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Driver Licenses and Vehicle Registrations


The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) reports driver licenses in two ways. First, the number issued during a fiscal year is reported. Since this includes renewals, photo updates, and a variety of other transactions in addition to new requests for a driver license, this is not a good proxy for population growth. Second, the total number of driver licenses is reported as of a point in time (such as the end of December). In both cases, commercial licenses and noncommercial licenses are reported separately.

The numbers of noncommercial driver licenses at the calendar year end are presented on Arizona Indicators since 2006 for Arizona and the 15 Arizona counties. Data prior to 2006 are not available.

ADOT reports vehicle registrations both as the number issued during a fiscal year and the total as of a specific date (June 30). ADOT classifies vehicles into a number of commercial and noncommercial categories. An alternative “noncommercial” classification consisting of the ADOT categories of “owner pleasure” (passenger vehicles) and “pick up noncommercial” was created for Arizona Indicators. The numbers of “noncommercial” vehicle registrations on June 30 since 1998 are presented for Arizona and the 15 Arizona counties.

The number of driver licenses and vehicle registrations can be used to estimate the size of the population of driving age. The interpolated number of class D driver licenses (which are limited to individuals 18 or older) on April 1, 2010 represented 88.2 percent of the state residents counted in the decennial census. Similarly, the interpolated number of vehicle registrations was 88.9 percent of the census count. On April 1, 2000, the interpolated number of vehicle registrations had been 89.2 percent of the residents counted. Thus, the percentage increase in vehicle registrations between 2000 and 2010 was nearly identical to the increase in the population aged 18 or older.

Data Source: 

Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division. For driver licenses: For vehicle registrations:

Data Quality Comments: 

A serious shortcoming of the driver licenses data is that some individuals who move from Arizona do not, at least immediately, apply for a license in their new state. This is particularly an issue with Arizona licenses since they do not expire until age 65. The result is that the increases in the number of driver licenses overstate the increases in the number of Arizona residents of driving age.

Since the number of “noncommercial” vehicles owned by individuals of driving age varies from zero to multiple, and because the average number varies over time with the economic cycle, annual changes in the number of registered vehicles do not directly correspond to changes in the driving-age population.

iconDriver Licenses, Percent Change

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Visualization Notes:

With only four years of percentage changes available in the number of driver licenses, conclusions regarding the annual behavior of the series in comparison to the economic cycle and to population growth are premature. During each of those four years for Arizona, the percentage change in driver licenses exceeded that of population, though by varying amounts.

iconVehicle Registrations, Percent Change

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Visualization Notes:

The percent change in the number of noncommercial vehicles (passenger vehicles and pickup trucks) registered in Arizona goes up and down with the economic cycle. However, the fluctuations in vehicle registrations are greater than those of population growth, with registrations rising faster than population during periods of strong economic growth but slower during economic recessions. Following five straight years of gains of at least 3 percent per year, the number of registrations has increased by 1 percent or less in each of the last five years statewide. The change in 2012 was near zero in every county.