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The Best-Selling Car in America, Every Year Since 1978



Best-Selling Car in America Since 1978

The Best-Selling Car in America, Every Year Since 1978

Cars have been a staple of the U.S. economy almost since their inception. But as vehicle designs have evolved over time, and consumer tastes alongside them, the best-selling car in America has changed as well.

Finding the right mix of affordability, style, and features has meant that different manufacturers have been in the market lead during different decades.

This infographic from Alan’s Factory Outlet shows the most-purchased cars in the U.S. since 1978, not including trucks and SUVs.

What Is The Best-Selling Car in America By Year?

From 1978 to 2020, over 348 million cars were sold in the U.S., or an average of 8.1 million cars per year. Car sales were especially strong during times of high oil prices, such as following the 1979 oil crisis, as consumers avoided less fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs.

And throughout most of the 20th century, car sales in the U.S. were led by American manufacturers.

From 1978 to 1988, two of the “Big Three” Detroit-based auto manufacturers had the best-selling cars in the country. GM had two models of the Oldsmobile Cutlass and two different Chevrolets in the top spot, while Ford was able to compete with the compact Ford Escort.

But since the late 1980s, Japanese manufacturers started to take over in affordability, reliability, and overall sales.

YearsCar ModelBest-Selling Span (U.S.)
1978–1981Oldsmobile Cutlass4 years
1982Ford Escort1 year
1983Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme1 year
1984–1985Chevrolet Cavalier2 years
1986Chevrolet Celebrity1 year
1987–1988Ford Escort2 years
1989–1991Honda Accord3 years
1992–1996Ford Taurus5 years
1997–2000Toyota Camry4 years
2001Honda Accord1 year
2002–2020Toyota Camry19 years

After Honda and Ford fought closely for the most popular cars with the Accord and the Taurus, Toyota grabbed the crown with the ultra-popular Toyota Camry.

Toyota, which was the world’s largest automaker by market cap for a majority of the last 30 years, also has the world’s best-selling car of all-time with another popular model, the Toyota Corolla.

The company’s cars have resonated with consumers due to reliability, safety, and efficiency in spite of being mass-produced and affordable. High ownership satisfaction and low incidence rates also led Camrys to have high resale value.

Runner Ups and Best-Selling Trucks and SUVs

Just behind Toyota for many years was another Japanese automaker, Honda. The company’s Accord and Civic models consistently ranked just behind the Toyota Camry in U.S. sales throughout most of the 2000s.

Despite most of the world preferring cars for vehicle purchases, the U.S. has become light truck and SUV dominant since the 2000s.

Car ModelUnits Sold (U.S. 2020)
Ford F-Series 787,422
Chevrolet Silverado 594,094
Ram pickup 563,676
Toyota RAV4 430,387
Honda CR-V 333,502
Toyota Camry 294,348
Chevrolet Equinox 270,994
Honda Civic 270,994
GMC Sierra 253,016
Toyota Tacoma 238,806

The proliferation of light trucks also meant that Toyota, one of the world’s leading hybrid sellers, saw the crossover/SUV Toyota RAV4 Hybrid beat the well-known Prius consistently in U.S. sales.

Meanwhile, electric car sales in the U.S. are still far behind, climbing up to 1.8% of sales in 2020 from 1.4% the year before. Compared to countries like Norway where electric cars make up the majority of vehicle sales, the U.S. will likely be dominated by light-trucks for years to come.

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Ranked: Fast Food Brands with the Most U.S. Locations

An overview of America’s fast food landscape, as of 2022, visualizing the top fast food brands with the most stores in the country.



A cropped bar chart visualizing the top fast food brands with the most stores in the country.

Ranked: Fast Food Brands with the Most U.S. Locations

The fast food industry has become a behemoth in the U.S. from humble beginnings in Wichita a century ago, when the first White Castle store opened. Now, nearly 200,000 U.S. fast food brands make up an industry worth more than $300 billion.

We provide an overview of America’s fast food landscape, visualizing the top 15 companies with the most stores in the country. In this graphic, we use data from QSR Magazine, an industry magazine that focuses on the quick-service segment of the restaurant industry.

Which Fast Food Brands Have the Most Stores?

Ranked first, Subway is the only fast food brand with over 20,000 locations, even after a net reduction of 576 stores in 2022.

The previously family-run business is now owned by Roark Capital (which has substantial stake in other familiar names on this list including Arby’s and Sonic), and is mid-transformation, with 3,600 stores being remodeled in 2023.

