Budget Buster: Families Spend $3K a Year on Gas

New government estimates say families are spending nearly $3,000 a year just to fill up their gas tanks.

Families are devoting more of their money to gas these days than they have in most of the past 30 years, according to new estimates in a U.S. energy report.

The average American household spent $2,912—or about 4 percent of its gross income—on gas in 2012, according to estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). This is a bigger drain on the family budget than at any time in the past three decades except 2008, when the gas grab was about the same.

What may be frustrating for some to hear is that while gas consumption has gone down in recent years, the budget burden has only gotten worse as gas prices have increased.

Back in the early 1980s, families were spending more than 5 percent of their income on gas but traveling much less than we do today. Since then, fuel efficiency has increased significantly, making it cost less per mile for us to get where we're going. However, while U.S. gas consumption was at its lowest level in 10 years in 2011, average gas prices increased that year by 26.1 percent and then again by 3.3 percent last year, according to the EIA.


How much is your family spending on gas? What do you do to save money? Tell us in the comments section.

Publius February 09, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Just think if they put tolls on I-90 you can more than double that just to get to work!
TM February 10, 2013 at 05:26 PM
For those of us that have to pay tolls.......our family pays at least another $1500 a year.
Locked n Loaded February 10, 2013 at 05:51 PM
I spend 4100 a year just for one car that I drive from Lakewood-So Seattle. Thankfully my wife works locally.
Jeanne Gustafson February 10, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Mike Tanksley February 10, 2013 at 05:58 PM
It's all a matter of personal choice. People choose where to live, where to work, how close to work/school/services to live, what kind of vehicle to use, and so on. We also choose which community we live in, some of which are intelligently designed and others that sprawl thoughtlessly across the landscape. If one were to put a $$$ figure on the time people spend hauling their carcasses around town due to inefficient planning, whether personal or public, maybe we would see them make some different life choices.
Larry Owens February 10, 2013 at 06:43 PM
I pay $0.36 per gallon (e). You can too. If you buy an Electric Vehicle (EV) like the Nissan Leaf, your cost of electricity is MUCH cheaper than buying gas. How much cheaper? It works out to the equivalent of $0.36 per gallon... about a 90% SAVINGS over buying gas. Many places (including every Walgreens) offer FREE charging too! There's no sales tax on an EV, up to a $7500 federal tax CREDIT, and Nissan has dropped the price of the Made in America LEAF by $6000. If you haven't driven one before, go take a free test drive at our local area Nissan dealers. It's a comfortable, quick, fun car to drive as well. You most likely can qualify for a FREE 240V home charging system too. Where else in Shoreline can you charge up? Sears, Shoreline CC, all 3 Walgreens, and soon at City Hall. In October last year I drove 750 miles and my total 'bought' electricity was $10.48. How far can you drive for $10? Take the gas savings to pay for a brand new LEAF! Want to go farther? How about high speed fast chargers at Burlington Outlets on the way to Bellingham or Canada? Downtown, East Side, Fred Meyer Lake City has one, and all the way to California. New ones are being installed all the time. Oh, I forgot to mention: There's NO emissions either! With our hydro powered electricity, you could be driving the cleanest driving car in the world.
Annie February 10, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Not everyone can choose where they live. Some people have to live where they can afford to. I would love to live closer to my job; however, my finances dictate that I live where I can afford the rent. You might try having a little compassion.
Silent Majority February 10, 2013 at 09:49 PM
That's the change that Obama brings to the table. Forcing you from your liberty to drive what you want (cars with power, mass, and safety) where and when you please while imposing hardship if you refuse to comply. Our American society has already changed in many ways due to the artificial controls and constraints imposed by the tyrannical architects in Washington DC who insist that equality and fairness is the change we need. What makes America unique is we get what we want and we as individuals have different wants that used to be welcomed. That is American Diversity. Gas is worth 1.27 a gallon in fair market value, given we build more refineries and lift the draconian EPA regulations on domestic oil production.
Mike Tanksley February 10, 2013 at 10:23 PM
The USA exports refined petroleum products - we make more than we consume. There is no shortage of refinery capacity in our country. The economic vitality of the US over the past many decades is due in large part to the supply and demand efficiencies of our market economy. But an efficient market relies on the true costs of a product being reflected in its price. Subsidies alter this cost element, lessening the efficiency of the marketplace. Gasoline is heavily subsidized by the Federal government. The cost of building and maintaining our roads is also highly subsidized by a combination of State, Local and Federal taxes. Gasoline taxes cover less than 50% of the costs of building and maintaining our roads in Washington State. If we the people paid the true costs of driving in relation to how much demand we place on the resources, the up front cost to drive would be much higher than it is now.
