How Much Does it Cost to Drive ONE Mile?

Gas prices are starting to get on my nerves. It seems like every day the price of a gallon of gas goes up 5 or 10 cents! EVERY DAY! In my town it has now hit over $3.00 per gallon, a record. What’s funny is that even with gas this high, I’m still seeing lots of new SUVs and full-size trucks. When I shopped for my wife’s car last week, MPG was one of my biggest motivators. I passed up Altimas and other nice-looking cars because their MPG figures didn’t seem that great to me. I settled on a Civic because we have always had good luck with Hondas and the Civic sedan with automatic transmission gets 40 miles per gallon!

Anyway, gas prices got me to thinking about how much it costs to drive ONE mile. I decided to do a comparison with three vehicles: Hummer H2, Buick Rendezvous (since we own one) and the Honda Civic LX Sedan. I had to do some hunting in order to find the MPG figures on the Hummer. Apparantly since a Hummer H2 weighs over 8,000 pounds, GM is not required to publish MPG figures. Isn’t that stupid? Anyhow, I found a few websites mentioning 8 – 10 miles per gallon for the Hummer and decided to settle on the midpoint, 9 miles per gallon. For the Rendezvous I used 22 MPG because that’s about what I get (unless I’m speeding). For the Civic I settled on 38 MPG because it never seems like a car gets what the sticker says it should get.

The first set of numbers uses $3.05 for the price for gas since that is what we have to pay in my town. Here’s what they look like (keep in mind that this is only about fuel costs and not the total cost of driving these vehicles):

Gas Mileage Cost Comparisons

Gas Mileage Cost Comparisons

Wow! Over $5,000 per year just to gas a Hummer H3. And, that’s with gas at $3.05 per gallon. What happens if gas is at $4.00 per gallon?

Gas Mileage Cost Comparisons

Gas Mileage Cost Comparisons

I don’t know about you but I think I would try to sell the Hummer. I wonder how many people aren’t contributing to their 401(k) so that they can afford to drive their Hummer? LOL!

UPDATE: To calculate the cost per mile divide cost per gallon by the car’s MPG. Example: $3.05 per gallon ÷ 38 MPG = $.08 Per Mile. I was so busy putting the spreadsheet together that I never really stopped to think about how easy it is to perform this calculation.

37 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Drive ONE Mile?”

  1. I have a Honda Civic LX too. There is no way it does 502 miles on a full tank. You have to account the type of driving you do. I would say typically a car like Honda’s can do 350 on a full tank.
    Nevertheless, this comparison is still a good indicator as to how expensive gas is now.

  2. I’ve been looking at the Toyota Yaris for my next car in a few years. The hatchback subcompact gets incredible mileage and since it is only $12k to start new, the depreciation should bring the price of a 3 year old used model to around $7-9k.

    Driving style also has a big impact on mileage.

  3. Here’s an easy way to calculate it:

    1) gas at $3.00/gal and 30 mpg: 10 cents/mile
    2) car that costs $15000 and good for 150,000 miles: another 10 cents/mile
    3) Insurance at $1000/yr and 10,000 miles per year driving: another 10 cents per mile

    Total, neglecting parking and repairs: 30 cents a mile

    But the human cost, in terms of wages? Driving 1 minute per mile at $20/hr wages is 33 cents per mile. So to drive one hour on the highway, you have to work one hour. Or work two hours to cover one hour of slow city driving.

  4. For most people the expense of gas is more psychological than real.

    When gas hit $3/gallon around here people started yelling. But for some reason they weren’t yelling when it was $2.95. Did that extra $.05 per gallon really make a monetary difference?

    Besides, the difference between $2.50/gallon gas and $3/gallon gas can be more than regained by driving more conservatively.

    I get irritated by snarky attitudes about Hummers. There are plenty of people not funding their 401k so that they can gas their Civics or Corollas. Or not funding their 401ks so that they can buy more house than they can afford, or so they can afford their cellphone plan. People with a “holier than thou” attitude regarding Hummers should make sure they aren’t throwing stones in a glass house.

  5. Samerwriter,

    I see your point. However, people driving cars and trucks that use a lot of gas are essentially increasing the cost of driving for everyone else. So, although a Hummer driver may be paying more on gas, their increased usage is also raising the cost that everyone else has to pay.

