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Here’s How Much You’ll Spend on Gas in Your Lifetime

by | May 15, 2024

The typical American driver spends plenty of time behind the wheel – and plenty of money at the gas pump. Just how much money depends, of course, on a variety of factors, but it all adds up to a lot more than you might expect. And, over the course of a lifetime, you might shell out nearly as much as you’d spend on a new home – motorists in some states expected to spend around $200,000 on fuel.

Shell Gas Station

It’s often said an automobile is the second most expensive purchase in your life. That’s all the more so when you factors in what you spend on fuel.

Even if you drive a fuel-efficient econocar, the cost of gasoline is likely to take a big bite out of your income. And for those who clock lots of miles behind the wheel of a fuel-hungry model like a full-size pickup, the bills at the pump can climb into the hundreds of dollars per month.

You might be shocked to consider how much it all adds up to over the course of a lifetime. A new study by GOBankingRates set out to figure that out and it reveals that in some parts of the country you’ll wind up spending nearly as much during your driving years as you would spend to buy a new home.

The study came up with a few surprises, starting with the revelation that motorists in Wyoming are likely to spend more on gas than in any other state, at a typical $201,698.22. At the other extreme: Rhode Island, where the lifetime bill for fuel is a more manageable $90,495.69.

How the numbers add up

Getting gas

The study showed a wide disparity by state in what motorists spend on fuel.

You might be surprised by the fact that Wyoming is the most expensive place to drive over the course of a lifetime. Considering what drivers pay at the pump, it might seem that California or Hawaii would top the list. But a variety of other factors come into play.

The most significant factor: how many miles the typical driver in each state clocks each year, a figure that the study sourced from the Federal Highway Administration. Suddenly, it seems obvious why Wyoming is at the top of the chart. The least populous state in the country is wide open and drivers routinely log lots of miles.

The study was based on motorists starting to drive at the age of 16 and giving up their keys at 77. It then relied on an “average” vehicle getting 24.4 miles per gallon and having a 13.5-gallon fuel tank – which yields an average 329.4 miles per tank – figures provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Finally, the price of fuel was provided by AAA.

Of course, the actual figure you might spend over a lifetime is likely to vary, among other things based on the various vehicles you drive and what might happen to fuel prices going forward. But, for the typical motorist, the study provides some reasonable insights.

The most expensive states

  • Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class in Las Vegas

    Nevadans will pay the third-highest amount for fuel over the course of a lifetime.

    Wyoming topped the chart, largely due to the vast distances its motorists routinely travel – which is why the study concludes they’ll likely have to fill up 4,457 times. The average driver will spend $201,698.22 over the course of a lifetime on gasoline.

  • California comes in second at a relative modest $167,226.71 in lifetime fuel costs. Motorists there travel far less – perhaps because of the heavy traffic – and tank up barely half as often as Wyoming residents, 2,319 times over a lifetime. But high fuel costs run up their fuel bills.
  • Nevada residents also spend a lot of time behind the wheel and also pay fairly high prices for fuel. Tanking up an average 2,596 times during a lifetime of driving, their lifetime fuel bills come in at an estimated $158,450.88.
  • Georgians are just slightly behind, at an average lifetime fuel bill of $158,176.59. They also face relatively high fuel costs and clock a lot of miles, tanking up an estimated 3,395 times.
  • New Mexico rounds out the top five states, its motorists expected to shell out an average $156,656.37 for gasoline over the six-plus decades they’re likely to spend behind the wheel. While fuel costs are more modest, they drive long distances and will tank up 3,548 times.

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The least expensive states

  • Empire State Building

    New Yorkers have a relatively low lifetime fuel bill – likely due to the many Big Apple residents who don’t drive.

    Rhode Island motorists spend a lifetime average $90,495.69, or less than in Wyoming, They simply don’t travel a lot, according to the Federal Highway Administration – likely no surprise considering the miniscule size of the state. They’ll fuel up an average 1,845 times.

  • New York may be a bigger state but motorists there also fuel up less often, at and average 1,883 times. That is likely skewed by New York City where millions of residents don’t even own a vehicle. Whatever the reason, the typical Empire State driver is estimated to spend $94,832.69.
  • New Hampshire drivers will spend an average $103,204.20 on fuel over the cost of a lifetime. While the state is relatively rural, with few big population centers, its motorists simply don’t drive very much, based on federal data likely to fuel up only 2,143 times.
  • Colorado drivers are fourth from last in the study, despite the state’s relatively rural nature. They are likely to fuel up just 2,389 times during a lifetime – a surprise when compared to neighboring Wyoming. Their fuel bill is estimated to come in at $104,127.18.
  • Pennsylvanians face relatively high gas prices – which may be why they don’t drive a lot, fueling up an average 2,119 times over a lifetime. That translates into a relatively low bill during their driving years of just $108,670.28.

A hefty chunk of income

It’s often said that an automobile is the second most expensive purchase an American will make. The new study suggests it can rival the cost of a typical home which, in some states can come in at under $200,000.

Add what you spend on the vehicles you’ll drive over the course of a lifetime, as well as maintenance and repairs and the equation can look quite different.


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