Special Report

The Most (and Least) Expensive States to Drive

Detailed Findings & Methodology:

The costs of insurance is the largest driving expense in 31 states. Insurance payments account for a majority of the overall cost of driving a car in eight states. Often, a high prevalence of car accidents tends to increase insurance premiums. Similarly, in states where drivers sue more often following an accident premiums are also mostly higher.

State requirements for what an insurance policy must cover can particularly increase the cost at the expensive end of the list. In 15 states, motorists must purchase personal injury protection as part of their auto insurance. This insurance will cover the medical bills of the policyholder as well as those of any vehicle occupants at the time of the accident.

Only Michigan — the most expensive state in which to drive — requires motorists to purchase a policy that covers unlimited, lifetime medical benefits. Solely for this reason, the cost to own and drive a car in Michigan is about $1,500 more than the average across all states, and $500 more than the second most expensive state.

In states where insurance premiums are relatively low, the cost of gas is the main expense for drivers. On average, American motorists spend about $1,210 on fuel each year. Because of different gas prices, gas taxes, and time spent on the road this expense can rise as high as $1,600 or drop to as low as $800 per year.

Although it is not an immediate expense, in states where motorists rack up more mileage than average the car resale value decreases faster. In the Northeast, because more people live in dense urban environments, commutes are often shorter, and motorists only drive roughly 10,000 to 12,000 miles annually. By contrast, in rural states like North Dakota, Mississippi, and Wyoming, mileage can reach 20,000 per driver per year.

In order to determine the most and least expensive states to drive, 24/7 Wall St. added the average annual costs of insurance, gasoline, and repair costs by state. The total cost of repair, provided by automobile software developer CarMD, represents the sum of the average amount paid for parts and labor by drivers for one check engine light repair. This was used as a proxy for annual repair costs.

Gas expenditure per car was calculated from average fuel consumption per registered motor vehicle, which came from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and average gas price in the state as of June 27, 2017, which came from AAA. The average car insurance premium in each state came from Insure.com, an insurance review website. All data are as of the most recent period available.

The number of vehicles, vehicle registrations, miles driven, total gallons of fuel consumed, and total miles travelled in each state came from the FHWA and are for 2015. All commuting figures and urban and rural composition data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.

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