It is widely accepted that consumers underestimate the full price of automobile ownership and that correcting this prejudice could meaningfully accelerate the adoption of mutual mobility. However this dispute fails to take into consideration how much benefit consumers enjoy from owning their own vehicle. Right here we calculation the worth of private automobile ownership and use in 4 US metro areas—Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and Washington DC—using online discrete choice experiments. We find that, on average, world would must be paid $11,197 to offer up access to your privately owned car for one year, i beg your pardon is at least as much as approximates of the average full private cost of car ownership (~$9,000). Critically, we discover that an ext than fifty percent of this value is non-use value—such as the option to take trip whenever or wherever required at a moment’s notice and the status that comes from owning one’s very own vehicle—beyond the usage value of getting from A to B. Further, this non-use value was uncovered to be much greater during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our result reframe the conversation approximately the shift away from private auto dependence, emphasizing the require to provide value and also convenience if different mobility services are to be widely adopted.

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People in the joined States depend on cars—91% of adults commute to work-related using personal vehicles1, and also cars carry out a level the convenience that is frequently unmatched by other transportation modes. At the exact same time, vehicle ownership is expensive2, and also cars sit idle end 90% the the time, taking up large amounts of an are in our cities3,4,5. Why then do the bulk of world in the joined States and other nations still select to very own their own car? Why have we not been more attracted to on-demand mobility services, which allow us to stop the upfront price of purchasing a vehicle, let united state pay just for what we use and also require many fewer vehicles (and parking spaces) in ours cities?

The dominant explanation because that the abundance of private auto ownership is that consumers systematically underestimate the true private cost of car ownership and also that an ext people would certainly forgo vehicle ownership if this prejudice in their mental accountancy were corrected6,7,8,9,10,11. Andor et al.6 discovered that civilization underestimate the complete cost of automobile ownership by 52% and concluded that if consumers did correctly account for the cost, lock would own fewer cars.

Another possibility, however, is that the viewed value of auto ownership and use above the personal costs and that owning one’s own automobile is as such rational because that the bulk of consumers. For plenty of US households, accessibility to a automobile unlocks economic opportunities such together jobs and education and also time v family and also friends12,13,14. In addition to the worth that originates from the mobility that provides, researcher have discovered that consumers frequently attribute social status and also pride to automobile ownership and also use15,16,17. Even when a automobile is sitting idle, owning it gives the alternative value of steering at any type of time18. If the worth of car ownership and use over the cost, consumer may continue to desire privately own cars also if lower-cost on-demand mobility solutions are available.

In this paper, we estimate the value of private vehicle ownership and also use in four US metro areas—Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and also Washington DC—using 2 stated selection experiments the were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Questioning respondents to an initial think back to pre-pandemic times, we estimate a mean value of car ownership and use the $11,197 and find the the majority of this worth ($6,497, or 58%) have the right to be attributed come ownership fairly than use. We show further the respondents’ awareness of the non-use value of vehicle ownership were much greater during the pandemic than before (the persistence of i m sorry will remain an open up question into the future), highlighting how perceptions that value are conditioned through contextual factors. Throughout individuals, we discover that those that travel more by car and also less through other settings are much less willing to provide up their car and also that the value of private vehicle ownership and also use is reduced in urban locations compared v suburban and also rural areas. Finally, the worth of auto ownership and also use is estimated to be orders of magnitude greater than the worth of other urban transport options, consisting of other car-based settings such together ride-hailing.

We quantify the median perceived worth of owning and using a car in the United says using online an option experiments, providing important evidence that human being value your cars more than their cost, and also much much more than other transportation alternatives.

The price of car ownership amongst US families has continued to be over 90% for the past decade19, supported by socioeconomic trends including better workforce participation and also rising incomes20,21,22, city sprawl and also low-density suburban development20,21,22,23,24, and ample, cheap road and also parking supply25,26,27.

Various studies have predicted the death of privately own vehicles v generational and demographic changes, pointing to lower rates of driver licensing and also car ownership among young people28,29,30,31,32. However, recent studies find small difference in preferences for car ownership in between Millennials and previous generations after accounting for their different socioeconomic circumstances33,34,35,36. Brand-new on-demand travel alternatives such together ride-hailing and mobility-as-a-service apps (also recognized as MaaS apps, digital communication that enable people come seamlessly plan, book and also pay because that multiple mobility services) have also garnered fist as potential choices to the privately own cars in united state cities37,38,39,40. If some researches have uncovered that ride-hailing solutions do have a significant impact on reducing auto ownership at various scales41,42,43,44,45, more-recent longitudinal analyses have discovered that the development of ride-hailing services has actually had small effect on auto ownership across the united States, except in cities v the most-robust transit systems46.

In this study, we structure our valuation questions as the compensation the a respondent would be willing to accept to give up their exclusive car, recognizing that this framing introduces the endowment effect47 because the truth is the the bulk of Americans already own a car.

