Why New Mexico might be on this top ten list…

I ran across an interesting article in my BMW Car Club of America magazine,  Roundel, regarding car ownership and vehicle dependency rates by state. A car shopping website called Co-Pilot, lists the top ten states in terms of number of cars owned per person, along with other statistics. New Mexico ends up being ninth on the list, which made me start thinking about why we’re there.

Many of the other states in the top ten are rural western states, including Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. That makes sense because we have long distances to drive and more than one vehicle is often a necessity. And if you think about trying to cut our carbon footprint in New Mexico by riding a bicycle, it doesn’t make much sense to pedal 60 miles to get three weeks of groceries. So the rural profile fits New Mexico.

Several states in the top 10 list are lower income states, many of them in the south. The lower income category also fits New Mexico.

The report shows that the average household in New Mexico owns .8 vehicles and that we drive that .8 of a vehicle an average of 19,157 miles each year. That’s the second highest number of miles per year of the top ten states, with Wyoming leading at 24,069 miles per vehicle per year. That shows we really flog our vehicles over the years.

Car crazy California is 31st on the list and not-surprisingly, New York is last on the list.

Our own household has three vehicles, our 2019 BMW X3, a 2012 GMC Sierra pickup and my “always need tinkering” classic 1975 BMW 2002. Do we need that many? Probably not, but I’d be sad to part with any of them.

And I also I think anyone who lives in New Mexico needs a pickup. I wouldn’t be surprised to see statistics showing New Mexico had one of the highest rates of pickup ownership per household in the nation. An old colleague of mine once wrote about the need of pickups in New Mexico and speculated that many of us might have been born or at least conceived in one. 

But I think if you look around many rural areas of our state, you’ll see another reason we have so many vehicles per household in New Mexico. Many folks just never get around to getting rid of that 1981 Buick or 1976 Ford F-150 and let it rust away in the driveway or behind the barn. We’re not willing to say we’ve abandoned these sources of fond memories and we convince ourselves that some day soon we will “fix it up and get it running again.”

The photo below, which I posted in an earlier blog, shows how much of a challenge that might be.

A 1969 Chevy pickup on a ranch on the Rio Penasco in eastern Otero County

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