Which country has the fewest cars?

DESTATIS - Federal Statistical Office

Press release No.N 055 from September 11, 2020

  • Car density was highest in Saarland in 2019 with 640 cars per 1000 inhabitants
  • The length of the motorway network in the eastern federal states increased by 57% from 1995 to 2019
  • From 2010 to 2019, regular public transport was particularly popular in the eastern federal states, including Berlin

WIESBADEN - The car dominates the German transport infrastructure as a means of transport. Despite public debates about climate protection and the turnaround in traffic, the number of cars in Germany rose by 12% from 2010 to 2019 from an average of 509 to 569 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) based on figures from the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA ) as well as its own calculation. During the same period, the number of cars increased by 14% from 41.3 million to just under 47.1 million.

In the federal states in the west, the car density in 2019 was 586 vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants, higher than in the eastern federal states (497).

In 2019, the car density was highest in Saarland with 640 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Rhineland-Palatinate (619) and Bavaria (613). The city-states have the lowest car density - due to different infrastructural conditions, such as the largely well-developed local public transport system (ÖPNV). Berlin has by far the lowest number of cars per 1,000 inhabitants (335), followed by Bremen (430) and Hamburg (434).

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania532
Lower Saxony596
North Rhine-Westphalia563

Expansion of roads for regional traffic, especially in East Germany

While the number of cars in Germany has been increasing for years, the length of the road network for regional traffic has stagnated. From 1995 to 2019 it grew in Germany by around 1,200 kilometers to 230,000 kilometers (+0.5%).

After German reunification, the main focus was on roads in the eastern federal states. While between 1995 and 2019 the length of the roads for regional traffic increased there from 54,450 kilometers to 56,300 kilometers (+ 3.4%), the road length in the western federal states decreased slightly in the same period: from around 174 150 to 173 500 Kilometers (-0.4%).

More kilometers of motorway

A motorway connection is an important location factor for the transport of goods and thus for the economy. The length of the motorway increased sharply in Germany: from 1995 to 2019 by 18% to a good 13,100 km. Due to the particular pent-up demand in the eastern federal states, the length of the motorway there increased by 57% to 3,050 kilometers, in western Germany by almost 10% to 10,100 kilometers.

Road network almost six times as dense as rail network

In 2019 there were almost 230,000 kilometers of inter-regional roads compared to around a sixth of the length of the rail route (42,000 kilometers including trams and connecting railways). From 2005 to 2019, the national rail network grew by 1.5%. While the population in the western federal states decreased by around 200 kilometers to a good 28,900 (-0.6%), it was increased in the eastern federal states by around 800 kilometers to a good 13,000 (+6.6%) in the period under review .

8% more passengers carried in scheduled public transport (2010 to 2019)

The increased mobility with the growing population is also reflected in the number of passengers on regular services. The number of people transported in buses and trains in Germany increased: from 10.6 billion in 2010 to 11.4 billion in 2019 - an increase of 8%. In the comparison between East and West Germany, however, the relationship was reversed. While the western federal states showed higher growth rates in terms of car density, the number of people using local public transport increased more strongly in the eastern federal states (+14%) than in the western federal states (+6.5%). The growth in Berlin (here assigned to the east) was particularly strong at 24.6%. In the other eastern federal states, however, growth was only 1.6%.

Methodological note:
The data on car density are based on figures from the Federal Motor Transport Authority on registered cars, on the basis of which the Federal Statistical Office carried out its own calculations in individual cases (relationship with population figures).
The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure compiles the statistics of the roads used by regional traffic. Roads of supra-local traffic are motorways, federal, state and district roads. Local roads are not included. Changes in the length of the individual street categories can be attributed to the construction of new streets, but also to upgrading or grading into another street category.
In this press release, Berlin is assigned to the federal states in the east.

additional Information
You can find regional similarities and differences between eastern and western federal states 30 years after German unification on our topic page "30 Years of German Unity".