States With the Highest (and Lowest) Gas Taxes

February 4, 2016 by Evan Comen

Pumping Gas
Source: Thinkstock
Gas prices fluctuate wildly in the United States. Many factors can cause price swings, from seasonal conditions, global market trends, an announcement from a nation’s oil industry, to the development of a new extraction technology. Taxes are perhaps the least volatile aspect of gasoline prices, yet gas taxes vary between U.S. regions and largely account for the price differences between states.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the combined state and average local gas taxes per gallon in each state from estimates provided by the American Petroleum Institute (API). Pennsylvania leads the nation with a gas tax of 50.4 cents per gallon. In Alaska, the average gallon of gas is taxed at just 12.3 cents, the lowest in the nation.

Michael Green, a spokesman for the American Automobile Association (AAA), explained that beyond the federal fuel tax, which is levied uniformly across the nation, “states have free reign to determine how they will fund transportation projects within their states.” Green added, “It often comes down to local and state politics.” For this reason, taxes vary considerably across the country.

Click here to see the states with the highest (and lowest) gas taxes.

In the states with the highest gas taxes, the price of gasoline tends to be high even when taxes are excluded from the overall cost, while the opposite tends to be true in low gas tax states.

This is largely due to the proximity of oil refineries. In the Southeast, for example, where state governments levy low taxes on gas and drivers pay low gas prices, there is an abundant supply of oil. Texas and Louisiana are home to 27 and 19 petroleum refineries, respectively — the most and second most nationwide. Such states are also subject to fewer supplementary costs associated with the fuel, such as transportation costs or price spikes brought on by local supply shortages.

To fund roads and other transportation infrastructure, states with numerous oil refineries can often extract tax revenue from the production side of petroleum and spare consumers at the pump by charging relatively low retail gas taxes.

For states in the Northeast, by contrast, most fuel arrives by pipeline from the U.S. Gulf Coast. The transportation costs add to the overall price of gasoline. In addition, since many of these states do not have any refineries, there is also no opportunity to tax fuel at the production stage. Northeastern states, therefore, may levy relatively high gas taxes in order to make up for the lack of other sources of revenue.

The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and has remained unchanged since 1993. For the most part, revenues from gasoline sales are reinvested in transportation infrastructure. According to Green, however, “States do not receive enough money from the federal government for transportation, and have enacted state fuel taxes as a means to supplement their funding needs.” Almost all state gas tax rates match or exceed the federal tax rate, and in some cases double it.

Gas taxes are also largely determined by local politics, which often parallels the general attitudes towards taxation within a given state. “Often the highest taxes are in the Northeast and West Coast, whereas the lowest taxes are in the Southeast and the Central United States,” Green said. New York, California, and Connecticut — states with traditionally high income and real estate taxes — also have among the highest gas tax rates.

Like the federal gas tax, state gas taxes rarely change — and when they do, the changes are relatively modest. In the 15 years ending in 2014, 21 states made no changes whatsoever to their tax rates. Over the same period, only five states increased the rate by more than 5 cents per gallon.

Gas taxes, and the overall price of gas, can impact driving behavior. In six of the 10 states with the costliest gas, vehicle miles traveled per capita are also among the 10 lowest in the country.

While driving behavior varies with transportation costs across states, Americans as a whole are driving more. Since the 1970s, the amount of miles the average American traveled has increased from an estimated 5,556 a year to 9,659 miles last year — the highest vehicle miles traveled per capita in history.

To identify the states with the highest and lowest gas taxes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state and average local gas taxes from the American Petroleum Institute (API). Average gas prices as of January 29, 2016 for each state came from AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The number of operating oil refineries in each state came from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). We also reviewed average annual vehicle miles travelled in each state from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). The number of licensed drivers in each state also came from the FHA. All data are as of the most recent period available.

These are the states with the highest and lowest gas taxes.

Fairbanks, Alaska
Source: Thinkstock

1. Alaska
> Effective gas tax:
12.3 cents
> Gas price: $2.45 (3rd highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 5 (tied-5th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 528,873 (3rd lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 6,595 (the lowest)

George Washington Bridge, New Jersey
Source: Thinkstock

2. New Jersey
> Effective gas tax:
14.5 cents
> Gas price: $1.70 (18th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 3 (tied-13th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 6,081,386 (11th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,375 (8th lowest)

Charleston, South Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

3. South Carolina
> Effective gas tax:
16.8 cents
> Gas price: $1.61 (7th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 3,536,404 (23rd highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,259 (24th highest)

Welcome to Oklahoma
Source: Thinkstock

4. Oklahoma
> Effective gas tax:
17.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.52 (the lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 5 (tied-5th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 2,418,307 (22nd lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 12,465 (5th highest)

