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Auto misery index shows California drivers not so bad off

September 14, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • A stretch of the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. says that California is not one of the highest-cost states in which to drive a car.
A stretch of the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. says that… (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles…)

It turns out that the cost of driving a car in California isn’t higher than in other states – in fact it is right in the middle, according to an analysis by, an auto insurance information company. compiled what it calls the “Automotive Misery Index.” It weighs each state’s average household income against the cost of gas, number of miles driven by the typical driver in the state where they live and the price of insurance for a 2012 Honda Accord EX, a family car that sells well nationally.

“A new Honda Accord costs pretty much the same in Bakersfield or Biloxi,” said managing editor Des Toups. “But keeping it on the road will hurt a lot more in Mississippi.”

California ranked 24th by the measurement, in between No. 23 Nevada and No. 25 Ohio. The hypothetical Accord-driving Californian spends exactly the national average – 7% - of his average $55,760 household income on insurance and gasoline for the Honda.

Mississippi is the most expensive state in relative terms.

The cost of auto insurance plus gas expenses for the number of miles the typical Mississippi resident drives each year amounts to $4,277, or 11.6% of  $36,821, the average household income in the state.

It was followed by Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia and Montana. Obviously, the number of miles you have to drive to get around in each region makes a difference to the your vehicular operating expense.  Mississippi and Oklahoma are both states where it is not unusual for people to drive more than 20,000 miles annually.

At 4.4% of average household income, New Hampshire was the least expensive state to operate a car. It was followed by Alaska, Connecticut, Colorado and Washington. said its calculations were based on the Accord, which has a combined fuel economy rating of 27 miles per gallon. It used regional gasoline prices from the AAA Fuel Gauge Report on Sept. 1. The household income data came from the 2010 U.S. census and the regional mileage were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The insurance cost calculations were an average from six carriers in 10 ZIP codes per state for the Accord driven by a 40-year-old male with no violations or accidents and who commutes 12 miles to work. The policy carries a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage, bodily injury liability limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, and $50,000 in property damage liability coverage.


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