On the basis of inspection data in our 4 target us cities, we uncover the complying with from our solitary binary discrete an option (SBDC) and also best–worst scaling (BWS) experiments:


On average, personal cars space valued much more than lock cost, and the bulk of the value originates from ownership fairly than use.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of car ownership increased dramatically, however the worth of vehicle use walk not.


Individuals who travel less by vehicle and more by other modes are much more willing to provide up private vehicle ownership and use.


The value of private vehicle ownership and also use is reduced for metropolitan residents, independent of the city area castle live in.


The worth of vehicle ownership and use is order of magnitude greater than the worth of various other urban transport options.

People value automobile ownership and also use an ext than lock cost

From ours SBDC experiment, we uncover that people value owning and also using their vehicle annually at $11,197 on typical (Table 1, height panel), significantly more than the American car Association’s reported average yearly cost that owning and also using a automobile of $9,282 (ref. 2). If anything, these approximates are most likely to be conservative; incorporating sample weights to manage for underrepresentation of details sociodemographic groups in the sample results in slightly higher but continuous median approximates for willingness to accept compensation (WTAC) (see details in Supplementary information Section 2.3).

Table 1 Base version estimation outcomes (with standard errors) and calculated median WTAC come lose accessibility to a transportation alternative for a typical year and for a month during COVID-19

This detect runs respond to to the narrative that world are behaving irrationally by owning a vehicle because castle underestimate the true cost. Instead, we uncover that civilization value owning the auto high sufficient to make the private expense worthwhile. Indeed, 58% the this worth is in owning the car, compared with 42% in utilizing it, arguing that the value of the auto goes well beyond the trips the it provides. As soon as asked to pick the most vital reasons the they might be wake up to provide up their car, our respondent most generally cited regulate over travel schedule, certainty and also reliability, and also flexibility, i beg your pardon all comprise some facet of ‘option value,’ or the value put on having the car available to use whenever that is required (Supplementary Fig. 5).

The value of vehicle ownership increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

In addition to questioning respondents your preferences throughout a pre-COVID-19 year, such as 2019, we asked respondent their choices for one month throughout the pandemic. We uncover that people’s valuation of owning and using a vehicle increased by 260% throughout a pandemic month (to $3,361) contrasted with a month pre-pandemic (approximately $933) (Table 1, bottom panel). The bulk of this increase is in the value of owning a car, fairly than utilizing it, through the usage component very comparable during the pandemic ($401 every month) to what it to be pre-pandemic ($392 every month). This result probably mirrors the control and flexibility that vehicle ownership gives at a time as soon as there is considerable fear and also uncertainty about viral transmission, such together the capability to take trip out the COVID-19 hotspots or to visit supermarkets or medical infrastructure without using shared modes. We caution that our responses were collected during the very first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic when interruptions to day-to-day life (including travel) were specifically salient, and uncertainties bordering the and impact of the virus stayed high. Nevertheless, the distinguishable finding that automobile ownership value increased throughout the pandemic highlights the prominence of choice value as a vital incentive for vehicle ownership. In time of better uncertainty, once consumers are more likely come be risk averse, automobile ownership is a security blanket, and also its choice value is an especially salient function in consumer decision-making.

People that travel less by auto are much more willing to give up vehicle ownership

In this and also the following section, we take into consideration how differences in individuals’ willingness to provide up their vehicle at a provided compensation level is described by components such as travel behaviour, developed environment and employee benefits (Table 2).

Table 2 Estimation outcomes (with conventional errors) because that the binary logistic regression version of probability of giving up access to transportation option for a year v all predictors

We discover that an individual’s usual travel plot helps explain their an option to give up accessibility to their private auto at a offered compensation level. People who take an ext trips by automobile in a typical week are less willing to offer up their private auto under current problems (Scenario 2 in Table 2), yet this result goes far if individuals can replace use of their auto with limitless ride-hailing trips (Scenario 3 in Table 2). We additionally find that individuals who make more trips by modes other than the exclusive car—including publicly transit, walking, biking or ride-hailing—are more likely to give up access to their auto under existing conditions. This can suggest the the worth that car-dependent Americans location on auto ownership might differ meaningfully to values that exist in Europe and also other regions48. Civilization who get a totally free or subsidized transit pass, a carpool advantage or bike facilities from their employer are an ext willing to offer up their auto (Scenarios 2 and 3), suggesting that incentivizing civilization to use different modes of travel to work can be impactful in reducing auto ownership.

