The American car market is defined by diversity amidst uniformity.
The most common cars are Honda, Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet sedans. But those similarities hide significant differences in which cars people prefer around the country—especially when you look at Americans who choose a vehicle other than a standard sedan.
In order to understand the differences in American’s care preferences, we analyzed the data of YourMechanic, a company that offers at home or office service repairs. We took the locations of the cars YourMechanic has serviced and mapped them to their city and state.
The main way Americans deviate from each other in their car choices is whether they buy American. The following table displays the percentage of cars in 81 of the country’s largest markets that are American made.
When it comes to buying American, the Midwest reigns supreme. More than half of the top 20 cities are in that region.
Detroit, the spiritual home of the American made car, tops the list. Foreign cars rang among the best selling cars in America, but in Detroit, some people feel a serious stigma against driving foreign cars.
At the bottom of the list are large coastal cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. The proportion of American cars is particularly low in the Bay Area. While over 75% of the cars we service in Detroit are American made, this is true of less than 30% of the cars in San Francisco and San Jose.
When we explored the most unusually common car in each market, we found that it was almost invariably an Asian or European car in coastal cities. But in the middle of the country, it is typically an American car. (We only included cars in this list if we served at least 25 of its make and model.)
Parts of this list reveal cities’ souls. San Francisco residents love their energy efficient Priuses. Detrotians are devoted to powerful, American-made Pontiacs. And in nature-oriented Denver, people love their Subarus.
It’s no surprise that the Prius is so unusually common in San Francisco; it follows the city’s hippy, environmentally-conscious stereotype. This got us curious about where else hybrids are particularly popular. The following index of the most popular cities for hybrids includes all cars with a hybrid engine.
An affinity for hybrids is not just a characteristic of San Francisco, but California in general. The top seven cities where we service the most hybrids are in California. In fact, for each of the top markets on the West Coast, at least 1% of the cars are hybrids. This is true of less than 20% of our non-West Coast cities.
While some people prefer energy efficient cars, other drivers care more about a powerful engine. Almost 14% of the cars we service have an eight-cylinder V engine, more commonly known as a V8. V8 engines are more powerful than the four and six cylinder engines found in more than two-thirds of the cars we service.
The following list shows the cities where people are most likely to have a V8 engine. It has some similarities to the American list, because 25% of the American cars we service are big engine V8s, while this is true of less than 5% of foreign cars.
This list shows that people who live Texas and the South are much more likely to opt for a powerful car. For example, people in Baton Rouge, Houston and San Antonio are more than twice as likely as Bostonians to drive a car with a V8 engine.
Another feature that concerns many drivers is a car’s performance when exploring nature. Subarus have a reputation for being popular among lovers of the outdoors. We were curious whether Subaru owners are typically found in cities that are considered “outdoorsy.”
Boulder, Portland and Denver topping this list certainly supports their nature-oriented reputations. These cities are consistently listed among the top cities for outdoor enthusiasts.
For some Americans, the practicality of a Subaru might be great, but others are more concerned with style, prestige and high performance. If they can afford it, many Americans interested in high end cars will go for a Porsche, a favorite of car collectors. We examined the places in the United States where people have the means and desire to own a porsche. The following table lists the top ten.
Porsches are rare everywhere, accounting for less than one in every five hundred cars we service, but they are most common in sunny California and Florida (Lakeland is a city not far from Tampa). This may be because those residents can best enjoy the Porsche convertible.
The car is at the very center of many Americans lives. It can be a necessity, passion or a way to establish identity. As the number of makes and models has increased, the car makeup of American cities has diversified. People in the Midwest are more likely to choose powerful, American cars, while people on the coast are more likely to go for foreign, energy efficiency ones.
As they say: you are what you drive.
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