Bigger Savings, Better Driving: The Cheapest States for Car Owners

Infographic showing the 10 cheapest states for car owners in 2021.

In these states, car owners can drive easy knowing they’re spending less on their vehicles compared to the rest of the nation.

Between buying a car, insuring it, fueling it, and paying for maintenance and repairs, car owners shell out a hefty sum over their vehicle’s lifetime. Cars, especially new ones, are also one of the quickest-depreciating investments one can make: after just one year, the value of a purchased new car can decrease by 20 percent. It’s clear that the decision to invest in a vehicle is one that must be considered carefully, given the inevitably expensive nature of car ownership.

However, in some states, the price of driving is comparatively more affordable. If you’ve ever considered relocating across state lines, knowing how much you’ll be spending every month on your car can be a major factor in deciding where you end up. In fact, there is significant variation in the cost of car ownership, state-by-state. Curious to see where in the United States car ownership is the most affordable, the data scientists at Insurify looked to the data and identified the ten cheapest states for car owners in 2021.

Heat map showing car ownership affordability by state in 2021.

Insights

  • National averages. Across the United States, states scored an average of 74.00 out of 100 for car ownership affordability. Nationally, the average cost of auto insurance per month is $201.58 for drivers with a clean record. The average increase in premium costs after one driving violation is $30.96. The average price of one gallon of regular gas (87 octane)  is $2.55 as of March 2021, and the average cost for car repairs (including parts and labor) is $383.37
  • No cheap feat. The majority of states received a score between 67.35 and 80.95, and thus either a Moderate or Expensive rating. While the cost of car ownership certainly varies across the nation, it’s evident that owning a car is nonetheless a significant financial responsibility.
  • Regional variation. From Alaska to Hawaii, Idaho to Maine, the ten most affordable states are not tied to one U.S. region (although there are small regional clusters in the Midwest and New England). This regional variation suggests that while geographical conditions (such as weather patterns, crime rates, state-level laws) may affect the cost of car ownership, they cannot be pinpointed as the sole determinant of auto costs.

Methodology

To identify the cheapest states for car owners, the data scientists at Insurify, a site to compare auto insurance rates, referred to both proprietary and public data. They evaluated states across four dimensions: auto insurance premium costs (the average cost of car insurance for drivers with a clean record), increase in premium costs after one violation, vehicle repair costs (the average price to repair a vehicle, including parts and labor), and gas prices (the average cost of a regular gallon of gasoline). Insurance cost data from the past year came from Insurify’s proprietary database of car insurance applications. Gas prices in each state were derived from AAA’s State Gas Price Averages database, which is updated daily to reflect current changes. Vehicle repair costs are from the 2020 State Repair Cost Rankings Report by CarMD, an automotive resource website.

To account for regional differences in the value of a dollar, Insurify’s data scientists adjusted price measurements using regional price parities provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Researchers then calculated a weighted composite score using the adjusted scaled state-level values across all four dimensions. States were rewarded on affordability, so a higher score indicates that car ownership in a state is cheaper, while a low score means that it is more expensive. Each state was assigned a rating of either Most Affordable, Affordable, Moderate, Expensive, or Most Expensive based on its composite score.

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The 10 Cheapest States to Own a Car

1. Vermont – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 96.13 out of 100

2. Massachusetts – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 95.87 out of 100

3. Hawaii – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 95.40 out of 100

4. New Hampshire – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 95.15 out of 100

5. Maine – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 92.21 out of 100

6. Alaska – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 87.55 out of 100

7. Minnesota – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 86.41 out of 100

8. North Carolina – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 84.65 out of 100

9. Wisconsin – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 84.41 out of 100

10. Idaho – Car Ownership Affordability Score: 83.56 out of 100

The Cheapest States for Car Owners

10. Idaho

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 83.56 out of 100 (Rating: Affordable)
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $134
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $20
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $387.11
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.465

Kicking off the list of the ten cheapest states for car owners is Idaho. In fact, the Gem State scored 9.56 points higher than the national average for car ownership affordability. While gas prices and the cost of auto repairs in Idaho are on par with the national average, Idaho drivers pay on average $67.58, or 34 percent, less than the rest of the nation for their monthly auto insurance premiums.

9. Wisconsin

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 84.41 out of 100 (Rating: Affordable) 
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $142
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $18
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $349.08
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.485

Wisconsin drivers can rest easy knowing that their state scored 10.41 points higher than the national average for affordability of car ownership. Wisconsinites pay less across all four measures of affordability than the rest of the nation, most notably when it comes to their car insurance rates: for drivers with a clean record, auto insurance in Wisconsin costs 30 percent less than the national average.

