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Cities that spend the most on transportation

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A year and a half into the pandemic, COVID-19 is still having profound effects on the global economy. The abrupt shutdown of many aspects of daily life from last spring has diminished, but the economic recovery has been inconsistent, affecting supply and demand differently across sectors. This unsteady path to economic recovery has stoked fears of inflation, as prices in many sectors are showing dramatic fluctuations and challenging household spending. And one area where these economic effects are clearly evident is in spending on transportation.

Data from the Consumer Price Index, a common measure of inflation, reveals the extent of the pandemic’s effects on household transportation spending. Gasoline prices collapsed last spring in the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns but began to recover as motorists returned to the roads later in the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, the market for new and used cars has been one of the most notable economic stories coming out of the pandemic. With global supply chain breakdowns dating back to early 2020, many car manufacturers have been unable to obtain the parts needed to produce typical numbers of new vehicles. With a shortage of new cars, used vehicles have seen dramatic increases in value, with a 45% increase in prices from June 2020 to June 2021.

These rising costs are likely to put additional strains on Americans’ household spending. Even before the pandemic hit, American households spent more than $10,000 per year on transportation, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. The largest share of this figure is vehicle purchases, which alone make up about 39% of transportation spending, or nearly $4,200 per household per year. The “other vehicles expenses” category, which includes leases and maintenance, averages $3,400 per year. And fuel costs account for an additional $2,100 per year. With vehicle prices spiking and gas prices recovering to their pre-pandemic levels, it seems likely that typical household transportation spending will increase in the months and years ahead.

Transportation spending is not evenly distributed across the U.S., however. When the U.S. is divided into four regions, it is the West that spends the most on transportation in dollars, at $11,210 per household per year—more than $700 greater than the national average. As a share of household spending, however, residents in the South take the top spot, devoting 18.1% of household expenditures toward transportation each year.

Some of these differences are a function of geography: for instance, the Northeast is more densely populated than the West, which allows for shorter travel distances and makes public transportation more viable. Other differences are economic: total household spending is lower in the Midwest and South than in the Northeast and West, so spending on transportation takes up a larger share of the total.


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At the metro level, some of the same factors explain which locations spend the most on transportation as a share of total spending. Most of the top locations have higher than usual vehicle prices and related expenses, along with relatively low total household expenditures that increase transportation as the share of the total.

To identify the metropolitan areas that spend the most on transportation, researchers at CoPilot analyzed data from the BLS on the nation’s largest 22 metros. Researchers calculated total transportation spending as a share of total household spending in each location. In the event of a tie, the metro with the higher total transportation spending was ranked higher. Nationally, transportation spending accounts for 16.8% of total household spending, but this value is typically lower in major population centers.

Here is how the nation’s largest metros stack up on transportation spending.

Transportation Spending Among America’s Largest Metros


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22. New York, NY

  • Transportation spending share of total: 12.5%
  • Total transportation spending: $9,255
  • Vehicle purchases: $2,219
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $1,521
  • Public and other transportation: $1,874
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,641
  • Average annual expenditures: $73,806


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21. San Francisco, CA

  • Transportation spending share of total: 12.7%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,103
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,796
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,123
  • Public and other transportation: $1,736
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,448
  • Average annual expenditures: $87,287


Photo Credit: Checubus / Shutterstock

20. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

  • Transportation spending share of total: 13.2%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,049
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,705
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,216
  • Public and other transportation: $1,465
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,664
  • Average annual expenditures: $84,006

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19. Honolulu, HI

  • Transportation spending share of total: 13.2%
  • Total transportation spending: $8,403
  • Vehicle purchases: $2,865
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $1,851
  • Public and other transportation: $1,143
  • Other vehicle expenses: $2,543
  • Average annual expenditures: $63,481


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18. Chicago, IL

  • Transportation spending share of total: 14.0%
  • Total transportation spending: $9,084
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,188
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $1,882
  • Public and other transportation: $1,059
  • Other vehicle expenses: $2,955
  • Average annual expenditures: $64,804


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17. Boston, MA

  • Transportation spending share of total: 14.1%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,779
  • Vehicle purchases: $4,941
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $1,857
  • Public and other transportation: $1,398
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,584
  • Average annual expenditures: $83,297


Photo Credit: Checubus / Shutterstock

16. Seattle, WA

  • Transportation spending share of total: 14.2%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,506
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,902
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,290
  • Public and other transportation: $1,625
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,689
  • Average annual expenditures: $81,266


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15. Washington D.C.