Susan Milke February 10, 2013 at 10:27 PM
One note to remember is that the oil companies have made trillions in profit since 2008 at least. Trust me, the shareholders have not seen that profit trickle down to them. The oil companies are monopolies too. Obscene profits at the expense of our economy. What a joke the recent hike in gas prices, oh yes the approaching "spring" driving season, what a joke!
Susan Milke February 10, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Larry, I too drive a Leaf. Love it!! Recently the state has decided to tax electric vehicles an additional $100 on their yearly registrations. Rationale is that we don't buy gas so we don't pay the gas tax but use the roads. Problem is that they are taxing us more that if we used a Prius, for example, and drove 10,000 miles a year. I wrote a letter last week to Andy Hill, Larry Springer, Roger Goodman and the Seattle Times. No response yet. I ask that you do the same. The issue is fairness, as I do drive other gas-powered cars on occasion. And what about bicycles, they don't have to have a license, insurance, registration, or buy gas, but they also use the roads!
HeadSpinner Photography February 10, 2013 at 11:02 PM
$3K? I pay $4500 just to go to work and back.... Time to buy a free car! Just park my gas guzzler and use it when needed. Gas savings can be used for a more fuel efficient auto.
robert February 11, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Allot of people forget about the working poor they cannot not just go out and buy a hybraid or Electric car. They have to take every cent they have to survive and have reduce their driving, Most cannot afford to live closer to work or would have to live in a lot worse situation then they do now All it seems like we do is make more tolls and fees.
Susan Milke February 11, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Robert, We don't forget about you. I think if is unfair that you decide not to drive, then they raise the bus fare, you decide not to buy gas and they tax for buying an electric car. You buy a fuel efficient car and they toll you for going to work. We are all being taken advantage of. This is by design. The money they are taking from us in the way of fees, taxes, property taxes, sales tax, tolls, etc. is staggering and they always want more and we always seem to get less in the process.
Gerd Weyer February 11, 2013 at 07:31 AM
When you refer to fairness, does it include the 6.5 plus billion people that live outside of the United States? How about those Americans that are born 50 to 100 years from now? There are 31.5 gallons per barrel of crude. My understanding is that oil companies need to get about $ 70 per barrel of crude or over $ 2.00 per gallon to justify the development of new oil fields today. Development has skyrocketed because of availability. Drilling a mile below the ocean floor is expensive. Crude needs to be refined and distributed before it is sold. Although climate change and possibly water contamination are of concern, the new process of fracking may free enough oil to satisfy U.S. demand for many years. Regardless, there certainly is enough natural gas to satisfy the American addiction to the automobile for decades. I would love to see the true burden of the cost of driving, particularlly the construction and maintenance of roads, be allocated to those who drive. The short to medium term burden to the poor is a challenge. In the long run it would probably be a benefit because of increased access associated with more public transport.
Edward A. February 11, 2013 at 07:42 AM
If the "silent" majority broke their silence to blame gas prices on the POTUS, it is probably best to keep it zipped. "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." (nobody really knows who said this first, but it is usually attibuted to Abraham Lincoln).
Holly Blash-Wood February 13, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Susan Milke, robert's point was not about "choosing" to forgo driving etc... "They have to take every cent they have to survive". There is no choice either feed the family or drive?
Susan Milke February 13, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I understand Robert's situation. I am with him on that. I think we are arguing the minor points in this. Shouldn't we all be able to live comfortably, enjoy life, feed our families, etc. Why do we have to live this way, always waiting to go into debt, whether it is for medical, mortgage, food, etc. No-one should live this way in any country. Ask yourself why is it so hard to get by for most of us and a very few have so much. Who controls us and why do we let them?!
Holly Blash-Wood February 13, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Very good points all. "Who controls us and why do we let them?!" is the root and a very complicated ball it is! One limb to start with would be "Why do we buy into it?" Buy being the operative word. The use of advertising and the messages, weather overt or subliminal, are crafted to lead us in what ever direction wanted.
Susan Milke February 13, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Holly you are so correct. Is our economy so bad or are they using it as an excuse to lay people off and make more money for themselves?


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