    I don’t think I’m better than anyone else.

  6. “So, although a Hummer driver may be paying more on gas, their increased usage is also raising the cost that everyone else has to pay.”

    That same argument could be made about anything we buy that does not have infinite supply.

    Buying a share of stock raises the stock’s price for everyone else. Buying a house raises housing prices for everyone else. Fueling a Honda Civic raises the price of gas for everyone else. Buying Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs raises the price of CFLs or everyone else.

    It is far more legitimate for a bicycle commuter to complain about a compact car than it is for a compact car owner to complain about a Hummer, but since we live in a market economy either complaint is silly.

    Silly primarily because we (theoretically) pay for goods what we believe they are worth. Does gas cost too much? Then buy less.

    And really, the impact on gas prices if everyone who currently drives Hummers were to switch to Priuses would be nearly zero.

    Personally, I’m a fan of high gas prices. I’d like to see $10/gallon gas. It won’t happen, but I think in the long term we’d be better off if it did.

  7. JLP, I read your blog on a daily basis (ok, several times a day!) and have learned a lot from it. Any chance you could weigh the pros/cons of getting a company car vs. getting a car allowance? I’ll be accepting a job offer at a new company and I get a choice. The allowance is $6600/yr. Unfortunately, I don’t know the full details yet since they haven’t sent me anything in writing. I tried a Google search but kept getting results outside the US. I’d be interested in how you see it as well as comments from other readers.

  8. “People with a “holier than thou” attitude regarding Hummers should make sure they aren’t throwing stones in a glass house.”

    They aren’t throwing stones, they’re throwing birds! 🙂

  9. Pingback:
  10. “So, although a Hummer driver may be paying more on gas, their increased usage is also raising the cost that everyone else has to pay.”

    According to the author of Naked Economics, the problem is that gas is too cheap. If the real costs of using gasoline (pollution, including global warming, etc.) were really part of the price of gasoline, Hummers would be way less appealing.

    Now the unrealized costs happen at a global or national level, so the only practical way to realize them in the price of gas is through taxes. Gasoline taxes, as sad as that sounds, are too low to account for the true costs of driving. If the true cost could be accommodated via appropriate tax, Hummers would take care of themselves. Only the people who really wanted them, and were willing to pay the full cost of their desire, would get them.

    In a world like that, you wouldn’t really need to worry about owners of Hummers making things more expensive for the rest of us. Unfortunately in that world, things would already be more expensive for the rest of us, because we’d be paying the true cost of our driving too.

  11. …you are reacting quite correctly to higher gasoline prices — by taking a closer look at your use & need for that consumer product… and seeking rational adjustments.

    An invaluable aspect of “prices” in a market economy — is that they directly communicate the relative scarcity of the various goods & services to consumers.

    Higher gasoline prices mean that gasoline supplies are becoming more scarce — you’ll have to pay more to use the same amount… or cut back on your use of it.

    That is very valuable information in managing & planning your personal economic affairs.

    Higher-Prices also strongly signal gasoline-producers/sellers to produce/sell ‘more’ gasoline … because there is money to be made in meeting consumer demand. It also prompts competition among producers to produce gasoline more efficiently.

    Supply & Demand for gasoline thus jockey back & forth until a rough balance is achieved… that’s how market economies work — an it’s a very good thing.

    Gasoline prices (adjusted for inflation) are NOT at all time highs.

    For those who think gasoline prices are too high — what ‘should’ be the price of gasoline & how did you determine that price ??

  12. Here is some data that I kept on the actual mileage of a 2004 Honda Civic LX Automatic:

    It turned out to be 27.32 MPG, way lower than the EPA estimate. The cost per mile was $0.10, with the price per gallon ranging from $2.00 – $2.70.

    It’s probably about time that I get my MPG information from the last year and a half together and post it. 🙂 Next step is to include all of the other car expenses I’ve incurred to get the true cost of one mile. Not sure I really want to know though 🙂


  13. Thats a good comparison to find out what to expect to pay for gas.
    I just wish everyone would quit their yelling about gas prices and try to conserve, such as I do, I will ride my bike to work every so often (3 miles and good exercise) or walk to church and the store (another good exercise).
    Why dont they do less driving and yelling and do something good for themselves?

