On the Road: 3 Cheapest and Most Expensive States to Drive

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on March 24, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The open road is a part of the national imagination. We love cars in the US, fetishizing them in our books, films, and music. People here start driving early, and the lucky ones go on lots of road trips, listening to songs about cars the whole way, of course.

But the cost of ownership varies widely from state to state, according to a new study by finance site GoBankRate. The study examined costs associated with car ownership beyond the purchase of a vehicle, that is, putting aside sticker price, and compared these nationwide. Let's see which states are most and least expensive.

Live Free and Cheaply

First, here's what the study examined. The national rankings were compiled by looking at the following expenses:

  • Car sales tax
  • Title fees
  • Registration fees
  • Average annual car insurance premiums
  • Annual gas expenses
  • Average car maintenance and repair costs

"[O]ur survey found that the average costs of owning a car for three years is $11,227," said Elyssa Kirkham, lead reporter on the study. But the variations between states is surprising.

The stakes are high in Live Free Or Die New Hampshire, so perhaps it's right that this is by far the least expensive state in which to own a car. The total cost of ownership over three years was $8,098. This was roughly $1,200 less than the next cheapest state, Missouri, which was followed by North Carolina, where it costs about $9,448 to own a vehicle for three years.

Kirkham suggested, "Typically, car owners should keep their costs low -- around 15 percent of their income for the car payment, insurance, gas, and so on -- which is trickier in states with higher car costs."

Most Expensive States for Car Ownership

Costs in the more expensive states ran to almost twice as much as in New Hampshire. The costliest place to own a car is Michigan, where $15,314 is the average for three years. California's next at $14,450 and New Jersey follows, with $13,484 being the average cost for three years of car ownership.

The study's reporters noted that the least expensive states were mostly coastal, and the most expensive states for gas were all in the western part of the country. Missouri has the cheapest gas nationwide. So keep that in mind for your next road trip.

Need Advice?

If you need financial guidance regarding a car or any other major purchase or investment, speak to an attorney. Many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to help.

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