Americans drive an average of 13,476 miles per year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That is the equivalent of traveling coast to coast twice in one year. Motorists in some states tend to drive more frequently than others – and the more mileage they drive, generally the more gas – or other motor fuel – they use.
To determine the states where drivers use the most gas each year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on annual motor fuel consumption and the number of licensed drivers from the FHWA for 2021, the most recent available year. With these data we calculated the total gas a licensed driver uses on average in each state. Supplemental data on the average price of regular gas by state came from AAA and is current as of Apr. 18, 2023. We also calculated the number of miles driven per licensed driver in 2021 using FHWA data on the total number of miles driven in 2021, and the average fuel cost of driving in each state at current gas prices in each state.
The variations in fuel usage can be dramatically different between states. Motor fuel consumption per licensed driver in Wyoming is 1,712.1 gallons per driver, the most of any state and about three times the total for a driver in Hawaii. Besides Hawaii, drivers in three other states – New York, Rhode Island, and Washington – used less than 600 gallons per driver.
The amount of driving by an average motorist in the United States often correlates with the presence or lack of mass transportation available. The great distances in the West and the South are traversed almost exclusively by car, so it is no surprise that fuel consumption in those regions is the highest in the nation. Wyoming, the country’s least populous state, has the highest estimated annual cost of driving at current gas prices, $5,872.61, and drivers in the Equality State traveled the most in 2021, 25,778 miles. (The price of gas in each state also depends on taxes – here is every state’s tax on gasoline, ranked.)
Northeastern states are among the lowest in terms of motor fuel consumption per licensed driver, 2021 gas consumed, estimated annual cost of driving at current gas prices, average gas prices, and 2021 miles driven per licensed driver. These states tend to have more mass transportation options that take drivers off the road. According to a Census Bureau report from 2021, the Northeast has the highest share of workers who commute by transit, at 14.3%.
Even as climate change has encouraged better fuel efficiency and less fossil fuel consumption to reduce greenhouse gasses, cars are only becoming more important in the nation’s transportation fabric. The percentage of U.S. workers commuting by public transportation fell to around 5.0% in 2019 from 12.1% in 1960, according to Census data. (Here are the worst new cars for humans and the environment.)
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