    Thank you

  14. 1/ I’m all for a differentiated auto market. What’s annoying to me about Hummers is the drivers. It’s not that they’re driving a vehicle that box trucks have a hard time seeing around, or that they are driving around LA streets with more armor than soldiers in Iraq… It’s that by driving a Hummer they are shouting “WE ABSOLUTELY DON’T CARE ABOUT POLLUTION, AND WE WANT YOU TO KNOW WE DON’T CARE”.

    (OK, maybe some of Hummer drivers are ignorant, or don’t think CO can cause global warming or that MTBE can cause cancer, and don’t think about smog.)

    2/ I get more than the EPA estimates in my 10 yr old midsized car. Depends on your driving style.

  15. how much fun is a Honda Civic?….great car for a 16 yr old, but for me I want a little performance for my auto $….new G37 coupe!!!!!Life is too short to drive a golf cart…Honda’s are soulless…

  16. how much fun is a Honda Civic?….great car for a 16 yr old, but for me I want a little performance for my auto $….new G37 coupe!!!!!Life is too short to drive a golf cart…Hondas are soulless…

  17. CLEARLY $3.00 a gallon for gas isn’t as bad as folks like to think. If it was THAT bad, folks wouldn’t be driving in Hummers and Ford F950’s…

    People who think it’s crazy to spend $100 filling up their tank in something that gets 10MPG aren’t driving around in these trucks, but there is a whole bunch of folks that $100 for a fill-up isn’t that big a deal.

    I read an article about two weeks ago that stated the carbon footprint for the Toyota Prius Hybrid was WELL above that of a Hummer.

  18. The emotion of Gas pricing is funny. Lets compare it to other liquids.

    $1.50 plus deposit for one liter of soda. Or a $1.25 for 16oz. of you buy out of a vending machine. Thats roughly half the price of gallon of gas for sugar water. Where’s the outrage?

    A gallon of water at the grocery store. I’ve never paid for it but I would guess at least $2.

    Don’t even get me started on alcohol prices in a metropolitan bar.

    All these products don’t have to be shipped across oceans, refined, distributed. Now I am not saying that the pricing of gas isn’t going a little crazy based on oil companies profits. I am just saying its interesting to think about what people will get outraged about.

  19. I am assuming someone who can afford a Hummer can afford to contribute to a 401k. But then again, we are the worst savers in the industrialized world.
    Folks, you need to re-examine your debt load and savings habits. Baby boomers are going to begin retiring in earnest. The U.S. economy is getting ready to carry a very big load (social security, long term care needs, etc)

  20. wow , gas prices is like weather just something to talk about ,but really who gives a shit how much gas is.what about all the people who dont work ,drink beer all day and collect checks every month that comes from your tax dollars .this adds up to a lot more than gas prices.I average $1500 for gas every month and I pay over $170,000 a year in taxes.

  21. Now all though you guys are only partially right, the figures that are being used are assuming that you are already driving down the road and there is no stop and go. If you were to crunch numbers from intial start of vehicle and then taking off from a dead stop and drive one mile, you will probably find it actually would cost above $1 per mile due to wear and tear and fuel consumption. Now figuring that we normally don’t drive like that, the cost to drive one mile needs to be figured using additional information for oil consumption, tire usage and other items that wear and tear while driving.

  22. It is important to note that gas is only a small portion of the cost of driving a car. When factoring in insurance, depreciation, repairs and maintenance, it actually costs much more. Newer cars tend to have the highest total cost per mile since they have very rapid depreciation.

    Check out the Edmunds ‘True Cost to Own’ calculator:

  23. I have Mecerdes HUV. ML320. I just brought it in recently.
    I don’t know about my MPG
    Please search and let’s me know.

  24. Dont concern yourself over “gas” prices too much, I mean after America has complete control of Iraq’s oil supply you should see the price of oil drop. Just mind the drops of blood though!

  25. Thank you so much for doing this. It teaches me how to figure it out by myself and I was wondering how to do it. This helps me to determine what I should charge regarding my business deliveries. I mean the large ones. Thank you so much.

  26. I see this post is over two years old. Boy it is amazing what has transpired over the past two years. Gas is once again steaming toward three bucks a gallon after retreating to the mid two’s.

Comments are closed.