Skip to main content

Cars are ubiquitous in the United States. It’s an automobile-centric nation with millions of vehicle owners. With this in mind, if asked, “Which country has the most cars?” — many would likely say the U.S. However, in terms of vehicles per capita, there’s a nation that has even more than America. It’s a tiny country — and the only one with more cars than people: San Marino.

San Marino is the only country with more cars than people

Sunset by Titan’s Castle in San Marino, the only country in the world with more cars than people
Titan’s Castle | Lorenzo Castagnone vis Unsplash

The Republic of San Marino is a landlocked microstate surrounded by northwest Italy. It has beautiful mountain scenery, historic medieval architecture and castles, and quaint cobblestone streets. Founded in 301 A.D., San Marino is also the world’s oldest surviving republic. 

There’s another thing for which San Marino is famous. It’s the only country in the world with more cars than people. For every person, there’s an average of 1.6 cars (not including children). In comparison, the U.S. has 0.87 vehicles per person.

Here are the countries with the most cars per people:

  1. San Marino: 1.6
  2. Finland 1.0
  3. Italy: 0.88
  4. Malaysia: 0.88
  5. U.S.: 0.87
  6. Iceland: 0.87
  7. Greece: 0.85
  8. Austria: 0.85 
  9. Luxembourg: 0.81
  10. New Zealand: 0.78

San Marino is very small. With an area of only 23.5 square miles, it’s the fifth smallest country in the world. For the sake of perspective, San Marino is roughly the same size as Manhattan, New York. Likewise, its population is small too. According to the WHO, in 2016, the European microstate had a population of only 33,203 people — but with 54,956 registered cars.

Reasons why San Marino has so many cars 

There are several reasons why San Marino has more cars than people. Like Italy, the country that surrounds it, cars are very popular. There are many auto enthusiasts. The tiny country also has a large collection of classic cars. Plus, despite its small size, there are 140 miles of roads — weaving through idyllic streets and picturesque mountain scenery.

Also, San Marino is one of the wealthiest countries in the world — with a high GDP per capita. This wealth enables residents to afford multiple cars. It’s not uncommon to see houses with two or more luxury cars, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Tax haven status

However, the biggest reason why San Marino has so many cars is its status as a tax haven. The country is surrounded by Italy, but unlike Italy and other nearby countries, San Marino is not part of the European Union. As a result, it doesn’t have the block’s 21% value-added tax. Instead, the tax rate for vehicles varies between 3.5% to 7%, per Treehugger

Because of the lower tax rate, people from Italy and other European nations travel to San Marino to make larger purchases. This includes buying cars in the tiny country. Many of the vehicles are registered in San Marino — but are not actually owned by local residents. People from other countries purchase a car in the microstate — and then drive it across the border and onto their home country.

Related The Number of Car Owners in the World Is Much Less Than You Might Think

The Number of Car Owners in the World Is Much Less Than You Might Think