Far fewer Hungarians own cars, according to new study

One of Hungary’s most prominent pollsters and research firms, Medián (commissioned by Robert Bosch Kft.), published some insightful statistics today, on how transportation and the role of cars in the lives of ordinary citizens is changing in Hungary. Anyone who has been to Budapest (I just returned from a three week trip) can tell you that driving in the city centre, along the perpetually congested ring road, down Rákóczi út or across the bridges, can be positively nightmarish. In contrast, the trams–which run at speeds of fifty kilometres per hour, or the four metro lines–offer a relatively reliable, if crowded, option.

Trams at Budapest's Széll Kálmán tér (formerly Moszkva tér) in June 2016. Photo: Christopher Adam.

Trams at Budapest’s Széll Kálmán tér (formerly Moszkva tér) in June 2016. Photo: Christopher Adam.

In a study released today, Medián discovered that most cohorts of Hungarians are buying fewer cars, but the most significant decrease in car ownership is among Hungarians with the highest level of education, and this is especially true in the capital. The proportion of Budapest residents who own at least one car dropped by a significant 9%, compared to the last study conducted in 2009.

Nationally, 44% of Hungarian households own at least one car, representing a 1% decrease from 2009. Only 5% of households have more than one vehicle. But while in 2008, 66% of Hungarians with a university degree owned a car, this proportion has fallen to 62%. In the case of Hungarian with a high school diploma, this proportion decreased from 54% to 53%, and those who did not complete high school, but learned a trade also saw a decrease in car ownership (45% to 42%).

Younger generations of Hungarians (and those with the highest education levels) seem to be using alternative forms of transportation the most. For instance, car ownership between those who are 30 and 39 years of age dropped from 57% in 2010 to 51% in 2016. The only demographic group where car ownership has seen a marked increase is those over sixty years of age, from just 20% in 2008 to 30% in 2016.

Part of this trend undoubtedly has to do with a growing use of bicycles in Budapest, especially among younger Hungarians, and perhaps also the expansion of public transit to include the new, and much awaited M4 metro line, as well as an improved tram network in Budapest. Environmental considerations are a factor too, especially among the more educated Hungarians. But at least one figure suggests that financial realities and belt-tightening may play a role as well in the move away from car ownership–Hungarians are driving older cars than before, with the average age of automobiles in Hungary now reaching over 13 years, compared to just 10 years in 2008.

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12 Comments

  1. Bors Ferenc Marton says:

    I am living in Budapest right now and I do not own the car. I went to university and have a four-year degree in psychology. I’m an OutDoor Café and restaurant rat & avocation is talking & meeting new people. FYI the last 7 of 10 people that I met here did not own automobiles.

    I believe this trend is important.

    Back home in America I do not own a car either (6 months in Europe in six months in the USA I spend ). It is very odd for most Americans do nothing for that I met did not own automobiles. Back home in America I do not own a car either. It is very odd an American to not own a car but I am retired and can use my bicycle or motorcycle for 90% of what I need there – not to mention my use of a Uber.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      Bors Ferenc Marton,

      I experienced the same thing in Budapest. Anyone I met of my generation (I am 35) came to meet me by metro, tram, bus or bike. In Budapest, I felt that having a car is actually a hindrance or a disadvantage, most of the time. The only time I rented a vehicle was when I travelled to rural Hungary.

  2. Well it’s nice to see at least one good trend in Hungary, and one that’s in line with similar trends in the West. I have no car here in Montreal; I greatly prefer public transport (including BIXI, in season). It’s sad if it is insufficient income that drives the car-lessness, but the outcome is better for all. (And not having enough money to buy a car is not a symptom of not having enough money to have a decent life.)

