What does it cost to own a car? Is that different from the cost to drive one? Presumably, the first measures what people pay when they drive a car off the lot. Cash purchases cost less than those attached to car loans. Also, loans cost more or less based on interest rates. The cost to drive a car is determined by insurance, fuel costs and repairs.
24/7 Wall St. set out to find out what it cost to drive a car by state. Here are our conclusions.
When insurance payments, fuel, and maintenance and repairs are added together, American motorists spend about $2,807 a year on average on their car. That does not include car loan payments. These costs can vary substantially by state, however. In some parts of the country, motorists can expect to spend over $2,000 more on average than in others.
Using data from a range of sources, including AAA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Highway Administration, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the most expensive state to drive in. Due to incomplete data, Alaska was excluded from the analysis. The two largest components of this ranking of car ownership expenses (insurance and fuel) are based on averages and per capita expenditures. At an individual level, these costs can vary considerably, based on driving habits, accident history, vehicles prices and local gasoline prices, among other factors.
One reason for the high costs in many of the most expensive states in which to drive is higher than average insurance prices. States can have higher insurance payments due to any number of factors, including high risk of severe weather events in states like Florida and Louisiana or laws requiring a high minimum coverage threshold in places like Michigan. In states with low insurance costs, like Maine and Vermont, low population density reduces the risk of an accident.
The least expensive state in which to drive a car is Maine. Here are the details:
- Average annual cost of car ownership: $1,960
- Average cost of a check engine light repair: $219 parts (ninth lowest); $138 labor (fourth lowest)
- Average annual insurance costs: $858 (the lowest)
- Annual gasoline expenditure per licensed driver: $745 (third lowest)
- Average price of gasoline as of June 20, 2021: $3.12 per gallon (19th highest)
Our methodology: To determine the most expensive state to drive in, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the annual average cost of car ownership based on the average cost of repair, insurance and gasoline.
Data on the average cost of a car repair related to the check engine light, including parts and labor, came from automobile software developer CarMD and is for 2020. Data on the average annual insurance costs by state came from car review website Insure.com and are based on full coverage for a single, 40-year-old male with a clean record and good credit and are for the 2021 model-year versions of the 20 best-selling vehicles in the United States as of Jan. 2021. Data on average gasoline expenditure per driver was calculated using total vehicle miles traveled by state in 2019 from the Federal Highway Administration, which also supplied data on the total number of licensed drivers in 2019. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline by state as of July 20, 2021, came from AAA, and the average fuel economy for all U.S. vehicles in 2019 came from the EPA. All data is for the most recent period available. Total costs assume one check engine light repair per year.
Supplemental data on the percentage of households in urban and rural areas came from the U.S. Census Bureau and are for 2010.