The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. today was nearly $3.78 per gallon. But why do we calculate fuel expenditure in dollars per gallon? Wouldn’t a more realistic figure be cost per mile?
The Web site zfacts.com used a collection of federal agency figures to determine that the average price of a gallon of gasoline in March of 1981, another high-price period, was the equivalent to $3.55 in 2012 money.
But if you were driving in 1981, your car probably got lousy mileage. In 1981 the CAFE standard, that is the corporate average fuel economy requirement set by the government, was just 22 miles per gallon for passenger cars. If you actually got that mileage, you paid the 2012 equivalent of, on average, 16.1 cents to go a mile.
Today, CAFE standards are up to 30.2 miles per gallon. If you actually get that mileage, with gas at $3.78, you are paying 12-and-a-half cents to go a mile. The price per gallon isn't necessarily the price of gas.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]