Black households pay more per vehicle regardless of income

By Megan Link 

People of color already face disproportionate health risks, pedestrian deaths, and discrimination directly related to our car-dependent infrastructure. A new study finds the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle is also grossly inequitable. The authors state, “Owning a vehicle is expensive and those from systemically depressed incomes are more likely to be burdened by the cost.”  

Annually, Black households spend 4% more on transportation costs than white households. Low-income Black households spend $1,115 more on vehicles than low-income white households. Even at higher incomes, Black households spend $882 more per vehicle. The contrast in transportation burden is stark: 76% of Black households are burdened by transportation costs versus 60% of white households.   

These differences in spending stem from several categories. Although Black households average fewer vehicles, insurance payments are around $2,545 compared to $1,880 for white households. Expenses related to purchasing, leasing, and loan payments for vehicles are more burdensome as well. Black households encounter more instances of vehicle loan discrimination, through denials or higher interest rates. 

In contrast to previous studies, this research separates households without vehicles when analyzing spending differences. Without this distinction, studies concluded that Black households spend less on transportation overall. However, they didn’t consider that Black households are three times more likely to lack access to vehicles.  

To address these inequities, some argue to improve access to vehicles. But households with vehicles spend ten times more on transportation costs than those without cars, according to this new study. Despite efforts like fare-free transit and vehicle subsidies, car dependence remains high. Without enhancing transit service and reducing the need for vehicles to reach destinations, inequity persists.  

 The authors conclude: 

“To reduce the racial disparity in transportation affordability between Black and White households with vehicles, the best solution would be to focus on creating places where vehicle use is not necessary for meeting daily travel needs, and to ensure the establishment of legal protections that guard against displacement of Black households from these places.”

Photo Credit: Daniel Frese via Pexels, unmodified. License