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High Gas Prices - Which Cities are Hit the Hardest?

High Gas Prices - Which Cities are Hit the Hardest?

Gas prices have recently hit an all-time high, and they show no sign of coming down any time soon. The average U.S. family with two drivers is now paying nearly $1000 more annually for gas than they were just two years ago. This new study by research gurus Sperling's BestPlaces examines which U.S. cities are affected most by the fuel crunch.

Hardest Hit Cities

Least Impacted Cities

  1. Atlanta, GA ($1,519)
  2. Seattle-Tacoma, WA ($1,381)
  3. Indianapolis, IN ($1,378)
  4. Nashville-Davidson, TN ($1,278)
  5. Orlando, FL ($1,227)
  6. Birmingham, AL ($1,213)
  7. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA ($1,204)  
  8. Columbus, OH ($1,201)
  9. Pensacola, FL-AL ($1,188)
  10. Kansas City, MO-KS ($1,151)
  1. Anchorage, AK ($454)
  2. Laredo, TX ($500)
  3. Brownsville, TX ($525)
  4. New Orleans, LA ($537)
  5. Boulder, CO ($538)
  6. Honolulu, HI ($632)
  7. Allentown-Bethlehem, PA-NJ ($635)
  8. El Paso, TX-NM ($658)
  9. Cleveland, OH ($685)
  10. Colorado Springs, CO ($704)

See complete list

The Southern crossroads of Atlanta has been hit the hardest. When gas prices reached their peak, 2-driver households in Atlanta were spending $1519 more per year on fuel than they were two years ago. Two-driver households in Seattle-Tacoma and Indianapolis found their gas expenditures nearing $1400 extra per year.

2-driver households in Anchorage are paying only $454 more for gas than they were two years ago.

Drivers in Atlanta consume the most gas--about 3.4 gallons a day. Drivers in Laredo, TX consume the least--1.35 gallons a day.

Atlantans spend the most money annually on gas--when gas prices were at their peak, the average 2-driver household spent nearly $4200 on gas every year. 2-driver households in Laredo spent the least money on gas--$808 a year.

Gas prices are highest in California. The San Francisco-Oakland area had the highest peak gas price recorded at $2.45 a gallon, followed by Oxnard-Ventura and Riverside-San Bernardino. However, residents in these areas are better prepared to absorb higher gas prices thanks to a significantly higher median income.

The nation's lowest peak gas prices occurred in Charleston-North Charleston and Columbia, SC ($1.89/gallon).

The Pacific Northwest has seen the greatest increase in gas prices in the last two years. The Seattle-Tacoma area experienced the greatest increase in fuel cost--$0.89 a gallon. In Oregon, drivers in Portland, Salem, and Eugene paid over $0.80 more per gallon than they were two years ago.

Anchorage showed the smallest increase in gas prices ($0.52/gallon).

Drivers in the Los Angeles area waste over half a gallon of gas a day due to traffic congestion. Drivers in Brownsville waste virtually none.

U.S. drivers travel an average of 43 miles a day. Residents of Birmingham drive the most (65 miles/day) while people in New Orleans drive the fewest (27 miles/day).

The average 2-driver household now spends about $3,000 on gas yearly. 2 years ago, this figure was under $2,000.

Birmingham and Pensacola residents may have the most difficulty absorbing the increased fuel expenses--the extra they are paying for gas amounts to over three percent of their median household income. Rising gas prices are less of a burden in Anchorage, Boulder, and Honolulu, where the increased cost represents only about one percent of families' median income.

We have also created a list showing the impact on household income.

Residents of Southern and Midwestern cities drive significantly more miles than their counterparts on the coasts. As a result, drivers in these cities consume more gallons of fuel and end up spending more money on gas overall.

Experts have suggested that the flatter landscape of the South and Midwest has encouraged cities there to become more spread out. This results in drivers having to drive farther on a daily basis, which results in higher gas consumption. This higher gas consumption results in a greater net annual gas expense for residents of these cities.

This study involves many measures of gas usage and economy, such as the average number of miles drivers travel in each city and the average number of gallons each driver uses and wastes in traffic congestion each day. In order to provide a meaningful real-world frame of reference for consumers, Sperling's BestPlaces created a single measure--that is, how much more per year are Americans now paying for their gasoline as compared to two years ago.


Average miles driven per day per peak traveler (1) is determined by dividing total roadway system daily vehicle miles (2) by the number of peak period travelers (3). Average gallons of gas used per peak traveler (4) is determined by dividing (1) by the 2004 average fuel economy for all vehicles (5) and adding the average daily wasted fuel (6). Money spent on gas per driver is calculated by multiplying (4) by the city's peak gas price (7) or the gas price two years ago (8).

Data Sources

2004 Urban Mobility Study, Texas Transportation Institute

American Automobile Association (AAA) Fuel Gauge Report

2004 Fuel Economy data, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

2003 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau