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.
|Years||Car Model||Best-Selling Span (U.S.)|
|1978–1981||Oldsmobile Cutlass||4 years|
|1982||Ford Escort||1 year|
|1983||Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme||1 year|
|1984–1985||Chevrolet Cavalier||2 years|
|1986||Chevrolet Celebrity||1 year|
|1987–1988||Ford Escort||2 years|
|1989–1991||Honda Accord||3 years|
|1992–1996||Ford Taurus||5 years|
|1997–2000||Toyota Camry||4 years|
|2001||Honda Accord||1 year|
|2002–2020||Toyota Camry||19 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 Model||Units Sold (U.S. 2020)|
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.
Visualizing the Range of Electric Cars vs. Gas-Powered Cars
With range anxiety being a barrier to EV adoption, how far can an electric car go on one charge, and how do EV ranges compare with gas cars?
The Range of Electric Cars vs. Gas-Powered Cars
EV adoption has grown rapidly in recent years, but many prospective buyers still have doubts about electric car ranges.
In fact, 33% of new car buyers chose range anxiety—the concern about how far an EV can drive on a full charge—as their top inhibitor to purchasing electric cars in a survey conducted by EY.
So, how far can the average electric car go on one charge, and how does that compare with the typical range of gas-powered cars?
The Rise in EV Ranges
Thanks to improvements in battery technology, the average range of electric cars has more than doubled over the last decade, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
|Year||Avg. EV Range||Maximum EV Range|
|2010||79 miles (127 km)||N/A|
|2011||86 miles (138 km)||94 miles (151 km)|
|2012||99 miles (159 km)||265 miles (426 km)|
|2013||117 miles (188 km)||265 miles (426 km)|
|2014||130 miles (209 km)||265 miles (426 km)|
|2015||131 miles (211 km)||270 miles (435 km)|
|2016||145 miles (233 km)||315 miles (507 km)|
|2017||151 miles (243 km)||335 miles (539 km)|
|2018||189 miles (304 km)||335 miles (539 km)|
|2019||209 miles (336 km)||370 miles (595 km)|
|2020||210 miles (338 km)||402 miles (647 km)|
|2021||217 miles (349 km)||520 miles* (837 km)|
As of 2021, the average battery-powered EV could travel 217 miles (349 km) on a single charge. It represents a 44% increase from 151 miles (243 km) in 2017 and a 152% increase relative to a decade ago.
Despite the steady growth, EVs still fall short when compared to gas-powered cars. For example, in 2021, the median gas car range (on one full tank) in the U.S. was around 413 miles (664 km)—nearly double what the average EV would cover.
As automakers roll out new models, electric car ranges are likely to continue increasing and could soon match those of their gas-powered counterparts. It’s important to note that EV ranges can change depending on external conditions.
What Affects EV Ranges?
In theory, EV ranges depend on battery capacity and motor efficiency, but real-world results can vary based on several factors:
- Weather: At temperatures below 20℉ (-6.7℃), EVs can lose around 12% of their range, rising to 41% if heating is turned on inside the vehicle.
- Operating Conditions: Thanks to regenerative braking, EVs may extend their maximum range during city driving.
- Speed: When driving at high speeds, EV motors spin faster at a less efficient rate. This may result in range loss.
On the contrary, when driven at optimal temperatures of about 70℉ (21.5℃), EVs can exceed their rated range, according to an analysis by Geotab.
The 10 Longest-Range Electric Cars in America
Here are the 10 longest-range electric cars available in the U.S. as of 2022, based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) range estimates:
|Car||Range On One Full Charge||Estimated Base Price|
|Lucid Air||520 miles (837 km)||$170,500|
|Tesla Model S||405 miles (652 km)||$106,190|
|Tesla Model 3||358 miles (576 km)||$59,440|
|Mercedes EQS||350 miles (563 km)||$103,360|
|Tesla Model X||348 miles (560 km)||$122,440|
|Tesla Model Y||330 miles (531 km)||$67,440|
|Hummer EV||329 miles (529 km)||$110,295|
|BMW iX||324 miles (521 km)||$84,195|
|Ford F-150 Lightning||320 miles (515 km)||$74,169|
|Rivian R1S||316 miles (509 km)||$70,000|
Source: Car and Driver
The top-spec Lucid Air offers the highest range of any EV with a price tag of $170,500, followed by the Tesla Model S. But the Tesla Model 3 offers the most bang for your buck if range and price are the only two factors in consideration.
Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion
Our population will soon reach a new milestone—8 billion. These visualizations show where all those people are distributed around the world
Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion
At some point in late 2022, the eight billionth human being will enter the world, ushering in a new milestone for humanity.
In just 48 years, the world population has doubled in size, jumping from four to eight billion. Of course, humans are not equally spread throughout the planet, and countries take all shapes and sizes. The visualizations in this article aim to build context on how the eight billion people are distributed around the world.
For extended coverage of this moment and what it means to the world, you can get access to our full report and webinar by signing up to VC+, our premium newsletter.
Now, here’s a look at each country’s population as of September 2022:
|Global Rank||Country/Region||Population (2022)|
|3||🇺🇸 United States||335,391,957|
|16||Democratic Republic of Congo||96,104,525|
|92||United Arab Emirates||10,164,747|
|97||Papua New Guinea||9,342,727|
|104||Hong Kong SAR||7,635,279|
|125||Central African Republic||5,025,077|
|136||Bosnia and Herzegovina||3,235,985|
|154||Trinidad and Tobago||1,409,672|
|173||Micronesia (Fed. States of)||561,300|
|188||Sao Tome and Principe||228,652|
|196||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||111,732|
|199||United States Virgin Islands||104,083|
|200||Antigua and Barbuda||99,773|
|202||Isle of Man||86,049|
|208||Northern Mariana Islands||58,336|
|211||Saint Kitts and Nevis||54,052|
|214||Turks and Caicos||39,924|
|220||British Virgin Islands||30,687|
|227||Wallis and Futuna||10,818|
|230||Saint Pierre & Miquelon||5,732|
Below are regional breakdowns of population.
Africa’s Population by Country
As of 2022, Africa’s total population stands at 1.4 billion people. Many of the countries with the fastest growth rates are located in Africa and by 2050, the population of the continent is expected to jump to 2.5 billion.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy. Based on current growth rates, Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, could even emerge as the world’s top megacity by the end of the century.
Africa has by far the lowest median age of any of the other continents.
Asia’s Population by Country
With 4.7 billion people in 2022, Asia is by far the world’s most populous region.
The continent is dominated by the two massive population centers of China and India. In 2023, a big shift will occur, with India surpassing China to become the world’s most populous country. China has held top spot for centuries, but the mismatch between the two countries’ growth rates made it only a matter of time before this milestone arrived.
Asia is a region of contrast when it comes to population growth. On the one end are countries like Singapore and Japan, which are actually shrinking. On the other, are Middle Eastern nations like Oman and Qatar, which have robust population growth rates of 4-5%.
Vietnam is on the cusp of becoming the 15th country to surpass the 100 million population mark.
Europe’s Population by Country
Europe’s population in 2022 is 750 million people—more than twice the size of the United States.
A century ago, Europe’s population was close to 30% of the world total. Today, that figure stands at less than 10%. This is, in part, due to population growth throughout other regions of the world.
More importantly though, Europe’s population is contracting in a number of places—Eastern Europe in particular. Many of the countries with the slowest growth rates are located in the Balkans and former Soviet Bloc countries.
Russia remains Europe’s largest country by population. Although the country’s landmass extends all the way across Asia, three-quarters of Russia’s people live on the European side of the country.
Germany is the second largest country in Europe, followed by the UK, France, and Italy.
Ukraine is the seventh largest population center in Europe, but it remains to be seen how the current conflict with Russia impacts the country’s long-term population prospects.
North America’s Population by Country
North America’s population is 602 million people as of 2022.
The continent is dominated by the United States, which makes up more than half of the total population. America’s population is still growing modestly (by global standards), but perhaps more interesting are the internal migration patterns that are occurring. States like Texas and Florida are seeing an influx from other states.
Canada has one of the highest population growth rates of major developed economies thanks to international migration.
Mexico is currently the 10th most populous country, but will eventually be bumped from the top 10 list by fast-growing African nations.
South America’s Population by Country
The population of South America in 2022 is 439 million. Brazil makes up nearly half of that total.
Sometime this decade, Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, will become the region’s fifth megacity (which is defined as having a population of 10 million or more). São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Lima are South America’s current megacities.
Oceania’s Population by Country
The population of the Oceania region is 44 million people—just slightly higher than the population of California.
Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea make up the lion’s share of the population of this region.
Interestingly, many of the smallest countries by population can also be found in this region.
When Will Earth’s Population Hit 9 Billion?
The next global population milestone—nine billion—will likely be hit sometime in the 2030s.
In fact, Earth’s population is expected to continue growing until it hits a peak at some point in the 2080s—possibly over the 10 billion mark.
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