What a Year’s Worth of Gas Would Buy in Other Transportation

"Photo of a young man watching filling his gas tank, watching in disbelief as the dollar amount climbs on the gas pump display too quickly to comprehend.
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The average price for a gallon of gas is now $4.08, according to AAA. For regular small cars with 12-gallon tanks, that’s a hair under $50 to go from empty to full. For a Ford F-150 that can take on 26 gallons, you’re now into three figures to fill ‘er up.

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The pain is most severe out West. 

Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Utah are all over $4.50, as is Alaska. In Nevada, a gallon of gas is over $5. In Hawaii, it’s $5.23. Worst of all is California, where a gallon costs an average of $5.73. 

If you drive, you don’t need anyone to tell you gas is expensive. It’s so expensive, in fact, that you’ve probably considered turning in your wheels and using public transportation to get from here to there. 

But how much money would you save by getting off gas, considering the average motorist burns 562 gallons of the stuff every year? 

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Here’s what you need to know. 

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If you do decide to ditch your gas-guzzling car, truck or SUV, the most basic way to get from here to there is on foot — and one year’s worth of fuel will buy you nearly eight years worth of sneakers, presuming you’d spend $100 for a pair and buy three pairs per year. 

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If you’re willing to beat your feet — and if your commute is close enough to make that a realistic option — not only will you save a whole lot of cash, but you can expect your health to improve. According to Mayo Clinic, regular brisk walks will help you maintain a healthy body weight, improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your energy levels and cognition and help to prevent all kinds of ugly ailments, from diabetes and heart disease to cancer and stroke.   

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The bad news, of course, is that your commute will take a whole lot longer — the average human walks at a speed of 3-4 mph, according to Healthline. Plus, you’d have to carry anything you wanted to bring with you.

Riding a bike comes with many of the same health benefits as walking, according to Healthline — and you can go a whole lot farther a whole lot faster.

According to Road Bike Basics, the average rider can cover 15 miles in an hour instead of just three or four. If you trade in four wheels for two, a single year’s worth of gas could buy you nearly five bicycles at a price of $500 each.

Public Transportation: It All Depends On Where You Live

In the nation as a whole, you can buy more than a decade’s worth of public transportation for what you’d pay for a year’s worth of gas — but in many of the places with the most commuters, $217 for a year’s worth of public transportation is a pipe dream. 

According to a recent study from LendingTree, a monthly pass in Washington, D.C., costs $81 — a few bucks more in Boston. In San Francisco, it costs $91. It’s $99 in Seattle, and the monthly cost of public transportation in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles is now $100 or more.

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The priciest of all is L.A., where a monthly public transportation pass costs $122. That might sound high, considering that an unlimited monthly riding pass costs less than $35 in places like Albuquerque, N.M.; Durham, N.C.; and Iowa City, Iowa. But even in pricey Los Angeles, where riders spend $1,464 per year on public transportation, commuters still save nearly $1,000 compared to what they would spend on gas in that same year.

Commuters in some places, however, are living the good life. Cities such as Kansas City, Mo.; Olympia, Wash.; and Corvallis, Ore., are experimenting with fare-free public transportation programs, according to CNBC.

Electric Vehicles Pay for Themselves — Eventually 

The only way to keep driving while also cutting out gas is to go electric — and it makes sense as an economic strategy, but only in the long run. Up front, one year’s worth of gas can buy you only 8% of a $27,400 Nissan Leaf and only 5% of a $51,495 Tesla Model 3. 

Down the road, however, investing in an EV will save you more than $2,300 in gas money at today’s prices. But, according to Consumer Reports, you’ll save almost exactly double that — $4,600 — in maintenance and repairs.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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