

34,129

26,513

28.73%

Toyota C-HR

1,296

3,358

-61.41%

33,684

36,962

-8.87%

Volvo XC90

2,583

3,257

-20.69%

32,680

25,792

26.71%

Ford E-Series

4,078

4,469

-8.75%

30,545

29,655

3.00%

Mazda CX-9

2,373

2,382

-0.38%

28,482

22,794

24.95%

Lexus GX

3,564

2,828

26.03%

27,423

21,405

28.11%

Subaru Impreza

3,512

4,329

-18.87%

26,335

36,484

-27.82%

Kia Rio

2,310

2,104

9.79%

26,205

20,147

30.07%

Lexus LX

155

408

-62.01%

25,416

3,284

673.93%

Acura TLX

1,368

2,365

-42.16%

24,300

17,486

38.97%

Volvo XC40

1,987

2,504

-20.65%

24,076

18,084

33.13%

Subaru Impreza WRX

2,786

2,060

35.24%

24,006

17,496

37.21$

Kia Niro

2,727

1,524

78.94%

21,798

14,756

47.72%

Ford Mustang Mach E

2,848

0

-0.00%

21,703

0

0.00%

Lincoln MKX/Nautilus

2,458

2,123

15.78%

21,634

18,176

19.03%

Ford Transit Connect

1,438

2,886

-50.17%

21,059

28,127

-25.13%

Lexus IS

359

1,362

-73.64%

20,519

10,083

103.50%

Subaru Legacy

1,315

2,490

-47.19%

20,010

22,526

-11.17%

Lincoln MKC

2,535

3,053

-16.97%

19,540

21,229

-7.96%

Hyundai Venue

2,255

1,557

44.83%

18,223

11,983

52.07%

Honda Insight

1,939

1,375

41.02%

18,206

13,619

33.68%

Lincoln Aviator

2,134

2,184

-2.29%

17,608

17,984

-2.09%

Ford Bronco

7,364

0

0.00%

17,568

0

0.00%

Mazda 6

815

1,356

-39.90%

17,376

13,321

30.44%

Genesis GV80

1,505

0

0.00%

16,978

0

0.00%

Hyundai Accent

2,863

1,129

153.59%

16,953

13,444

26.10%

Hyundai Ioniq

1,621

1,202

34.86%

16,467

10,441

57.71%

Toyota Avalon

1,172

1,857

-36.89%

15,959

14,828

7.63%

Lexus UX

955

1,527

-37.46%

15,232

13,644

11.64%

Kia Sedona

1,892

1,029

83.87%

14,625

11,160

31.05%

Lincoln Navigator

1,198

1,386

-13.56%

13,445

11,597

15.94%

Acura ILX

209

1,523

-86.28%

11,839

10,856

9.05%

Ford Fusion

33

6,526

-99.49%

11,711

97,190

-87.95%

Kia Stinger

1,274

1,013

25.77%

11,651

10,805

7.83%

Volvo 60-Series

1,029

1,213

-15.17%

11,442

12,529

-8.68%

Mazda MX-5 Miata

492

851

-42.19%

10,023

7,503

33.59%

Genesis G70

1,196

826

44.79%

8,915

7,950

12.14%

Genesis GV70

1,869

0

0.00%

7,143

0

0.00%

Toyota Sequoia

450

831

-45.85%

6,561

5,564

17.92%

Mazda CX-3

1

473

-99.79%

6,374

7,485

-14.84%

Toyota Supra

294

677

-56.57%

6,119

4,475

36.74%

Genesis G80

527

89

492.13%

5,124

2,691

90.41

Ford Maverick

4,140

0

0.00%

4,646

0

0.00%

Hyundai Santa Cruz

1,848

0

0.00%

4,433

0

0.00%

Toyota Land Cruiser

23

412

-94.42%

3,688

2,172

69.80%

Lexus LS

163

471

-65.39%

3,475

2,787

24.69%

Lexus RC

121

406

-70.20%

2,841

3,045

-6.70%

Toyota Mirai

306

27

1,033.33%

2,574

368

599.46%

Lexus LC

178

164

8.54%

2,550

875

191.43%

Honda Clarity FCV

84

719

-88.32%

2,512

3,317

-24.27%

Hyundai Veloster

218

443

-50.79%

1,871

6,222

-69.93%

Lincoln MKZ

5

791

-99.37%

1,670

10,924

-84.71%

Genesis G90

203

139

46.04%

1,469

1,698

-13.49%

Lincoln Continental

16

501

-96.81%

1,411

4,373

-67.73%

Volvo 90-Series

70

146

-52.05%

1,263

2,758

-54.21%

Toyota Corolla Cross

826

0

0.00%

826

0

0.00%

Subaru BRZ

24

221

-89.14%

746

1,967

-62.07%

Hyundai Nexo

63

37

70.27%

336

175

92.00%

Acura RLX

3

126

-97.62%

212

901

-76.47%

Acura NSX

5

22

-77.27%

123

105

17.14%

Ford GT

12

14

-14.29%

115

111

3.60%

Kia K900

2

41

-95.12%

85

250

-66.00%

Frequently Asked Questions About Car Sales in the United States

1) How Many Cars Are Sold Each Year in the United States?

Around 17 million new cars are sold each year in the United States – and a further 40 million used cars change hands. In 2020, however, the global pandemic interrupted business as usual for the automotive industry: around 14.5 million new cars were sold last year.

2) What’s The Best Selling Car in the United States?

Befittingly, Ford’s F-Series truck is now the most popular car in America, followed by the Ram P/U and Chevrolet’s Silverado. Ford’s truck can’t be toppled and even in the used car market the Ford F-150 is the best-seller in 39 out of 50 states.

3) Are Electric Cars Going to Replace Gas?

Whilst Elon Musk makes billions and headlines through his electric vehicle company Tesla, the truth is that electric cars are still a minority of the market: under 3% across the United States as a whole. Even in green-state California, electric vehicles account for fewer than one car in every twenty sold.

However, it’s estimated that this will grow to 20% of vehicles sold by 2025. Whilst the electric cars market is growing, gas stations aren’t going anywhere.

4) Are Car Sales Declining?

Whilst COVID caused a significant dip in car sales, new car sales have been declining year on year since a peak in 2016. Used car sales have, however, been rising steadily.

Globally, demand for cars is shrinking but only marginally. The trends in sales aren’t predicted to impact manufacturers’ pockets just yet – and a predicted boom in electric vehicles may buck the trend in coming years. That explains why Ford and Chevrolet, as well as German and Japanese manufacturers, are investing heavily in electronic car innovation.

Wrapping Up

Cars are part of the fabric of American life, from our identity to the economy.

It’s been a rocky few years for every industry, and the automotive sector is no different. With lockdowns and shutdowns, consumer behavior has changed dramatically.

And the looming climate crisis creates new challenges for an industry that has been a traditional polluter.

Despite these bumps in the road, the automobile industry is going strong, with millions of new and used cars sold each year, and hundreds of millions of cars on the road.

Following the global trends through these facts and statistics will give you a deeper understanding of the car sales industry. Time to hit the road!

Robert Muñoz

I’m Robert, a US-based auto electrician, auto mechanic, trained engineer and fanatic about all things motor vehicle. After studying engineering in college I returned to my original passion - car mechanics - and I ran a garage for a number of years serving my local community. Through my garage, I got involved in numerous road safety campaigns in my local area until eventually, I decided to share what I've learned with the world. Know more about me... You can follow me on LinkedIn.

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