    Meanwhile, not only do the oli’s and the Fidesz brass have their luxury cars, but they apparently use their connections to park wherever they want, as well as to speed as if on urgent business…

  3. I fell in love with Budapest not in small part because of its public transportation.

  4. Miklos Banfi says:

    Not to argue, but I spend 4-6 weeks a year in Budapest and I can’t imagine not having a car. (A small one from my niece) Ok, I live in Kelenföld and my relatives in Szentendre, Érd and Újpest. It gives me all the flexibility and I noticed that the traffic is significantly less than say 5-6 years ago, when I still lived there. I use my bicycle for shorter runs, but I can be anywhere in 20-30 min. especially at night. I avoid the afternoon rush hours and it is all ok. Of course use the new Metro if I go out close along the line or when I know that drinking may happen:)

    • Liz Aucoin says:

      I know what you mean Miklos, when travelling around from communities around the outskirts of Budapest, not having a vehicle is hard, however, when I used to go into Pest from Halasztelek, if we drove, it would only be to Csepel, from there we used public transit as we travelled around the city much faster than by car and didn’t have to worry about parking. BTW, I have family in Szentendre too.

  5. Good news about reduced cars in BP but the increase in bike use has created the problem of danger to pedestrians. A large number of bike riders in BP are very aggressive and pose a danger to pedestrians. Bikes should only be permitted on roads or where they have separate lanes – like the new section on the Buda side opposite Parliament. And of course, offending bikers should be fined

  6. Miklos Banfi says:

    John, I had been an avid cyclist in Bp for many years and I always saw what was going on. I also drove a lot and of course walked. I was attacked or witnessed quite a few incidents, suffered 5 accidents (I was hit)
    The sad fact is that the pedestrians, the cyclist and drivers mutually hate each other, blame each other and not many seem to understand, that this is a part of culture. Everybody is selfish and don’t care of the others, reflects the attitude of the average people.
    The head of the Hungarian Bicycle Federation was a close friend of mine, died sadly a year ago – he was fighting all his life with many of his colleagues for peace among them with some great results, but still lot of changes are needed.
    Yes, it is a complicated question. The idea that bicycles are allowed only on the road, I always opposed. To me it is a message: let the fools die if they dare to ride their bicycle. Many cyclist die and get injured, many times more than pedestrians, still the cyclists are the culpits all the time.. The government build bicycle roads sporadically, where they can swallow money for it.. The system is far from being built.

    • Miklos: Thank you for the reply. Sorry to hear about your friend.

      We lived in Melbourne for many years and a similar problem with aggression exists in that city. Bikes are only allowed on roads and specifically-allocated bike lanes so the hatred is mainly between cyclists and drivers because the pedestrians are not as threatened as they are in BP. In BP the cyclists are riding everywhere and some are travelling nagyon gyorsan so I understand why you say the cyclists, pedestrians and motorists hate each other.

      Yes it is a complicated question. But an important question that needs to be adequately answered IMHO. I think it is best answered by considering the relative speeds of travel. Bicycles travel a lot faster than a pedestrian so they should be separated from where pedestrians go. Viszont sajnos, I suspect we will have to wait until we have serious accidents before something is done.

  7. Miklos Banfi says:

    John, the tens of thousands of accidents of cyclists are not enough? The problem is, that the cyclist designated routes are few and far between. On the bridges almost impossible to cross over. At least you have to get off your bike. If you ride on the road, you have 20% chance:) to die every day. The scandal is, that even at the long reconstruction and widening of the Margit bridge a few years ago is incompetent, I could say maliciously screwed up. First they planned bicycle lanes on both side, then they changed their mind and built only one narrow lane on one side, for thousands of cyclists a day… Enough said. This is how Mr Tarlós thinks about it..

  8. Yeah maybe they screwed up the Margit hid work, maybe there are not enough designated bike areas. But the problem remains: in BP cars go on roads, pedestrians go on the footpaths and cyclists go on both.

    Cyclists should not be on footpaths. I do not see why BP should be any different to other cities

  9. Miklos Banfi says:

    John, it is logical what you are saying, just not feasible. I speak of lots of experience. Maybe you can try it too. I hope you are a capable cyclist:) I rode a lot in Berlin, Amsterdam etc. That is very accomodating and fun. Even here in Toronto:)

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