Automobile ownership is the sum of all the aspects associated with owning an automobile. In developed countries owning an automobile has become very common because it is a widely available form of transportation.
In most countries of the world, in order to operate an automobile the driver must possess a document known as the driver's license which usually states what type of vehicle the driver is allowed to drive and under which conditions. The type of licenses available differ country to country. The document is usually government regulated and usually can only be acquired from government owned firms. In order for a driver to qualify for a license they must meet a specific criteria. In the United States in order to qualify for a license a person must be minimum of 16 years of age or sometimes even 14 and 15 depending on state laws, and in most countries in Europe the minimum age is 17 or 18. In order to receive a license the driver must either pass an exam testing driving knowledge and/or pass a driving test. Most driver licenses have a photo identifying the owner; the driver's license is a widely used form of identification in the United States.
See also: Commercial driver's license, Hazardous material
Acquiring an automobile
In most countries of the world, citizens have the common right to sell or purchase an automobile. An automobile can mostly be bought new or used and is available for purchase mostly from private sellers or car dealerships. Purchasing a car is considered to be a major investment especially by the middle or lower class. The price of an automobile can vary greatly depending on the physical shape, year, history (especially regarding previous collisions), specifications, manufacturer and/or model of the car. Tax may also contribute significantly to the cost of a car, especially regarding new vehicles in some countries. An owner may also choose to sell and in some cases trade it in for another vehicle.
In some countries, there are additional regulations that must be fulfilled before purchasing or leasing a car. For example, in Japan, due to the high population density and the limited space, a prospective owner must first provide proof of a space to park the car in question. This regulation, combined with high fuel prices, has caused a class of cars known as kei cars to develop. These small cars, limited in dimension (3.40x1.48x2.00m length, width and height) and engine displacement (660 cc or 0.66 L), can be purchased without having to provide this proof.
See also: used car, lemon law, auto auction
Types of automobiles
An automobile can be classified into five major groups: cars, buses, trucks, vans and motorcycles. Over the last 50 years there were many vehicles introduced some even becoming so common that they are classified into subgroups. An example would be the popularity of the sport utility vehicles and minivans.
Also in recent years came a wave of new type of Alternative fuel powered vehicles onto the main market. The most common alternative fuel automobile seen today is the hybrid powered vehicles which use electricity in combination with gasoline to power the engine. The idea of an alternative fuel is not a new concept but due to the rise of fuel prices and concern over the environment, alternative fuel is growing to be a popular new concept.
An antique car is a common term used for a vehicle which is over 25 years of age and is out of production. Due to their limited availability, antique cars can be quite high in price and are most commonly purchased by car enthusiasts. Also a common practice among car enthusiasts is to rebuild antique cars.
See also: Antique vehicle registration
A trend that has developed over the years is the customization of vehicles. Customizing a car refers to improving any car either visually or performance wise. This is also a common practice among street racers. The popularity of this trend has spurred an industry which sells independent parts for customization. Customizing a vehicle is also known to be quite high in cost.
Rules of the road
In most countries of the world there are laws designed to regulate proper use of vehicles. traffic signs is the most common form of regulating automobile traffic. Along with traffic signs there is a complex system of rules of the road each driver must obey to maintain a safe driving environment. There are many penalties for breaking rules of the road which can result in suspension of license, towing of vehicle, jail term and fines.
See Also: Road rule codes of the World, Traffic code, Speed limit, Right-of-way, pedestrians, Driving under the influence, Road safety
A license plate is a plate attached commonly on the front and the back of a vehicle which holds a serial number identifying the vehicle and to whom it is registered. License plates are a main source for identifying a vehicle when the driver is not known especially to public services such as the police. Most countries in the world differ. In some countries the driver may also choose to pay an extra fee to purchase a specific serial number of his choice. Some jurisdictions permit the use of non standard phrases or words, whilst others insist on a form of letters and numbers in the standard licensing series.
Vehicle ownership is typically documented on a certificate of title. In the USA, each state's Department of Motor Vehicles or Registry of Motor Vehicles issues such documents when a vehicle is registered. Title deeds vary by design but always include vehicle-specific information at the front of the document (such as year, make, model, VIN, color, etc.) and several boxes for transaction information at the back where information about change of ownership is recorded (such as sale date, odometer reading, seller and buyer names and signatures, etc.). In-state vehicle sales are recorded at the back of the title as long as there are unused re-assignment boxes. If a vehicle is sold out-of-state the new owner must apply for a new title at the local DMV office.
The Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO), also known as Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) is the ownership document issued by the vehicle manufacturer that assigns ownership of a new vehicle to a franchise car dealership until said vehicle is registered and titled. This document is similar to the title deed in content, but is to be used among licensed car dealers only.
Car insurance is a type of risk management business structured around a driver certifying a vehicle under his name to a government or privately owned company and pays a monthly fee which by contract forces the company to pay damage costs of that vehicle if there is accidental damage. In most countries of the world by law an automobile must be insured otherwise it is illegal to remain on public roads - even by a licensed driver. The fee for the insurance differs depending on the many factors such the vehicle being insured, driver history, and the insurance company. Vehicle insurance usually has to be paid in regular intervals, e.g. annually. Insurance is one common reason why a person would choose not to purchase a motor vehicle, as it is usually the most significant expense of owning one. Also an insurance firm may choose not to pay the damage fees if the circumstance or damage does not fit the contract.
See also: Car safety, Defensive driving
Most automobiles are needed to be maintained otherwise they might experience some type of performance failure. Most automobile dealerships provide some type of free maintenance for a certain number of years to the buyer. Also there is a large automobile industry that sprung from maintaining and/or fixing vehicles. Most vehicles require after certain time an oil change and refill of washer fluid. Failure to do this may result in a decreased vehicle performance or failure. Also a well maintained vehicle commonly is valued higher in terms of its cost and even the reputation of the driver. Insurance companies may even lower the insurance fee if there is evidence that the driver constantly maintains his vehicle in a good shape. In many jurisdictions, the law requires that the vehicle be submitted for vehicle inspection, either periodically or when the vehicle changes hands.
Rates of car ownership
In the developed world the number of cars per 100 people is generally between 30 and 50, with a few countries (such as Canada and New Zealand) over this. In China there are two cars per 100 people, and very poor countries such as Somalia have less than one car per thousand people. The rate of car ownership is increasing almost everywhere, and is predicted to rise very rapidly in countries such as China and India.