Vehicle Miles Traveled On The Rise Again

Jason R. Sakurai
by Jason R. Sakurai

In March, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. According to the Auto Care Association, this was the first month since August 2019 that VMT topped 300 million miles. To give you some perspective, the distance between the earth and the moon is only 238,856 miles, according to Wikipedia.

Last year, U.S. drivers were stuck in traffic an average of 26 hours. This was a steep decline from 99 hours prior to the pandemic. reported German drivers averaged the same number as Americans last year, down from 46 the year prior. In the UK, it was 37 last year, and 115 before COVID-19. Inrix, a traffic analytics company, collected the data for their 2020 Global Traffic Scorecard. They tracked mobility in 1,000 cities around the world based on travel times. All of this was due to fewer people traveling to work, especially downtowns and central business districts.

The worst traffic was in New York City, up from 4th the year before. Drivers there spent 100 hours in traffic in 2019. In 2020, New Yorkers spent 28 percent less time stuck in traffic, traveled 28 percent fewer miles, and had 38 percent fewer crashes. Washington, D.C. had the biggest decline, where drivers spent 29 hours idling, a 77 percent decrease from pre-pandemic times. Still, they only had 26 percent fewer accidents and a 25 percent decrease in VMT.

We documented previously the rental car fiasco, one that will likely be compounded as we resume air travel. It’ll be interesting to see if rental car companies restock their fleets, or if Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services continue to grow to meet the needs of travelers.

This brings us back to the shortage of new and used cars. In Spring and Summer 2020, used car sales took off, before settling down the remainder of the year. New car sales would accelerate right now if the OEMs had the chips to get them rolling. Factory shutdowns will likely continue until chip production can be scaled to match.

Yeah, we’re back on the road again. It’s great for the garages and shops that service your vehicle, and the parts business too. Parts sales accelerated during the pandemic, and it doesn’t appear as though it will tail off even as we regain our mobility.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz, Auto Care Association]

Jason R. Sakurai
Jason R. Sakurai

With a father who owned a dealership, I literally grew up in the business. After college, I worked for GM, Nissan and Mazda, writing articles for automotive enthusiast magazines as a side gig. I discovered you could make a living selling ad space at Four Wheeler magazine, before I moved on to selling TV for the National Hot Rod Association. After that, I started Roadhouse, a marketing, advertising and PR firm dedicated to the automotive, outdoor/apparel, and entertainment industries. Through the years, I continued writing, shooting, and editing. It keep things interesting.

More by Jason R. Sakurai

Join the conversation
2 of 47 comments
  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on May 03, 2021

    Wow, some of these comments are just astounding to me. It's amazing the garbage some of believe and the complete insanity you're spewing (climate change as one example)

  • RHD RHD on May 04, 2021

    I don't know about the proles, but normal people have had their vaccinations already, or are about to have them. You're about 95% immune at that point. The ones dying in the future will be the anti-vaxxer loons who like to think it's all an extremely elaborate hoax.

  • Mia Hey there!I recently stumbled upon the Crack Eraser DIY Windshield Repair Kit (check it out here: and decided to give it a shot on a small chip in my windshield. I have to say, it worked like a charm! Super easy to use, and it saved me a trip to the professionals. If you're dealing with a similar issue, this kit is definitely worth considering. 😊
  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.