What we drive is a collaboration of our dreams and our reality. Although we want the more elaborate car or the higher performance car, we settle for what is more practical.
American, German, off road… what are we driving?
Who we are based on what we drive
A look at the cars of Massachusetts
Technically, they are just vehicles, meant to transport humans and their cargo from point A to point B.
But we all know a car is more than just a car. It’s an expression of who we are, of our aspirations and wants — a fact demonstrated recently by a rusty old Dodge Caravan sputtering along Route 128 with a bumper sticker that read, “My car is a status symbol. A symbol of me being poor.”
Is there something even larger to be learned from our vehicle choices? Collectively, do they reveal patterns and a little something about the places we live?
It turns out they do. The Globe analyzed data provided by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles of the 4.6 million private passenger cars and trucks registered in the state.
What stands out? Jeep Wranglers in Nantucket. Mercedes in Weston. Boston is chock-full of Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys, but also has a few Ferraris and (wait for it) Plymouth Valiants.
For a glimpse of what it might mean, let’s start in the Berkshires, where there are essentially two types of towns: Subaru towns and Silverado towns.
The Silverado, Chevrolet’s full-size pickup truck “when nothing than the most dependable will do,” rules in the eastern half of the county, with a lock on the entire northeast corner. It is the top vehicle in Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Lee, Otis, Peru, Savoy, Sheffield, Washington, and Windsor.
In the southern end of the county, the Subaru is king for cutting through the snow to get a really good cup of coffee. The all-wheel drive Forester is the top vehicle in 20 towns in Massachusetts, and nine of them are in the Berkshires: Great Barrington, Lenox, Becket, Egremont, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlborough, Stockbridge, and West Stockbridge. Meanwhile, the Subaru Outback is tops in Alford, Richmond, Sandisfield, and Tyringham, as well as Williamstown in the northwest corner of the county.
Politically, the Berkshires is solidly blue, but in the past presidential election, Donald Trump generally fared much better in towns where the Silverado was tops.
When looking at the one place in the state that is most in love with a particular model of vehicle — disregarding tiny towns with fewer than 100 vehicles — the clear winner is Nantucket, where 11.41 percent of all registered vehicles are a Jeep Wrangler. A classic symbol of summer, like Nantucket itself, the 1,597 Wranglers on the island have big tires that are perfect for driving on the beaches, and wide bumpers that are great for holding many years of Oversand Vehicle Permit stickers, so as not to be confused with those renters and their ACK stickers.
Lawrence is close by with the dependable Honda Accord, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of all registered vehicles.
The Accord is also the top car in Boston. There are 11,870 in the city, followed closely by the Toyota Camry, with 11,628. Rounding out the top 10 are the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Civic, the Toyota Rav4, the Honda CR-V, the Nissan Altima, the Toyota Highlander, the Nissan Rogue and the Subaru Forester. (Interestingly, Revere and Boston have the same top 7 cars.)
Toyota and Honda are the two top makes in the city, by a significant amount, where as the Plymouth is on its dying days. There are just 55 left in the city — including only two Valiants — but they still outnumber the 35 registered Ferraris.
When it comes to love for a particular manufacturer, Lawrence is again at the top for Hondas, which make up more than 30 percent of all vehicles. On the outer Cape, there is a deep love for Toyota, with Wellfleet, Eastham, and Orleans coming in second, third, and fourth for allegiance to a manufacturer. Toyotas make up more than a quarter of all cars in those Cape towns.
Statewide, Toyota is the number-one make, accounting for 17.7 percent of all cars, followed by Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, Jeep, Subaru, Hyundai, Dodge, and BMW. In terms of models, the Camry is tops, accounting for 3.5 percent of all cars on the road, followed closely by the Accord. Rounding out the top 10 are the Corolla, Civic, CR-V, Rav4, Silverado, Altima, Highlander, and the Forester.
The Camry is the top car in 112 cities and towns, the Silverado in 70, with the Accord leading in 43, the CR-V in 28, and the Toyota Tacoma — the mid-sized pickup that is a favorite of outdoorsy types — leading in 19, with a strong presence on both Cape Cod and Cape Ann.
The Toyota Prius is the tops in nine towns, including Amherst, Northampton, and Lincoln, but not Cambridge, where it is fourth behind the Honda Civic, Accord, and CR-V.
Let’s talk luxury, shall we? Weston, the richest town in the state, loves its Mercedes-Benz, with the gourmet German manufacturer responsible for nearly 10 percent of all registered vehicles in town, tops in the state. Lynnfield, Dover, and Wellesley also love their Mercedes, where they account for around 7 percent of all cars.
Weston also led the way in Beemers. BMWs accounted for close to 9 percent of all vehicles, followed closely by Dover, Wellesley, Sudbury, and Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Not every car in Weston screams “Weston!” The two most popular models in the town are the Honda CR-V and the Jeep Wrangler. The BMW X5 comes third.
What about the future?
Well, let’s again look to Weston, which leads the state in Teslas per capita. There are 125 of the battery-powered luxury vehicles in the town of 9,000 vehicles, followed by Dover, Wellesley, Lincoln, Carlisle, Concord, Sherborn, Brookline, Lexington, and Wayland, towns that are all in the top 20 richest per capita in the state.
And what about the future for the rest of us?
Well, it appears to involve compact SUVs.
According to data from the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, the Toyota Rav4 was the best-selling model, in a landslide, for the first four months of the year. Bay Staters purchased 5,542 Rav4’s through April. It was followed by its fellow compact SUVs, the Honda CR-V, at 3,629, and the Nissan Rogue, at 3,244.
But coming in fourth was something very old and familiar, the Ford F series, which has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 37 years.