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driving it home

Canadians, says Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive consultants, often see vehicles as a necessary evil, while Americans see it as their "God-given right" to drive the biggest, baddest, most eye-catching ride possible, whether they can afford it or not.

Canadians, he says in a comparison of Canadian vehicle ownership trends and statistics with the United States, will only spend an "acceptable" amount on that vehicle in the driveway. There are other noteworthy differences, as well.

Based on the latest DesRosiers research, we gleaned these 10 differences between Canadian and American automotive ownership:

1. In Canada, 77.8 per cent of the driving-age population owns a vehicle, versus 96.3 per cent in the United States – and U.S. ownership has been higher than 100 per cent in recent years.

2. A vehicle in Canada typically has just three owners, compared to four in the United States – which means the extra owner is likely buying a very old vehicle, in turn creating a large U.S. do-it-yourself aftermarket not seen in Canada.

3. The U.S. pre-owned market is much larger than Canada's, using the one-tenth rule of thumb. That is, down south, the pre-owned market is up to 45 million units a year, versus what DesRosiers estimates at about 3 million in Canada.

4. The average expected life of a vehicle in the United States is 15.36, versus 12.88 years in Canada. Our weather plays a part, but so does psychology – many Americans are happy to drive a beater into the ground.

5. Half of all the cars sold in Canada are compacts, while in the United States compacts account for less than one-third. The Canadian subcompact is almost twice the size of the U.S. subcompact segment, too.

6. Just 1.7 per cent of Canadian passenger car buyers purchase a high-end luxury car, versus 4.4 per cent in the United States.

7. Mid-size cars? Twenty per cent of Canadians car buyers shop for an intermediate car, while in the United States the mid-size segment accounts for 39.6 per cent of all cars bought.

8. Canadians are nuttier about pickups than Americans. The Canadian pick-up truck segment is a huge 30.6 per cent, versus 22.3 per cent in the United States.

9. Compact sport-utility sales account for 32.2 per cent of the market in Canada, versus 25.7 per cent down south.

10. Overall, we not only love pickups, we love trucks as a whole and much more than Americans. This is a huge reversal from 10 years ago when 56.6 per cent of the light vehicles bought by Americans were light trucks, versus 47.8 per cent in Canada. Last year, light trucks accounted for 52.2 per cent of U.S. sales, versus 57.6 per cent of sales in Canada.

Given the importance Canadians, in general, place on fuel efficiency, DesRosiers says he's surprised by our romance with trucks. Could be we have more pent-up demand for light trucks coming out of the Great Recession, or it could be that collectively we have more money to spend. After all, as a recent report noted, the Canadian middle class is richer than the American middle class. And that's another big difference.

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