Car Ownership Remains a Key Driver of Opportunity, Survey Shows

In a world reshaped by remote work and virtual services, do Americans still believe that owning a car is essential to getting ahead? Researchers investigated how vehicle ownership impacts upward mobility post-pandemic—from employment to social benefits.

For over a century, cars remained a cornerstone of American life. But with the rise of remote work and virtual services, a question arises: Do people still view car ownership as crucial for achieving their goals?

A recent Capital One Insights Center survey suggests that for those who do not have a car due to unaffordability, lack of access remains a significant obstacle to future opportunities including improved job opportunities. In fact, about 34% report that having a car would boost their job prospects, while about 28% believe it would lead to higher income. For parents, a striking number, nearly 77%, say car access could improve their children’s education and extracurricular opportunities.

Survey respondents who do not have access to a vehicle reported that access to a vehicle would offer more options for where to work—and they envision a higher income, career progression, or more control over their time.

While vehicle ownership may not be the best solution for every household, the survey indicates that even after the pandemic upheaval, those without cars — especially in suburban and rural areas—still consider access essential for connecting to employment and vital services. With suburban poverty on the rise over the past two decades, finding ways to make car ownership more affordable is increasingly critical.

Key findings—and why it matters

The survey also reveals that lacking access to a car can have far-reaching consequences beyond just transportation. Respondents who do not have access to a vehicle reported that owning a vehicle would provide a sense of empowerment, independence, and flexibility in their lives. The findings underscore the importance of examining the role of car ownership in enabling upward mobility and exploring solutions to make it more accessible.

The Capital One Insights Center survey, in partnership with Morning Consult, builds on previous research by surveying respondents in the post-Covid era. The study focuses on those who reported not having access to a personal vehicle because they can’t afford one.

Discover the key findings and potential solutions by reading the report.

Capital One is a Dallas Innovates Platinum partner. “Car Ownership Remains a Key Driver of Opportunity, Survey Shows” was written and edited by Dallas Innovates’ brand studio.

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