State car costs, compared

The difference from one state to another can average more than $2,000 annually

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

While a recent report cites Hawaii, Alaska, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey as having the highest costs of living in the nation, those states are not even in the top 10 when it comes to car ownership expenses.

That distinction goes to residents of Georgia, who face the highest annual vehicle costs — including gasoline, insurance, repairs, taxes and fees — at an average $4,322. That’s according to a survey conducted by the personal finance website in New York.

By comparison, the national average stands at $3,201 per year. Meanwhile, those living in Oregon pay the least to own a car at an average annual cost of $2,204.

This represents a difference of over $10,000 in operating expenses over a five-year ownership period depending solely on a motorist’s address. We’re listing the states with the highest and lowest auto ownership costs in the accompanying sidebar.

Why such a large spread? Oregonians aren’t required to pay a state sales tax when purchasing a vehicle, and they enjoy relatively low insurance rates, the latter due in large part because they spend 16 percent fewer miles behind the wheel each year than the average motorist. At the other end of the cost spectrum, those living in Georgia are not only assessed the nation’s stiffest automobile taxes and fees in the nation, they tend to drive far more than the national average, thanks in large part to Atlanta’s sprawling collar communities and a lack of adequate public transportation.

The study determined that a driver’s insurance premiums, which are based in part on an insured person’s ZIP code (as well as his or her age, sex, driving record, and so on) range from an annual average high of $1,119 among those living in New Jersey to a low of $517 for motorists in North Dakota. The average yearly premium among all states is $762.

Annual fuel costs run from a surprisingly low average of $743 in New York (extensive use of taxis, buses and the subway obviously helps in that regard) to a whopping $1,643 in the Big Sky Country of Wyoming, where an automobile (or perhaps a horse) is the only way to get around. The average U.S. driver pays $1,028 to keep his or her car gassed up. State taxes and fees can likewise boost a vehicle’s long-term ownership costs substantially. For example, Oregonians pay an average $157 to their state’s treasury each year for registration and related fees, while it costs Georgians an average $1,952. The national average is $1,058. based the above cost estimates on median insurance premiums provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, for 2006 to 2010; average 2012 repair costs collected by; and state taxes and fees as noted by Kelley Blue Book. Gasoline spending was estimated after analyzing government statistics and 2012 prices from Gas- using average pump prices.

© CTW Features

States with the highest and lowest car costs

According to, here are the 10 states with the highest average annual automobile ownership costs:

1. Georgia, $4,233
2. California, $3,966
3. Wyoming, $3,938
4. Rhode Island, $3,913
5. Nevada, $3,886
6. Arizona, $3,886
7. Kentucky, $3,626
8. Massachusetts, $3,625
9. Virginia, $3,622
10. Nebraska, $3,571

And for those thinking of moving to an area with a lower cost of living, here are the 10 cheapest states with regard to vehicle ownership:

1. Oregon, $2,204
2. Alaska, $2,227
3. South Dakota, $2,343
4. Montana, $2,660
5. Indiana, $2,698
6. Hawaii, $2,705
7. Pennsylvania, $2,764
8. Wisconsin, $2,779
9. Idaho, $2,792
10. Ohio, $2,810