• In 2017/18, 33% of the poorest fifth of households did not have access to a car, compared with just 5% of the richest fifth of households.

This chart shows the percentage of households in the UK without access to a car by their net household income. The household income measure is net of taxes and benefits and is adjusted dependent on household size.

Transport can affect health directly – but also indirectly, through its relationship with the wider determinants of health. An inability to access a car can limit social and economic participation and access to public services.

In 2017/18, 17% of UK households did not have access to a car. However, this aggregate figure hides large variations across the income distribution.

  • Around one-third (33%) of households in the bottom income quintile lack access to a car, which is almost seven times higher than those households in the top income quintile.
  • The gap in car-ownership rates between the highest and lowest income quintiles has reduced slightly in recent years, but remains large.

The income gap in car access is partly explained by relatively large upfront and ongoing maintenance costs associated with car ownership. These are more likely to be a financial burden for low-income households.

An affordable and well-connected public transport system helps to ensure people without access to cars can access job opportunities and public services.

  • The income quintiles are based on equivalised income (adjusted for household size) after tax and benefit income for the household have been taken into account.

Source: Understanding Society, The UK Household Longitudinal Study


Further reading

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How transport offers a route to better health

25 February 2021

About 21 mins to read

Long read

Transport affects the health of people across society, in multiple ways. Investing in transport is...

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This is part of Evidence hub: What drives health inequalities?

Data, insights and analysis exploring how the circumstances in which we live shape our health