Special Report

The Most (and Least) Expensive States to Drive

45. Idaho
> Total operating cost:
$2,933
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 1,050 (8th highest)
> Avg. price of gas: $3.05 (7th highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $877 (3rd lowest)

The average insurance premium in Idaho was lower than in all but two other states. Insurance premiums tend to be higher in urban areas. Idaho is a relatively rural state, and the absence of dense city clusters may have helped lower insurance rates, according to Insure.com. Relatively few drivers were uninsured as well, which also contributed to the low premiums. Idaho was one of only seven states where the average price of gas exceeded $3.00 per gallon. Despite low overall ownership costs, high gas prices in Idaho may still be burdensome to drivers. The state had the lowest median earnings nationwide, at $28,141.

44. Vermont
> Total operating cost:
$2,972
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 976 (12th highest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.75 (23rd highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $957 (7th lowest)

Vermont is among the nation’s least-densely populated states, and driving is a daily necessity for many residents living outside city centers. With 6.8% of the labor force working from home and 5.3% walking to work — the second and fourth highest percentages, respectively — some Vermonters have avoided auto commutes altogether. The number of miles travelled per year, however, at 11,631 per vehicle, was not significantly lower than the national average. Vehicles and driving behavior in the state were relatively fuel efficient. The average car got more than 19 miles on the gallon, the eighth highest average mileage nationwide.

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43. North Carolina
> Total operating cost:
$3,149
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 793 (13th lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.62 (13th lowest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $986 (8th lowest)

The average car repair cost in North Carolina of $431 annually was the fifth highest in the nation. Repair costs accounted for 13.7% of the total operating costs, the second highest share compared to other states. Still, with relatively cheap insurance and relatively affordable gas prices, the cost of owning a car in North Carolina was less than in most states. On average, car owners paid $986 for insurance, making North Carolina one of only eight states where the annual premium did not exceed $1,000.

A gallon of gas cost $2.62 as of the middle of July, also among the cheapest rates in the nation. Low gas prices do not always lower annual expenditures, as cheap fuel can mean drivers are less likely to think twice about traveling longer distances. This could have been the case in North Carolina, where drivers added 13,465 miles to their vehicles each year, the eighth longest distance travelled annually. However, with an average fuel efficiency of 20.38 miles per gallon — the third most efficient rate in the U.S. — total gas expenditure was still relatively low in North Caroina.

42. Minnesota
> Total operating cost:
$3,157
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 963 (14th highest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.67 (17th lowest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,222 (23rd lowest)

It cost the average driver in Minnesota $3,157 to operate a vehicle for one year, several hundred dollars less than the national average of $3,541. Minnesota drivers paid less for nearly everything compared to drivers in most other states, including gas and insurance. However, though parts are cheaper in Minnesota than in most other states, repair labor costs were slightly higher. Costing an average of $162, hourly labor rates for car repair in Minnesota were in line with the national average.

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41. Illinois
> Total operating cost:
$3,158
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 791 (12th lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.91 (11th highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,079 (13th lowest)

Illinois was home to over 8.2 million licensed drivers, the sixth highest figure in the country. At an average price of $2.91 a gallon, fuel costs in Illinois are the 11th highest in the nation. Additionally, people tend to drive more in Illinois — a total of about 105.3 billion vehicle miles a year — the seventh highest statewide figure. Consequently, drivers in the state consumed a total of nearly 6 billion gallons of fuel each year. As in most states, fuel was the single largest expense for motorists in Illinois, accounting for 54.2% of the total cost of operating a vehicle, 2.2 percentage points higher than the corresponding national figure. Despite higher than average fuel costs and relatively high total miles driven, owning and operating a vehicle was not as expensive in Illinois as it was in most states. Total annual operating costs in the state amounted to an average of $3,158, several hundred dollars cheaper than the national average of $3,541.