The value of vehicle ownership and use is lower for city residents

We discover that the developed environment wherein a human lives meaningfully results their valuation that owning and also using a car. Life in an city zip password is positively associated with being much more willing to provide up one’s vehicle as compared with life in a countryside or suburban zip code. Each rise in the developed environment category, i beg your pardon aggregates many elements of the constructed environment the may have varying definition individually (for example, density, mix the uses, supply of parking, thickness of street network, biking infrastructure and also public transit infrastructure), decreased the typical value of owning and also using a vehicle by nearly $4,000. Importantly, once this constructed environment change was added to the model, the influence of each of the city fake variables ended up being insignificant, saying that the constructed environment has a bigger influence than region-specific geographic, social or administration differences. This finding is in line v previous study that found vehicle use is much more dependent on local rather than city-wide characteristics49.

The value of other urban transportation modes is lot lower

Our BWS outcomes are broadly consistent with the outcomes of our SBDC responses, ranking the disutility of not having accessibility to a personal car for a year in between the disutility of earning $10,000 less for a year and also that of earning $20,000 much less for a year (Fig. 1). By contrast, accessibility to various other mobility options, including airline travel, automobile rental, ride-hailing, publicly transit and also bikes/scooters, is valued at less than $100 for a year.

Fig. 1: Disutility of shedding an alternative for a year based on BWS maxdiff version estimation; all outcomes are relative to earning $100 less per year collection to disutility = 0.


Values indicate approximated coefficient; error bars indicate ± one standard error around that estimate.

Using the estimated disutilities that the financial loses, we have the right to estimate financial values for the mobility and also non-mobility options (Supplementary Information). We find that the value of one year of accessibility to a an individual car is estimated to be $16,890. Accessibility to all other develops of transportation included amongst the mobility options—car rental or vehicle sharing, exlcusive or pooled ride-hailing services, bus, train, and personal bike or bike/scooter share—was valued under $5 per option. These very low price of individual non-car mobility products is remarkable considering the power behind MaaS, or a parcel of non-car mobility goods, replacing car ownership. The amount of price of these goods remains below $50, i m sorry is i can not qualify to contend with the value of a an individual car. If MaaS is to compete with private automobile ownership, the packaging of this mobility goods must result in a worth much better than the sum of that is parts.

While it may be true that people underestimate the true cost of auto ownership and also use, they room not ‘irrationally’ buying cars. Instead, consumer own and also use vehicles since the vehicles’ viewed value more than accounts because that the incurred personal cost, through a major portion of this value obtained from the control, certainty, reliability and flexibility that car ownership provides. While undertaking this study throughout the COVID-19 pandemic unavoidably presented questions around how our results generalize, it has also helped come reinforce ours findings concerning the prominence of choice value from car ownership. We measure a significant increase in the worth of auto ownership (but not use) in ours during-pandemic scenario, continuous with the control, certainty and also flexibility ownership noted during a period of good uncertainty.

Our results contribute to our understanding of why trends of automobile ownership and use in the United says are therefore persistent and carry out hints as to what interventions can steer civilization away from auto ownership. World value owning a car less once they have good-quality, non-private-car options such as public transit, walking and biking, and also employer-benefits programmes can help. However, the reality is that the median value of car ownership and use is at the very least an bespeak of magnitude higher than the worth of other urban transport options, consisting of ride-hailing, windy transportation and non-motorized transport. The an obstacle for policymakers, researchers and also mobility companies, then, is to determine packages of urban transportation options that together can administer value the rivals that of the private car, also when every non-car ingredient of such a multimodal providing is no valued highly.

The worries raised in this study, and also limitations of present approaches, offer rise to countless important study opportunities. Our findings imply that existing studies of mode choice undertaken on a trip-by-trip communication (often through a emphasis on cost per mile) room unlikely to catch the full value of the automobile in regards to the lifestyle and alternatives it enables. Future research should expand beyond the trip level to consider whether packages that non-private car mobility products (for example, the MaaS schemes described) can administer sufficient worth to the suggest of gift competitive v the worth of vehicle ownership. Recent job-related by Guidon et al.50 uncovered that willingness to pay because that packages of solutions was higher than for unpackaged stand-alone services, and an ext work is needed mimicking the system-level attributes of auto ownership that world value using attributes such as guarantee wait times, guaranteed travel times and extended hours of operation. Finally, the shift to much more sustainable and also shared transportation modes (including nascent technologies such together autonomous vehicles) will call for millions of people to give up private automobile ownership in its current form. Future studies should explicitly frame researches of MaaS fostering with reference to private vehicle ownership if we are to effectively elicit the architecture of compelling alternatives.

We embarked on an digital survey v two species of discrete an option experiments: SBDC51 and BWS52. This stated choice experiments space designed to measure up the ‘perceived’ worth that an individual places on accessibility to a transportation mode rather than the ‘market’ value (or price) that the setting or vehicle.

Here we introduce our respondent recruitment and our two an option experiments. For extr details ~ above sample representativeness, survey design and also estimation methods, refer to the Supplementary Information.


