Special Report

The Most (and Least) Expensive States to Drive

5. Maryland
> Total operating cost:
$4,319
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 647 (2nd lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.75 (22nd highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,590 (10th highest)

High annual gas expenditure and high insurance premiums drove up the high overall cost of operating vehicle in Maryland. A typical car owner spent $2,317 on gas and $1,590 on car insurance each year in the state, the fourth and 10th highest figures, respectively. While the gas price of $2.75 per gallon as of July 15 was in line with the national price level, Maryland car owners drove 14,787 miles per year on average in their cars, more than every state except for Mississippi.

4. California
> Total operating cost:
$4,392
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 732 (5th lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $3.80 (the highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,643 (8th highest)

The high cost of operating a vehicle in California trails only three other states, largely due to high gas prices. As of the middle of July, an average gallon of gas cost $3.80 in California, by far the highest rate in the country. In addition, relatively high annual insurance premiums and maintenance costs, $1,643 and $438 respectively, contributed to higher operating costs. Californians drove about as much as the average American, driving an average of 11,738 miles annually. Vehicles in the state tended to be relatively fuel-efficient. The average vehicle got 19.31 miles to the gallon, the seventh highest average fuel efficiency nationwide.

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3. North Dakota
> Total operating cost:
$4,461
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 1,168 (4th highest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.72 (25th lowest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,377 (18th highest)

While the average price of gas in North Dakota was only slightly lower than the national average price of $2.78 per gallon, the average gas expenditure per vehicle in North Dakota, at $2,512 per year, was the highest in the nation. The average vehicle in the state consumed about 980 gallons of gasoline per year, the second highest rate of fuel consumption after only Mississippi. Some individuals and businesses incur the fuel costs for multiple vehicles as there are actually more cars in North Dakota than there are people, at 1.17 cars per capita — the fourth highest ratio nationwide. Driving in the state is also not particularly fuel-efficient, as a gallon of gas was spent driving just 12.21 miles, the lowest average fuel efficiency in the country. Above-average insurance premiums contributed to the high operating costs as well, likely due in part to high numbers of fatal crashes. An estimated 20.5 people were killed in car crashes per 100,000 people, the highest death rate from vehicle accidents nationwide.

2. Mississippi
> Total operating cost:
$4,474
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 693 (3rd lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.46 (2nd lowest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,584 (11th highest)

A gallon of gas cost just $2.46 in Mississippi, lower than every other state except for South Carolina. Cheap fuel in the state may have contributed to higher gas consumption among the state’s drivers. On average, 1,020 gallons of gas were consumed per vehicle annually in Mississippi, the highest consumption level nationwide and well above the national average of 663 gallons. More frequent driving raised the average gas expenditure per vehicle, which was an estimated $2,512 per year, the second highest gas expenditure after North Dakota. There were fewer than 700 vehicles per 1,000 state residents, the third lowest ratio in the country. The high costs of car ownership were likely prohibitively high for many would-be car owners, especially low-income individuals. The typical Mississippian earned $28,175 annually, the second-lowest median income in the nation.

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1. Michigan
> Total operating cost:
$4,678
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 828 (20th lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.82 (13th highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $2,476 (the highest)

As the epicenter of the nation’s auto industry, many vehicles in Michigan are not far from where they were manufactured. The proximity lowers sticker prices on new vehicles and likely contributes to cheaper car parts. On average, car repairs, including parts and labor, cost $354 in Michigan, the fourth least expensive nationwide. Overall operating costs, however, were not much lower at all. In fact, Michigan is the most expensive state in which to own a car, with the cost driven largely by high insurance premiums. The average annual car insurance premium was $2,476 in Michigan, the highest in the country. Michigan has a relatively unusual, no-fault auto insurance system. Car owners need to purchase personal injury protection insurance to ensure unlimited medical bills coverage for all parties involved in an accident. In addition, car owners pay an annual assessment fee of $186 per vehicle to the Catastrophic Claim Association — the fee is not included in the annual average insurance cost.