We downloaded records on vehicles in Nassau and Suffolk counties from an online state database maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles. We filtered out commercial vehicles and institutional vehicles (school buses, for example), as well as entire categories such as hearses, farm vehicles, ambulances, all-terrain vehicles, most trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles and trailers.
The state data provided vehicle identification numbers (VIN) for each car, van, sport utility vehicle, but not models. To obtain model information and to get a better understanding of the body classification of each vehicle we fed the VIN numbers from the state data into a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The federal database could not translate the VINs for cars from before the mid-1980s, and in those cases we just listed the vehicle maker, where possible.
We then spent time going over the resulting table, which included nearly 2 million records, to look for anomalies or things we could clarify. For example, after realizing that we could not say exactly how many Volkswagen Beetles from the 1960s and 1970s were registered on Long Island, we noticed that there were numbers given for the “Volkswagen New Beetle,” which was how the reborn model was listed from 1997 to 2010, as well as the “Volkswagen Beetle,” which is the model from 2011 until now. Realizing that readers might not know to search for both names, we combined the numbers and labeled them "Volkswagen Beetle (modern)."
We combined several other Volkswagen models that had both a "New" version and a regular one: Cabrios, Golfs. GTIs, Jettas and Passats. We also combined the data for the Smart car with the Smart ForTwo. On the flip side, some makers, such as BMW, have dozens of models designated by number and letter combinations. Those are shown here as they appeared in the government data.
There was additional cleanup to perform. A number of vehicles were listed as being in Nassau but had New York City or Westchester community names and ZIP codes attached. We removed them. Some vehicles were listed with a make and two or three models. We included them as they were listed in the government data. There were 16,261 vehicles for which there was neither a make or model, 0.8 percent of the total. Some maker names are abbreviated.
The result was a list of 1,940,332 vehicles registered in Nassau or Suffolk that we broke down into ZIP code lists and then ranked by 1,446 makes and/or models. The list would not include cars used by Long Islanders that are registered elsewhere. The ranking numbers are consecutive; in other words, if there was a tie for eighth place, the next car is ranked ninth.
If you have questions about this database or suggestions for adding to it in the future, please send us an email.