St. Louis, Missouri
Source: Thinkstock

5. Missouri
> Effective gas tax:
17.3 cents
> Gas price: $1.54 (2nd lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 4,280,438 (18th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 11,492 (9th highest)

Welcome to Mississippi
Source: Thinkstock

6. Mississippi
> Effective gas tax:
18.8 cents
> Gas price: $1.62 (9th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 3 (tied-13th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,968,907 (18th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 12,957 (4th highest)

New Mexico (welcome sign)
Source: Thinkstock

7. New Mexico
> Effective gas tax:
18.9 cents
> Gas price: $1.74 (22nd lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,456,500 (15th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 12,030 (6th highest)

Phoenix, Arizona
Source: Thinkstock

8. Arizona
> Effective gas tax:
19.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.83 (19th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 4,791,450 (14th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,143 (15th lowest)

Houston, Texas
Source: Thinkstock

9. Texas
> Effective gas tax:
20.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.60 (6th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 27 (the highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 15,447,273 (2nd highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,245 (16th lowest)

Welcome to Louisiana
Source: Thinkstock

10. Louisiana
> Effective gas tax:
20.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.63 (10th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 19 (2nd highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 3,278,143 (25th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,325 (23rd highest)

Birmingham, Alabama
Source: Thinkstock

11. Alabama
> Effective gas tax:
20.9 cents
> Gas price: $1.59 (3rd lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 3 (tied-13th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 3,859,403 (21st highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 13,457 (3rd highest)

Nashville, Riverboat, Tennessee
Source: Thinkstock

12. Tennessee
> Effective gas tax:
21.4 cents
> Gas price: $1.62 (8th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 1 (tied-25th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 4,605,100 (16th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,940 (13th highest)

Hot Springs, Arkansas
Source: Thinkstock

13. Arkansas
> Effective gas tax:
21.8 cents
> Gas price: $1.60 (5th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 2,097,201 (20th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 11,318 (11th highest)

Welcome to Colorado
Source: Thinkstock

14. Colorado
> Effective gas tax:
22.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.73 (21st lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 3,837,488 (22nd highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,915 (14th lowest)

Richmond, Virginia
Source: Thinkstock

15. Virginia
> Effective gas tax:
22.3 cents
> Gas price: $1.67 (15th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 5,602,765 (12th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,778 (22nd lowest)

16. Delaware
> Effective gas tax:
23.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.76 (25th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 1 (tied-25th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 723,657 (6th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,054 (25th lowest)

North Dakota Oil Rig
Source: Thinkstock

17. North Dakota
> Effective gas tax:
23.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.72 (20th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 513,838 (2nd lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 13,961 (2nd highest)

New Hampshire
Source: Thinkstock

18. New Hampshire
> Effective gas tax:
23.8 cents
> Gas price: $1.83 (21st highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,061,433 (11th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,749 (21st lowest)

Wyoming
Source: Thinkstock

19. Wyoming
> Effective gas tax:
24.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.80 (24th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 6 (4th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 421,473 (the lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 15,977 (the highest)

Topeka, Kansas
Source: Thinkstock

20. Kansas
> Effective gas tax:
24.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.59 (4th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 3 (tied-13th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 2,017,759 (19th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,438 (19th highest)

Kentucky (horse farm)
Source: Thinkstock

21. Kentucky
> Effective gas tax:
26.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.66 (12th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 3,019,283 (25th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,692 (15th highest)

Massachusetts
Source: Thinkstock

22. Massachusetts
> Effective gas tax:
26.5 cents
> Gas price: $1.88 (15th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 4,765,586 (15th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,414 (9th lowest)

Bear Tooth Mountains, Red Lodge, Montana
Source: Thinkstock

23. Montana
> Effective gas tax:
27.7 cents
> Gas price: $1.83 (20th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 4 (tied-9th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 766,716 (8th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 11,853 (8th highest)

Nebraska sign
Source: Thinkstock

24. Nebraska
> Effective gas tax:
27.7 cents
> Gas price: $1.78 (25th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,374,529 (14th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,341 (22nd highest)

Cincinnati, Ohio
Source: Thinkstock

25. Ohio
> Effective gas tax:
28.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.69 (16th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 4 (tied-9th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 8,030,421 (7th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,746 (20th lowest)

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Source: Thinkstock

26. Minnesota
> Effective gas tax:
28.6 cents
> Gas price: $1.65 (11th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 3,330,725 (24th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,511 (18th highest)

Provo, Utah
Source: Thinkstock

27. Utah
> Effective gas tax:
29.4 cents
> Gas price: $1.93 (12th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 5 (tied-5th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,661,219 (16th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,309 (17th lowest)

Indiana Welcome Sign
Source: Thinkstock

28. Indiana
> Effective gas tax:
29.9 cents
> Gas price: $1.67 (15th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 4,500,403 (17th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 11,918 (7th highest)

