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May 4, 2011 Published in Other News, Traffic & Transportation

Big Hole In The Family Budget: Monthly Household Income Spent On Gas Purchases Skyrocketed In April

Estimated monthly household cost of gas nearly $400 in April

With gas prices inexorably nearing four dollars a gallon and inching toward record-shattering terrain, the average household in Virginia spent over twice as much, a staggering 131 percent increase, of their hard-earned income on gasoline purchases last month than they did just two years ago in April. Those shocking figures are revealed in a new study by the Oil Price Information Service, which provides daily fuel price data to AAA.

Households across Maryland also saw greater fuel expenditures during the month. The average family in Maryland spent a mind-boggling 118.7 percent more of its personal income for gasoline this April than it did in April 2009, the study shows. As a percentage of total income, households in the District of Columbia spent 88 percent more on gas during the same time period, the newest OPIS survey shows.

From coast to coast, American motorists and consumers spent nearly double the cost to fuel their vehicles last month than they did just two years ago in April, the study reveals. It cost Americans $368.09 to purchase gasoline during April 2011, compared to just $174.80 during April 2009, according to the new data.

“With the pain at the pump becoming more excruciating, the average household spent nearly two hundred dollars more for gasoline this April than they did in April two years earlier,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “As a matter of fact, American families and households spent nearly ten percent of their monthly family budgets just to purchase gasoline during April. It’s proof that motorists across the nation and the region are reeling from the agonizing financial burden of higher and higher fuel costs.

Motorists are shelling out a lot more money on fuel and spending a greater percentage of their monthly budgets on gas. The pain at the pump, however, is not the same for everyone and every family, explains AAA Mid-Atlantic, which tracks fuel costs as a service to consumers and its members.

For example, Virginia residents have a greater fuel expense burden than Maryland residents although the cost of gasoline is generally cheaper in Virginia than it is in Maryland ($3.87 versus $3.97), explains AAA Mid-Atlantic. The average household in Virginia spent $422.83 on fuel purchases in April. When considered as a percentage of total income, Virginians spent 8.5 percent of the family budget on gasoline last month, the study shows.

In contrast, the monthly fuel price damage to household budgets in Maryland was lower than the national average. For instance, Maryland households spent an estimated $341.21 on fuel purchases during April. However, fuel costs accounted for less than six percent -5.9 percent - of the family income in Maryland last month.

In the District of Columbia, where 37 percent of the residents do not own an automobile (compared to ten percent in the United States,) the estimated cost of fuel per household was just $88.83 last month. All told, that reflects about 1.8 percent of the average monthly household budget in Washington, D.C. proper.

As a general rule, families and persons who live in higher-income areas tend to experience less of a bite from the soaring costs of gasoline, Townsend explained. “But this time around, everyone is feeling the pain at the pump.”

Nationwide, it cost the average household in the United States an estimated $368.09 to purchase gas last month. That’s compared to $281.06 during the same month a year earlier on a national basis. For example, back in April 2009, Americans families spent an average of $173.80 on fuel purchases. Nationally, about 8.87 percent of the average household income was spent on fuel purchases, the study shows (the median household income in the United States is $49,777 annually).

In contrast, fuel purchases consumed 6.78 percent of average household budgets in April 2010, and just 4.10 percent of the average family monthly budgets in April 2009. The median household income in Maryland is $69, 272 annually, and it is $59,330 per household in Virginia, the study shows. It is $59, 290 in the nation’s capital.

“Rising gasoline prices are having a tremendous impact on family incomes and household budgets,” said Townsend. “In fact, the steady increase in pump prices is eroding the standard of living for some families and robbing them of their sense of economic well-being, and changing their shopping habits.”

Last month, motorists and consumers spent nearly $44-billion on motor fuel purchases (compared to an average range of $32-billion to $34- billion in April). That works out to $1.45-billion each day (compared with an expenditure of about $1.08-billion per day one year ago), Townsend explained.

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