Americans Spending More of Their Paychecks at the Pump
Life + Money

Americans Spending More of Their Paychecks at the Pump

Getty Images/Tom Boyle

Americans are spending more of their paychecks on gasoline than they have in nearly three decades.

A new report released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the average household spent $2,912, or just under 4 percent of their annual income before taxes on gasoline in 2012. That’s after-tax income, too. 

Other than the price spike in 2008—when Americans forked over roughly the same amount of their income—this was the highest percentage of their take home pay devoted to fueling up since the early 1980s.

But unlike those earlier two incidents, cars are now more fuel efficient and commuters are actually driving fewer miles. The total U.S. gasoline consumption fell in 2011 to 134.2 billion gallons, its lowest level since 2001, the EIA reports. However, according to the latest data from, the majority of Americans are still driving vehicles that are less fuel efficient, like trucks and SUVs. Regardless, opting for a Toyota Prius probably won’t do much to relieve the pain from the pump. While gas consumption dipped, the average retail gas prices rose 26.1 percent in 2011, and another 3.3 percent in 2012.

Analysts expect families to spend even more of their annual income on gas this year, since gas prices are at their highest level on record for February, according to the American Automobile Association. Retail gas prices shot up by 17 cents in just one week, with the national average at $3.54, about four cents higher than the average price a year ago.

Gas prices typically rise in late February or early March, which has analysts worried that this year’s early increases could mean higher prices are in store for the rest of the year. “This year...prices have risen largely because of higher oil prices from positive economic news and recent regional refinery issues,” Avery Ash, wrote in a AAA Fuel Gauge report last week.