Here’s the full breakdown of the top 50 fast food brands by number of U.S. locations in 2022.

RankCompanyLocationsChange in Locations (YoY)
5Taco Bell7,198+196
6Burger King7,043-61
8Pizza Hut6,561+13
10Dairy Queen4,307-32
11Little Caesars*4,173-14
13Sonic Drive-In3,546-6
15Papa Johns3,376+37
Louisiana Kitchen
19Jimmy John's2,637-26
20Jersey Mike's2,397+297
21Panda Express2,393+87
23Jack In The Box2,180-38
24Panera Bread*2,102-33
27Five Guys1,409+19
Smoothie Café
29Firehouse Subs1,187+23
30Papa Murphy's1,168-72
31Carl's Jr.1,068+1
32Marco's Pizza1,067+65
36Church's Chicken812-91
40Crumbl Cookies688+363
41Dutch Bros671+133
42Raising Cane's646+79
44Del Taco591-9
45McAlister's Deli525+20
46El Pollo Loco490+10
47Freddy's Frozen
Custard &
48In-N-Out Burger*379+12
49Krispy Kreme*352+44
50Shake Shack*287+44

*Figures estimated by QSR and Circana.

At second place, Starbucks has nearly 16,000 locations around the country, with California alone accounting for nearly 3,000 of them. The coffee chain is also going through a major shift as a result of post-pandemic trends. This includes a greater focus on drive-thru locations and overall speed and efficiency.

Ranked third, McDonald’s, grew its U.S. footprint for the first time in eight years, after adding six new locations. The brand has grown its global sales by nearly $20 billion since the beginning of the pandemic, even after exiting Russia in 2022.

Dunkin’ (dropped the “Donuts” in 2019) and Taco Bell round out the top-five with more than 9,000 and 7,000 locations respectively.

Notably there was only one ranking shift in the top 20 since last year, with Jersey Mike’s, a sandwich chain, moving past Panda Express to claim 20th place.

However the same list looks a little different when ordering by revenue earned in 2022.

Ranked: Fast Food Brands by 2022 Revenue

The Golden Arches take the golden crown for most revenue earned in 2022, easily beating out the competition. McDonald’s made nearly $48 billion in sales last year, 74% more than the next big brand.

Here’s the full ranking of most revenue earned by fast food brands in 2022.

Revenue RankCompanyRevenue (USD millions)Change from
Locations Rank
4Taco Bell$13,850+1
8Burger King$10,278-2
11Panera Bread*$6,787+13
12Pizza Hut$5,500-4
13Sonic Drive-In$5,4990
14Panda Express$5,149+7
Louisiana Kitchen
17Dairy Queen$4,5790
19Jack in the Box$4,111+4
20Papa John's$3,698-5
21Little Caesars*$3,520-10
23Raising Cane's$3,118+19
25Jersey Mike's$2,680-5
28Jimmy John's$2,364-9
29Five Guys$2,204-2
32Carl's Jr.$1,555-1
33Dutch Bros$1,163+8
34Firehouse Subs$1,154-5
35In-N-Out Burger*$1,125+13
Smoothie Café
37El Pollo Loco$1,039+9
38Crumbl Cookies$1,004+2
40Shake Shack*$994+10
41Krispy Kreme*$991+8
42Marco's Pizza$968-10
43Del Taco$957+1
44McAlister's Deli$956+1
46Freddy's Frozen
Custard &
47Church's Chicken$765-11
48Papa Murphy's$753-18

*Figures estimated by QSR and Circana.

Starbucks holds on to the second spot, but Chick-fil-A shoots up 18 positions to third place by revenue, despite being closed on Sundays.

Raising Cane’s, which specializes in chicken fingers and Panera Bread, a bakery competitor to Starbucks, see similar upward trajectories, climbing 19 and 13 spots respectively on the revenue rankings.

On the other hand, Papa Murphy’s and Baskin Robbins have seen a steep drop, making between $600–700 million in 2022, putting them at the bottom of the sales rankings.

What’s Next for Fast Food?

QSR Magazine signals that automation is transforming the restaurant industry as businesses leverage robotics to ease staffing challenges that surged during the pandemic.

Some changes—increasing drive-thrus and apps for example—have already become commonplace but robot cooks and automated delivery vans may also soon proliferate.

With nearly eight out of 100 people in the American workforce involved in the food industry, these changes may cause significant shifts in employment patterns, potentially requiring upskilling for workers in this evolving landscape.

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