The cost of automobile travel has gone way up

car lot
© SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

From 1990 to 2015, the cost of automobile travel per passenger mile in the United States increased by 166% in current cents and by 47% in inflation-adjusted cents.

It has been a question on TreeHugger for many years: Why are fewer young people buying cars? One reason might be the increased cost of car ownership. We have often looked for guidance in the work of Michael Sivak, the former director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at the University of Michigan, and now the managing director of Sivak Applied Research. He tells TreeHugger:

This analysis examined recent changes in the cost of traveling by automobile in the United States. Of interest was the cost per passenger mile. The period covered was from 1990 to 2015.

The cost of automobile travel goes beyond the cost of fuel. It also involves maintenance and repair, insurance, registration fees, and depreciation. Indeed, the IRS standard reimbursement rate for using personal automobiles is designed to cover all of these subcosts. Consequently, this analysis used the IRS rate. However, because of interest was the cost per passenger mile, the IRS rate was divided by the average number of persons in automobiles calculated from the information in the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The average costs in current cents, as well as the average costs in inflation-adjusted (constant 1990) cents, are listed in the table below.

table of costs© Sivak Applied Research

From 1990 to 2015, the average cost of traveling a mile by automobile in current cents increased by 166%, from 15.7 cents to 41.8 cents. During the same period, the average cost of traveling a mile in inflation-adjusted (constant 1990) cents increased by 47%, from 15.7 cents to 23.1 cents.

The cost of automobile travel has gone way up
From 1990 to 2015, the cost of automobile travel per passenger mile in the United States increased by 166% in current cents and by 47% in inflation-adjusted cents.

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