Key points

  • People in households without a car make half the number of journeys as those with a car and this has been the case throughout the last decade.
  • The proportion of households who find it difficult to access essential local services is much higher for those without cars than for those with cars.  For example, around 5-8% of those with cars report difficulties accessing supermarkets, post offices and doctors compared with 18-20% for those without a car.  Access to hospitals is much more difficult for both groups, with 20% of those with a car and 40% of those without a car reporting difficulties.
  • Nearly all households with above-average incomes have a car but half of low-income households do not.
  • The overall pattern of car ownership by income level in 2010 was similar to that of a decade previously, although the proportion of those with below-average incomes who do not have a car has reduced somewhat.
  • Access to a car is affected by household type as well as household income.  Nearly all couples have a car but many singles – both with and without children – do not.  So whereas only 10% of working-age couples and 20% of pensioner couples lack a car, 40% of working-age singles (both with and without dependent children) and 65% of single pensioners lack a car.
  • In 2010, 22% of women and 17% of men lived in households that did not have car.  Thirty five years ago, both these proportions were about twice as high.  While the gap between men and women in terms household car ownership is only 5 percentage points, the gap in terms of who can drive the car is much larger, with 25% of men but 40% of women either lacking a car in their household or not having a driving license.  These proportions, too, have both halved over the last thirty years.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Access is in many ways the opposite of social exclusion, and the ability to travel is a crucial aspect of access.  Travel involves journeys for work and pleasure, for shopping, for family visits, religious occasions, going to the doctor, and generally for participation in communal activities outside home. “It is not only a lack of money that may make a person poor, but the lack of access to opportunities and facilities that others in the same society enjoy that is the defining characteristic of travel poverty“. 1

In contemporary Britain, most people use cars to travel and those without cars make many fewer journeys than those with cars.  Arguably, cars have now become an essential item (except for those living in some of the major metropolitan areas).

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the average number of journeys made by people each year, with the data split between those in households with and without cars.

The data source for the first graph is the National Travel Survey and the data relates to Great Britain.  The number of journeys has been calculated as the total number of trips by all methods  less the number of walking trips.  No data is available for 2007.  Up until 2001, The National Travel Survey results were published on a three-year rolling basis.  Following advice from the Department for Transport, the individual year estimates have been made by applying the three-year averages to the middle year of the three (e.g.  the figures for 2000 are those for the three-year period from 1999 to 2001).  Figures for 2001 cannot be estimated on this basis so the figures shown are the average for the years 2000 and 2002.

The second graph shows, for the latest year, the proportion of households who say that they find it difficult to access a selection of essential local services, with the data shown separately for households with and without cars.

The data source for the second graph is the the household dataset from the English Housing Survey and the data is for England only.  Note that these questions were not asked in the 2008/09 survey.

The third graph shows, for the latest year, the proportion of households who do not have access to a car, with the data shown separately for each level of household income.  Note that the households incomes have been adjusted for household size and composition to put them on a comparable basis (i.e. they are equivalised).  For comparison purposes, the equivalent data for a decade ago is also presented,

The fourth graph shows, for 2005, the proportion of households who do not have access to a car, with the data shown separately for each major type of household.  Note that this breakdown is not available for any of the surveys since 2005.

The fifth graph shows, by gender, the proportion of adults who do not have access to a car, with the data divided between households without a car and adults who do have a car in their household but do not themselves have a full driving license.

The data source for third, fourth and fifth graphs is the National Travel Survey and the data relates to Great Britain.  In the fourth graph, households are classified as working-age or pensioner depending on whether the household reference person is aged 65+ or not.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited.  The National Travel Survey and English Housing Survey are both well-established annual government surveys, designed to be nationally representative, but it is not at all clear that the data fully captures the problems of transport in relation to poverty and social exclusion, particularly given the absence of any good data on the adequacy of public transport as an alternative to car ownership.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

None directly relevant.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Average number of trips per person excluding walking trips
People in households without a car People in households with a car
1995 361 877
1996 364 878
1997 367 877
1998 359 874
1999 356 863
2000 365 857
2001 362 861
2002 359 866
2003 378 836
2004 365 832
2005 405 887
2006404 874
2007no data no data
2008421 848
2009411 823
2010417 828

Graph 2

Service Households with a car Households without a car
Corner shops 5% 12%
Supermarkets 5% 20%
Doctors 6% 18%
Post offices 8% 18%
Hospitals 20% 40%

Graph 3

Household income quintile 1999-2001 2010
Poorest fifth61% 49%
2nd43% 38%
Middle fifth18% 18%
4th10% 12%
Richest fifth6% 9%

Graph 4

2+ adults with children 11%
2 adults, household reference person 16-64 12%
2 adults, household reference person 65+ 20%
Single adult 16-64 41%
Lone parent family 44%
Single adult 65+ 66%

Graph 4

Year No car in household Car in household but non-driver
Men Women Men Women
1976 36% 45% 6% 31%
1986 26% 35% 6% 26%
1996 19% 27% 6% 20%
2006 16% 22% 9% 18%
201017% 22% 9% 16%
1. Root et al, Rural travel and Transport corridors, 1996.