South Dakota, Road Sign
Source: Thinkstock

29. South Dakota
> Effective gas tax:
30.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.81 (22nd highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 603,643 (5th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,797 (14th highest)

Cumberland County, Maine
Source: Wikimedia Commons

30. Maine
> Effective gas tax:
30.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.90 (14th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,011,385 (10th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,637 (17th highest)

Chicago, Illinois 2
Source: Thinkstock

31. Illinois
> Effective gas tax:
30.2 cents
> Gas price: $1.70 (19th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 4 (tied-9th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 8,261,582 (6th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,174 (6th lowest)

Montpelier, Vermont
Source: Thinkstock

32. Vermont
> Effective gas tax:
30.5 cents
> Gas price: $1.98 (11th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 543,057 (4th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 11,356 (10th highest)

Detroit, Michigan
Source: Thinkstock

33. Michigan
> Effective gas tax:
30.5 cents
> Gas price: $1.70 (17th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 1 (tied-25th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 6,986,587 (8th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,614 (19th lowest)

Atlanta, Georgia 3
Source: Thinkstock

34. Georgia
> Effective gas tax:
31.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.74 (24th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 6,607,016 (10th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,944 (12th highest)

Portland, Oregon
Source: Thinkstock

35. Oregon
> Effective gas tax:
31.1 cents
> Gas price: $2.04 (7th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 2,773,373 (24th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,576 (10th lowest)

Boise City, Idaho
Source: Thinkstock

36. Idaho
> Effective gas tax:
32.0 cents
> Gas price: $2.01 (8th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,111,485 (12th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,912 (24th lowest)

Iowa

37. Iowa
> Effective gas tax:
32.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.74 (23rd lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 2,143,665 (21st lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,238 (25th highest)

Baltimore, Maryland
Source: Thinkstock

38. Maryland
> Effective gas tax:
32.6 cents
> Gas price: $1.86 (16th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 4,140,105 (20th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,561 (18th lowest)

Welcome to Wisconsin
Source: Thinkstock

39. Wisconsin
> Effective gas tax:
32.9 cents
> Gas price: $1.66 (13th lowest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 1 (tied-25th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 4,171,427 (19th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,359 (21st highest)

Las Vegas, Nevada
Source: Thinkstock

40. Nevada
> Effective gas tax:
33.9 cents
> Gas price: $2.29 (4th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 1 (tied-25th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,756,095 (17th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,834 (13th lowest)

Providence, Rhode Island
Source: Thinkstock

41. Rhode Island
> Effective gas tax:
34.0 cents
> Gas price: $1.92 (13th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 749,232 (7th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 7,394 (4th lowest)

42. West Virginia
> Effective gas tax:
34.6 cents
> Gas price: $1.84 (18th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 1 (tied-25th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 1,177,136 (13th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,372 (20th highest)

Raleigh (Wake County), North Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

43. North Carolina
> Effective gas tax:
35.3 cents
> Gas price: $1.80 (23rd highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 6,822,902 (9th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 10,684 (16th highest)

Florida

44. Florida
> Effective gas tax:
36.6 cents
> Gas price: $1.84 (17th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 13,670,441 (3rd highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 9,855 (23rd lowest)

Hartford, Connecticut
Source: Thinkstock

45. Connecticut
> Effective gas tax:
37.5 cents
> Gas price: $1.99 (10th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 2,534,090 (23rd lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,604 (12th lowest)

Santa Barbara, California
Source: Thinkstock

46. California
> Effective gas tax:
40.6 cents
> Gas price: $2.60 (2nd highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 18 (3rd highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 24,390,236 (the highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,597 (11th lowest)

Honolulu County, Hawaii
Source: Thinkstock

47. Hawaii
> Effective gas tax:
42.4 cents
> Gas price: $2.63 (the highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 2 (tied-17th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 915,033 (9th lowest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 7,193 (3rd lowest)

New York City, Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Source: Thinkstock

48. New York
> Effective gas tax:
42.6 cents
> Gas price: $2.08 (6th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 0 (tied-20th lowest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 11,210,783 (4th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 6,602 (2nd lowest)

Seattle, Washington
Source: Thinkstock

49. Washington
> Effective gas tax:
44.5 cents
> Gas price: $2.18 (5th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 5 (tied-5th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 5,301,630 (13th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 8,207 (7th lowest)

Pennsylvania
Source: Thinkstock

50. Pennsylvania
> Effective gas tax:
50.4 cents
> Gas price: $2.00 (9th highest)
> Number of petroleum refineries: 4 (tied-9th highest)
> Number of licensed drivers: 8,896,590 (5th highest)
> Annual vehicle miles travelled per capita: 7,721 (5th lowest)