8. North Carolina

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 84.65 out of 100 (Rating: Affordable) 
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $125
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $13
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $402.86
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.432

Drivers in Tarheel Nation enjoy the eighth-most affordable overall cost of car ownership in the United States. North Carolina scored 10.65 points higher than the national average, earning the state an Affordable rating for car ownership. While auto repairs in North Carolina tend to cost about $20 more than the national average, across all other metrics, North Carolinians pay notably less.

7. Minnesota

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 86.41 out of 100 (Rating: Affordable)
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $152
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $21
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $371.31
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.474

It may take a while to drive around 10,000 whole lakes, but don’t worry: Minnesota is seventh-highest in the nation on affordability for car owners, earning a rating that’s 12.41 points higher than the national average. Drivers with clean records in the Land of 10,000 Lakes pay 25 percent less for their car insurance than the rest of the nation, and, should they violate the rules of the road, their premium rates do increase, but 33 percent less so than the national average.

6. Alaska

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 87.55 out of 100 (Rating: Affordable)
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $148
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $47
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $372.46
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.736

The Last Frontier is the sixth-cheapest state in the nation for car owners. Alaska scored 13.55 points higher than the national average on the car ownership affordability index and is the state with the highest score in the Affordable bracket. While gas prices and the increase in auto insurance costs following driving violations are both slightly above-average, car insurance and auto repairs in Alaska are quite affordable, at $54.58 and $10.91 cheaper than the national average, respectively.

5. Maine

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 92.21 out of 100  (Rating: Most Affordable)
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $126
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $16
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $356.76
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.556

Maine scored 5th highest in the nation for car ownership affordability, making it the first state to earn a Most Affordable rating in the rankings thus far. In fact, the Pine Tree State earned an affordability score 18.21 points higher than the national average. While gas prices are on par with the rest of the nation, drivers in the Pine Tree state can expect to pay around 38 percent less for car insurance every month, should they keep a clean driving record. The increase in insurance costs following driving violations and auto repairs are 49 and 7 percent lower than average, respectively.

4. New Hampshire

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 95.15 out of 100  (Rating: Most Affordable)
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $133
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $36
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $365.71
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.481

It’s easier to live free when owning a car doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. In New Hampshire, where residents live by the “live free or die” mantra, owning a car costs drivers 21.15 points less than in the rest of the nation. In fact, drivers in the Granite State pay 35 percent less for monthly insurance (with a clean record), in addition to spending 3 percent less for regular gas, and 5 percent less for auto repairs.

3. Hawaii

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 95.40 out of 100  (Rating: Most Affordable) 
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $114
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $22
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $402.91
  • Cost of regular gas: $3.394

Hawaii has the third-highest score for affordable car ownership in the nation, earning the Aloha State a Most Affordable rating. While gas prices and auto repair costs (and overall cost of living) are actually higher than average in Hawaii, overall, owning a car in Hawaii is 23 percent less expensive than the national average. This is primarily due to insurance costs: monthly auto insurance premiums for Hawaii drivers with a clean record are 44 percent lower than the rest of the country’s, and the increase in insurance costs following one violation is 27 percent lower than average in Hawaii.

2. Massachusetts

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 95.87 out of 100 (Rating: Most Affordable)
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $145
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $19
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $380.67
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.518

Despite what may be said about the behavior of Massachusetts drivers on the road, one thing is for sure: they happen to be paying less to own their vehicles than most other Americans. The Bay State is the second-most affordable state for car owners in the nation, scoring 21.87 points above the national average and receiving a Most Affordable rating. For Massachusetts drivers with a clean record, insurance costs are 29 percent lower than average, and the increase in insurance costs following a driving violation is 39 percent lower than the national average.

1. Vermont

  • Car Ownership Affordability Score: 96.13 out of 100 (Rating: Most Affordable)
  • Average monthly auto insurance premium cost: $124
  • Average increase in premium cost after 1 violation: $23
  • Auto repair costs (parts and labor): $342.14
  • Cost of regular gas: $2.524

Drivers in the Green Mountain State are saving mountains of green every year compared to other American drivers. Vermont takes the title as the cheapest state for car owners with a car ownership affordability score that’s 22.13 points higher than the national average. Gas prices in Vermont are in line with the rest of the nation’s, but when it comes to paying for insurance and vehicle repairs, Vermont drivers have it best: violation-free drivers pay 39 percent less for car insurance every month, and on average spend about $40 less for parts and labor when their vehicles need fixing.

If you have any questions or comments about this article or would like to request the data, please contact insights@insurify.com.

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