The Most (and Least) Expensive States to Drive
> Total operating cost: $2,944
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 1,114 (6th highest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.54 (6th lowest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,337 (19th highest)
Alabama is one of the most rural states, and residents may have more need to drive than most Americans. There are 1,114 vehicles for every 1,000 Alabamians, about 290 more than the national proportion. The average Alabama motorist travels 16,918 miles a year, far more than the 14,132 miles the average American drives. Alabama gas is nearly the least expensive in the country, however, making the large amount of driving somewhat affordable. Alabama residents end up spending $1,224 on gas per car annually, about $230 less than the national average. Repairs and car insurance in the state cost about the same as they do nationwide.
> Total operating cost: $2,969
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 899 (24th highest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.75 (15th highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $808 (the lowest)
Maine is the only state in which insurance accounts for less than one-third of the cost of owning and operating a car. The average premium is just $808, the cheapest of any state. According to consumer insurance company Insure.com, infrequent traffic accidents, a low risk of weather incidents such as tornadoes or hailstorms, and the high share of drivers with car insurance in Maine help keep rates low.
While insurance is cheap in Maine, getting around is more expensive. More than 60% of Maine residents live in rural households, the highest share of any state. Citizens of rural areas tend to drive more than residents of urban ones. The average driver spends about $1,800 in fuel per car annually, about $350 more than the average American.
> Total operating cost: $2,994
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 852 (22nd lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.52 (5th lowest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,145 (18th lowest)
Tennessee is one of the most rural states, and residents drive far more than most Americans. The average vehicle in the state is driven 13,162 miles a year, about 1,500 more than the national figure. Inexpensive gas, however, makes the large amounts of driving in the state somewhat affordable. A year of driving costs $1,463 per car in gas on average, about the same as the country as a whole. Tennessee drivers also tend to save on insurance and car repairs. For a year of fuel, insurance, and fixing a check engine light, the average Tennessee motorist spends $2,996, less than the $3,164 national average.
> Total operating cost: $2,996
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 876 (24th lowest)
> Avg. price of gas: $3.02 (7th highest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,267 (25th highest)
Oregon has no oil refineries and must import all of its fuel. Partially as a result, Oregon gas is among the most expensive in the country. State residents do relatively little driving, however, and have some of the most fuel-efficient cars in the country. The average motorist ends up paying $1,325 in gas per car annually, less than the $1,452 national average.
Oregon is one of a handful of states restructuring its gas tax policy in an attempt to cope with the increasing number of hybrid and electric vehicles. The state began to roll out its OReGO program last year, which charges drivers 1.5 cents per mile traveled instead of the 30 cents normally charged for a gallon of gas. The program is meant to collect an equal share of taxes from alternative and conventional vehicles. Oregon was the first state to establish a gas tax, and it is now the first to establish a pay-by-the-mile system.
26. New Mexico
> Total operating cost: $3,008
> No. of vehicles per 1,000 people: 928 (19th highest)
> Avg. price of gas: $2.66 (19th lowest)
> Avg. insurance premium: $1,277 (23rd highest)
New Mexico’s roads are among the most dangerous in the United States. There are 151 motor vehicle deaths per million miles traveled in the state, the sixth highest rate nationwide. Despite the high likelihood of accidents, car insurance in the state is relatively affordable. The average premium is $1,277, slightly less than the $1,325 national figure.
Although New Mexico residents drive far more than the average American, cheap fuel in the state helps keep driving costs relatively low. A year’s worth of driving in New Mexico costs $1,326 per car on average, about $130 less than the national average. The average annual cost of owning and operating a car in the state comes out to $3,008 compared to $3,164 for the country as a whole.