  • Transportation spending share of total: 14.3%
  • Total transportation spending: $13,646
  • Vehicle purchases: $5,712
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,107
  • Public and other transportation: $1,990
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,837
  • Average annual expenditures: $95,441


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14. San Diego, CA

  • Transportation spending share of total: 15.1%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,704
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,334
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,576
  • Public and other transportation: $1,504
  • Other vehicle expenses: $4,291
  • Average annual expenditures: $77,451


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

13. Philadelphia, PA

  • Transportation spending share of total: 15.4%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,136
  • Vehicle purchases: $4,037
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $1,908
  • Public and other transportation: $1,280
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,911
  • Average annual expenditures: $72,460


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12. Atlanta, GA

  • Transportation spending share of total: 15.4%
  • Total transportation spending: $9,862
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,071
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,338
  • Public and other transportation: $1,083
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,370
  • Average annual expenditures: $64,103


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11. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

  • Transportation spending share of total: 15.6%
  • Total transportation spending: $10,472
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,601
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,277
  • Public and other transportation: $846
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,748
  • Average annual expenditures: $66,966


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

10. Los Angeles, CA

  • Transportation spending share of total: 15.7%
  • Total transportation spending: $10,959
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,435
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,890
  • Public and other transportation: $910
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,723
  • Average annual expenditures: $69,824


Photo Credit: Nicholas Courtney / Shutterstock

9. Denver, CO

  • Transportation spending share of total: 16.2%
  • Total transportation spending: $12,331
  • Vehicle purchases: $4,641
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $1,943
  • Public and other transportation: $1,121
  • Other vehicle expenses: $4,626
  • Average annual expenditures: $76,274


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

8. Houston, TX

  • Transportation spending share of total: 16.4%
  • Total transportation spending: $12,352
  • Vehicle purchases: $4,413
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,390
  • Public and other transportation: $1,320
  • Other vehicle expenses: $4,228
  • Average annual expenditures: $75,288


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

7. Baltimore, MD

  • Transportation spending share of total: 17.1%
  • Total transportation spending: $13,255
  • Vehicle purchases: $6,482
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,100
  • Public and other transportation: $1,146
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,527
  • Average annual expenditures: $77,598


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

6. St. Louis, MO

  • Transportation spending share of total: 17.2%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,123
  • Vehicle purchases: $5,070
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,097
  • Public and other transportation: $695
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,262
  • Average annual expenditures: $64,777


Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock

5. Detroit, MI

  • Transportation spending share of total: 17.3%
  • Total transportation spending: $11,260
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,507
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,111
  • Public and other transportation: $703
  • Other vehicle expenses: $4,939
  • Average annual expenditures: $65,163

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4. Anchorage, AK

  • Transportation spending share of total: 17.3%
  • Total transportation spending: $13,313
  • Vehicle purchases: $5,539
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,363
  • Public and other transportation: $1,594
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,816
  • Average annual expenditures: $76,784


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

3. Tampa, FL

  • Transportation spending share of total: 18.1%
  • Total transportation spending: $10,692
  • Vehicle purchases: $4,903
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $1,814
  • Public and other transportation: $743
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,232
  • Average annual expenditures: $59,193


Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

2. Phoenix, AZ

  • Transportation spending share of total: 18.8%
  • Total transportation spending: $12,525
  • Vehicle purchases: $5,890
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,151
  • Public and other transportation: $734
  • Other vehicle expenses: $3,750
  • Average annual expenditures: $66,489


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1. Miami, FL

  • Transportation spending share of total: 19.0%
  • Total transportation spending: $10,915
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,108
  • Gas, other fuels, and motor oil: $2,421
  • Public and other transportation: $759
  • Other vehicle expenses: $4,626
  • Average annual expenditures: $57,472

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Survey. To determine the cities that spend the most on transportation, researchers calculated total transportation spending as a share of total spending in each metropolitan area. In the event of a tie, the metro with the higher total transportation spending was ranked higher. Only the 22 metropolitan areas with data available from the BLS were included.