Automobiles are vehicles that are self-propelled and use an internal combustion engine to make them move. They usually have four wheels and are powered by liquid fuel, most commonly gasoline. Some automobiles use alternative fuel sources, such as electricity. In the past, some autos were powered by steam, but these were heavy and had a limited range. In the 1910s, gasoline internal combustion engines became dominant in the United States. Other countries adopted them as well.

The first modern automobile was invented by Karl Benz. He built a Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1886. Benz was followed by Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville and Leon Malandin, who used a two-stroke gasoline engine in their vehicle. Emile Levassor and Armand Peugeot also developed a car with a Daimler engine in the 1890s.

Most cars today are made in factories and sold to people who can afford them. People who do not own cars may use public transportation, such as buses and trains. Automobiles are made in a wide variety of styles for different purposes. Most have a front seat for the driver and a back seat for passengers. Some have a roof that can be opened or removed for a more open-air feel. Others are designed to carry cargo, such as SUVs and vans.

Many autos have brakes that work by friction to stop the vehicle quickly in an emergency. Some have regenerative brakes that turn some of the energy from the car’s movement back into electricity, so it does not waste any of its potential power. Other automobiles have engines that run on electricity to power their motors and other systems.

When cars were first introduced, they allowed people to travel longer distances than could previously be reached on foot or by horse. This allowed for business to grow in remote areas and brought a new vitality to rural communities. The automobile also allowed young people to have more private space for dating, which shifted traditional patterns of chaperoned courtship.

Modern automobiles have a variety of safety features, such as airbags and crumple zones. These are designed to protect the driver and passengers from injury or death in a crash. Most automobiles enclose the passenger area in a protective shell with doors and windows. This helps keep the passenger compartment comfortable and keeps out rain or snow.

Automobiles are very important to our lives, but they can be expensive to buy and maintain. The average price of an automobile in the United States is more than $30,000, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Those who want to own an automobile should research the costs and benefits before making a decision. It is possible to purchase a car with a loan, which requires a person to demonstrate his or her ability to pay the monthly bills. In addition, owning an automobile can influence other major purchases, such as a home, because it shows that the person can handle large debts. It is important for an individual to keep his or her car up to date on maintenance and insurance, to avoid costly repairs.