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The RV capital of Minnesota, and other fun facts that can be gleaned from Minnesota vehicle registration data

Courtest of MnDOT
Last year, there were more than 7.4 million registered vehicles in the state of Minnesota.

Which Minnesota county has the most registered recreational vehicles per capita?

That would be Cook, with about one for every 50 residents. Hennepin County, by contrast, has about one for every 400 residents, and other metro county residents have similarly (relatively) fewer RVs among them, too.

RVs per capita
There were just 104 RVs registered in Cook County in 2015, but the county’s low population made that one of the highest rates of RV registration per person. Hennepin County actually leads the state in the raw number of RVs registered — 2,969 — but the county’s huge population makes that the lowest rate per capita in the state.
Source: Minnesota Department of Public Safety

How many — and what kinds of — vehicles people have vary by which part of Minnesota they live in, vehicle registration records from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety show.

The seven counties in the Twin Cities metro area have among the lowest registered vehicles per capita in the state: Ramsey, Hennepin, Dakota, Carver, Scott, Washington and Anoka all make the bottom 10, with close to one vehicle per resident. Many outstate counties have more than two registered vehicles, on average, per county resident.

Registered vehicles per person by Minnesota county, 2015
Generally speaking, the number of registered motor vehicles per person in Minnesota counties falls somewhere between one and two.
Source: Minnesota Department of Public Safety

The Department of Public Safety report defines motor vehicles in broad terms — from cars and trucks to motorcycles and cement mixers, school buses, utility trailers, and any other vehicles required to be registered in the state. It doesn’t include vehicles owned by Minnesotans that are not registered in the state, and vehicles that don’t travel on public roads (like farm trucks), which don’t have to be registered, wrote DPS spokeswoman Megan Leonard in an email.

Trucks, mopeds and classics

Whether because of income, more space, or other factors, residents of Greater Minnesota areas also have, on average, more large pickup trucks than metro residents, according to vehicle registrations. (Here, we’re counting large pickup trucks as those with a manufacturer’s rated capacity of more than ¾ ton).

Red Lake County (Red Lake Falls) has one such truck for every three residents. In Hennepin County, there’s one for every eight residents.

For whatever reason, Pipestone County (Pipestone) had more registered mopeds per capita than any other county, with one for every 72 residents. In Clearwater County (Bagley), there was just one registered moped and an estimated 8,735 residents last year.

Norman County (Ada) had more registered classic cars, including collectors, street rods and pioneer vehicles, than any other county, with about one for every 9 residents. Ramsey County has the fewest classic cars — there’s one for every 43 residents.

More cars, more people

As the population of Minnesota has grown, so has the number of vehicles its residents own.

Last year, there were more than 7.4 million registered vehicles in the state of Minnesota. In 2005, there were about 6.3 million registered vehicles in Minnesota, according to DPS figures.

Total registered motor vehicles in Minnesota by year
The number of registered motor vehicles has increased steadily over the past decade.
Source: Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Does an increase in that number mean the demand for cars has gone up?

Not necessarily. The number of registered vehicles per person has only increased slightly: While there were more registered vehicles in 2015 than in 2005, Minnesota’s population increased by 10 percent from 2005 to 2015, according to Census figures, from about 4.99 million to 5.49 million people.

In the short term, the Minnesota Department of Transportation isn’t projecting a significant change in the number of vehicles per capita in Minnesota: while there’s much publicity about urban millennials forsaking cars in favor of bikes and transit, it seems that they’re now coming around to the idea of driving, said Philip Schaffner, policy planning director at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

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Meanwhile, the number of miles the average Minnesotan is driving has dipped slightly in recent years, especially in the Twin Cities metro area, he said.

The wildcard that could affect the per-capita car rate in the more distant future is self-driving cars, Schaffner said. If, as some predict, self-driving cars make it possible for people to call a car on demand, hop in, and be delivered to their destination, car ownership could ultimately diminish.

That, plus the popularity of car sharing through services like Car2go and ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber in Minneapolis and St. Paul add uncertainty to the future picture.

“It’s just a question mark and something that we’re trying to monitor,” Schaffner said.

Random Acts of Data is an occasional series by MinnPost data reporter Greta Kaul and news editor Tom Nehil. The goal: to answer questions about all things Minnesota using the vast amount of data at our disposal. If you have a question you’re wondering about, send an email to data@minnpost.com with the subject line, “Random Acts of Data.”

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Comments (2)

Who knows?

"Whether because of income, more space, or other factors..."

"For whatever reason..."

May as well publish the statistics without comment.

Given a choice?

"while there’s much publicity about urban millennials forsaking cars in favor of bikes and transit, it seems that they’re now coming around to the idea of driving"

We can't very well expect people to follow through on their best intentions when they aren't given the opportunity to do so. In St. Paul, at least, the bicycle infrastructure situation is still really lacking and not accommodating to new riders. The transit scene is not much better outside of the Green Line LRT.

Outside of MPLS/StP you can't blame anyone for not taking LRT daily for their work commute!

Just because people realize the system is rigged for cars doesn't mean they want to own/drive one.