We applied our study in four metropolitan areas of the joined States—Washington DC, Chicago, Seattle and Dallas—chosen to provide variation in determinants such as geography and also transit availability. We recruited participants to take it our virtual survey between June 10 and also July 2, 2020, making use of Qualtrics, a professional panel company. Quota sampling was provided to ensure statistical representativeness the each city area sample through age, family income and household car ownership. A full of 4,937 responses to be collected, from which 915 individuals were screened out by quota inquiries or failure to complete all part of the survey. This left us with a final sample size of 4,022 responses, with 1,017 from Washington DC, 1,006 from Chicago, 1,001 from Seattle and 998 native Dallas.

Despite the use of share in every of our metropolitan areas, we discover that our online sample overrepresents individuals with high education attainment (advanced degrees) compared with those who attained no an ext than a high institution diploma. Family members with low and also high income, with just one human being or with three or much more vehicles also appear to be undersampled. To discover the impact of this non-representativeness the sample, we additionally estimated models combine sample weights. These results are presented and also discussed in ar 2.3 of the Supplementary Information yet are largely continuous with the unweighted version results displayed in this manuscript; if anything, the weighted results suggest that our estimates of the value of transport accessibility here are slightly conservative.

Single binary discrete choice

The SBDC experiment asked respondents to do a single an option from 2 options: keep accessibility to a transportation option or forgo accessibility in return because that receiving a certain amount that compensation. Various scenarios were created to measure the value of private automobile ownership and also use compared with ride-hailing:


Value that ride-hailing: provided all your travel needs and options, choose whether to offer up accessibility to ride-hailing for one year and receive a compensation amount, or keep accessibility to ride-hailing and receive no compensation.


Value of automobile ownership and also use: given all your take trip needs and also options, select whether to give up accessibility to your primary automobile for one year and receive a compensation amount, or keep accessibility to your car and also receive no compensation.


Value of auto ownership: you space given access to a new, free, ubiquitously accessible ride-hailing company that have the right to serve all of the trips that you at this time make by your primary automobile without any extr inconvenience. Choose whether to give up access to your primary automobile for one year and also receive this totally free service and also a compensation amount, or keep access to her car and also receive no compensation nor totally free ride-hailing.

From the difference between scenarios 2 and also 3, we deserve to isolate the value of automobile use. Respondents who indicated they go not very own a vehicle were presented only with script 1. Respondent who had not provided ride-hailing prior to were not presented through Scenario 1. The complete questionnaire is detailed at the end of the Supplementary info (Section 4).

Each respondent was randomly gift with four compensation quantities for each scenario. For one set of scenarios, respondents to be asked come recall their usual travel plot in a year pre-COVID-19 (for example, 2019). Because that a 2nd set the scenarios, respondents to be asked to answer because that a month during COVID-19, through the monetary amounts adjusted to be roughly 1/12th those listed for the typical year.

For every SBDC scenario, we calculation a binary logistic regression design that consists of a random intercept and also the log in of the compensation amount, C, displayed in each an option experiment. Setting the probability of giving up the car (or ride-hailing) same to 0.5, we deserve to solve for the mean WTAC. This provides a suggest estimate the the compensation amount connected with indifference in between giving up and also keeping access to the vehicle (or ride-hailing) for the entire sample. We also estimate this model with additional covariates, including the individual’s usual travel behaviour, household and also individual demographic characteristics, the constructed environment of your residence and also the employee benefits the they receive. ~ above the basis of the estimated coefficients and also the observed values of the covariates, we deserve to then calculate individual-specific indifference compensation quantities (Ci). This enables us to check out heterogeneity in WTAC throughout our sample of respondent (Supplementary details Section 2.2).

As an additional robustness inspect to ensure that respondent heterogeneity is accordingly captured in our SBDC models, we estimate models with a random coefficient for the compensation quantity (in addition to a random intercept). These models present no innovation in model fit or substantial change in approximated median WTAC.

Best–worst scaling

While the main results the this examine come from these SBDC experiments, we also employed BWS together a benchmarking method following Brynjolfsson, Collis and also Eggers53. Use a situation 1 or object-case BWS design, we asked respondent to select the ideal (most important) and also worst (least important) indigenous a collection of three options: a mobility good, a non-mobility an excellent and a financial amount54. Respondents answered ten randomly allocated BWS an option questions and also were randomly assigned to either pre- or during-COVID-19 framings for the questions. Utility parameters for the BWS experiment were estimated using a arbitrarily intercept multinomial logit through maxdiff model54.

Following instructions, every respondent got ten BWS questions, each v a randomly produced mobility good, non-mobility good and financial amount. Watch Supplementary information Sections 3.1 and 3.2 for complete details on the BWS experimental design and also screenshots the the survey interface.

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Reporting Summary

Further information on research architecture is obtainable in the research study Reporting an overview linked come this article.