What is the Most Expensive State for Car Owners?

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If you’re a car owner, you likely know all too well that having your own vehicle can be expensive business. Not only does one have to deal with regular expenses like fuel, insurance and tax – there are also less predictable costs like repairs, which are all the more inevitable if one’s annual mileage is higher. However, with the United States of America being such a huge country, there are undoubtedly going to be some states in which these costs are larger than others. But which states are the most expensive for car owners? We sought to answer that question. Read on to find out the results…

Gas Prices

We began by finding out the average gas prices of each state:

California had the highest average gas prices cost – it was the only state to breach the $4 mark, with an average of $4.10. The Golden State was far ahead of the competition: second place went to Hawaii with $3.93, while third went to Washington with $3.63. As a point of comparison, the national average is only $3.08!

Meanwhile, the state with the cheapest average gas price was Louisiana with $2.70, closely followed by Mississippi with $2.71 and Alabama with $2.75. This end of the list was absolutely dominated by the Southern states – in other words, if you want cheap fuel, maybe consider moving to the South…

Insurance Premiums

Next, we found out how the states compare in terms of insurance premiums:

Michigan was found to have the highest average insurance prices, totalling at $2,611. Interestingly, many of the other states in the top ten are also in the top ten for population size – namely California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia, as well as the aforementioned Michigan.

The state with the lowest average premiums turned out to be Maine at $845. Maine is one of the only states where the average cost of car insurance falls below $1,000, along with Wisconsin. The rest of the states in the top ten are all fairly close in price: around $1,000-1,200.

Average Mileage

Moving on, we looked up the average number of miles driven per licensed driver. If you have to drive your car further or more often, you’re going to wear it out quicker and then spend money maintaining or replacing it at a faster rate. Conversely, if you live in a state where you’re less likely to have to use your car extensively, your vehicle will probably last longer.

Wyoming had the highest average number of miles driven per driver – not entirely surprising considering that it’s the tenth largest state in the US in terms of land area. More surprising is the fact that California doesn’t break into the top ten, despite being the third largest state in the US behind Alaska and Texas (of course, Alaska’s failure to appear isn’t particularly shocking considering the state’s rather inhospitable landscape).

Instead, Alaska can be found at the other end of the ranking. The largest state in the USA, it’s also notable for having the lowest number of miles driven per licensed driver. The state may be beautiful, but it appears that its residents still try to keep their levels of vehicle travel to a minimum.

Repair Costs

No study into the costs of car ownership would be complete without considering the potentially huge costs of car repair. In fact, U.S. consumer spend on repair has gone up from by 60 billion over the last ten years according to the Federal Reserve Bank's research. We compiled research to review expenses state by state, and these prices were based upon the average cost to get an engine light checked in each state:

As well as having the highest average cost for car repairs, Georgia also has the highest average labor cost. We’ve already seen that Georgia has the second highest average number of miles driven per driver – it looks like anyone contemplating becoming a resident will have to deal with wearing out their vehicles quickly and paying high fees to repair them.

This was Michigan’s second appearance in the first place. However, this time the Great Lakes State finds itself in first for having the lowest costs as opposed to the highest. Michigan’s insurance premiums might be expensive, but it seems their repair costs are not!

Property Tax

Our final factor required a slightly different approach. Twenty-three states don’t levy property tax, while the other twenty-seven charge a percentage of the vehicle’s current value each year, as shown below:

The state with the highest rate of property tax was Rhode Island, where residents pay 4.4% of their vehicle’s value. Virginia came second with 4.05% tax, while Mississippi came third with 3.55% tax. Many of the USA’s most heavily-populated states levy no property tax whatsoever. Examples include Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. You can find the full list of states and their respective levels of levied tax here.

Final Results

We then compiled all the above rankings into one result, allowing us to discover which states are the most expensive for car owners:

California was found to have the highest overall costs for car owners – hardly surprising considering its reputation as a state with one of the highest average costs of living. For instance, Business Insider found that, of the fifteen most expensive cities in America, nine were Californian! Aside from having the highest average gas prices, the state also has very high average insurance premiums and repair costs. California’s only redeeming qualities are that it has a fairly low average number of miles driven per licensed driver and a low vehicle property tax percentage.

Although it only had two results that broke into the top ten, Wyoming took second place due to its consistently high rankings. Drivers from the Equality State have the highest average mileage overall as well as the tenth highest vehicle property tax. The state also had high insurance premiums as well as above average gas prices and repair costs.

At the other end of the rankings, Ohio was the least expensive state for car owners. The state has middling gas prices while its other results were particularly low. It has no property tax, the second lowest repair costs, the tenth lowest insurance premiums and the twelfth lowest mileage.

Vermont finished as the second least expensive state. Much like Ohio and it was very consistent, managing to stay in the lower half of each ranking for every factor – except in gas prices, where it came twenty-third.

In this study, we delved into data around the factors that we felt were most significant and relevant to the costs of car ownership. If you’d like to see the full state rankings for each factor as well as the sources for the data, click here.


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