Entire communities are facing little choice but to use a car, according to the RAC, which says drivers feel public transport "simply isn't practical or doesn't meet their needs" in many areas of the country.
Figures from the Department for Transport reveal there were 60,005 car registrations for addresses in Preston in June this year.
That number is up from 55,005 in 2010, an increase of nine per cent. It means there is one car for every 1.8 adults – the average for Britain is 1.7.
The rise of cars in Preston reflects the national picture which has also seen increases in local authority areas with the highest proportions of deprived neighbourhoods. Across Britain, car ownership has risen 11 per cent from 2010.
According to the Bank of England, personal contract purchase plans account for one in five new cars and the rise in popularity of these finance schemes that avoid high upfront costs may be contribtuting to the rise in ownership.
RAC’s Report on Motoring this year found 68 per cent of people said a car was essential for shopping and 59 per cent for meeting with friends and family elsewhere in the country.
Spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Even before the pandemic, drivers told us they were becoming more, not less reliant on their cars.
"It’s easy to see why. As well as the obvious benefits a car brings for families in particular, many drivers have felt for a long time that public transport either simply isn’t practical or doesn’t meet their needs, with services often seen as too expensive and running too infrequently.
"This is particularly the case outside larger towns and cities, where entire communities often have little choice but to use a car, and could help explain why car ownership is rising in many parts of the country."
Walking and cycling charity Sustrans says there is a risk people will be locked into car dependency unless councils provide viable alternatives by making walking and cycling safer for everyday journeys.
Policy officer Daniel Gillett said: “Car ownership and use is principally associated with income, but other factors, such as distance and access to everyday services, public transport provision and how safe it feels to walk and cycle locally, also play a role in whether people choose to buy or use a car."
The figures from the DfT show that there were 32m cars registered across Britain in June, up from 28m in 2010.
The statistics are collected at neighbourhood level and have been grouped under local authority areas for analysis.
They include vehicles registered to dealerships or which are part of fleets, so an increase in some areas may be inflated.
The DfT says it is investing £27bn into its road network over the next five years.
The department is also promoting the use of ultra low and zero emission vehicles in support of the Government's commitment for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
This includes encouraging the use of "more sustainable transport".