Domestic Life in the 1950s

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Approximately how many cars were registered in the 1950s in the U.S., and what was the average cost?

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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According to the source from the Federal Highway Administration (below), there were about 40 million registered automobiles (commercial and private) in 1950. This number grew to over 51 million by 1955 and to over 61 million by 1960. The number of cars in the U.S. exploded in the post-WWII years, as more and more Americans moved to the suburbs and relied on cars to get to work. In 1950 (see the source from Fifties Web, below), a Ford cost $1,339-$2,262 (when the average income was $3,216).

According to the source from CNBC, driving today costs the same as it did in the 1950s. Though the price of gas has gone up, our cars are more efficient. Therefore, the cost to drive one mile is in the same range as it was in the 1950s.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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After World War II, one of six workers was employed in the automobile industry, whether directly or indirectly. At the beginning of the 1950's there were 25 million automobiles, although many were dilapidated and not functioning since during the war with all manufacturing focused upon production of military materials there were no parts available to civilians. By the end of the year 1950, however, there were 8 million automobiles produced. Then, by the end of 1958, 67 million automobiles that were registered. The average cost of a car at this time was around $1500.00.

With the emergence of a strong middle-class in America, there was the burgeoning of suburbs across the country. People purchased automobiles as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways was constructed, allowing access to other parts of the country. Drive-in eateries, drive-in movie theaters, and other amusements were available involving cars, such as drag-racing, hotrod racing, car shows, stock car racing (NASCAR), demolition derbies, etc. gave rise to a car culture.

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