$4,155 Per Year and Automobile Enslavement

So, it all started as a brief news item, with a handful of tantalizing facts

“…the typical American household will have spent $4,155 filling up this year, a record. That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981″ —  At gas pump, 2011 was the year of the big squeeze. The AP / By Jonathan Fahey, December 19, 2011

It wasn’t clear to me who said so, but there was a reference to an outfit called the OPIS (Oil Price Information Service) and the facts seem to be wholly drawn from this item blogs.opisnet.com from their blog.

Here are the facts presented, referring to calendar year 2011, and it notes that this is of course somewhat of a projection since the year isn’t actually over yet but obviously the last couple of weeks aren’t going to change the averages much.

  • Total spent on gasoline $481M, at an average price of $3.51/gallon
  • average (?or is it? the item actually says “typical household”) amount per household $4,155,
  • which represents 8.4% of median family income.

You can compute from these number some simple facts:

  • Calculated number of households = 115.8M; and “typical” (median?) household income = $49,464
  • Calculated gasoline = 137M gallons;   per household = 1,184 gallons
  • Calculated amount of driving (using 20mpg as fleet average; better reference?) = 23,775 miles per year per household

Some of the figures sound slightly askew, but no big deal; while the 1,184 gallon number, along with its implied 24,000 miles of driving seems somewhat alarming. I also wondered if this was meant to be “personal”, as opposed to business, consumption… and where does other fuel (diesel) fit in to the averages?

I’m having trouble reconciling the 137M gallon number from above, according to http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004727.html passenger car (includes light trucks?) was 75M gallons, and all consumption totals 175M gallons per year, and all “includes personal passenger vehicles, buses, and trucks.”. What about Diesel(? is the 175M figure all inclusive equivalent, perhaps?). And annoyingly, the chart’s most recent year is 2006 (before the recession).

Here are some “hard” Census figures, from the 2012 Statistical Abstract:

  • Number of households in 2010: 117.5M; and 2.59 persons per household (Table 59)
  • Median Household Income 2009: $49,777 (Table 690, Table 690)

So in any event — is the $4,155 figure supposed to represent actual, out-of-pocket costs to families? or it is something else, like all fuel consumed in the U.S. divided by the number of households? I can’t quite pin it down, and i am tired of looking, at least for the moment!

Automobile Enslavement?

So, if the median household is spending over $4,000 dollars of their something like $50,000 of income just on gasoline, how much are their cars costing them? Insert some sort of average for insurance, cost of vehicles, and repairs here. It seems to me that is a huge amount, perhaps only second to cost of shelter.


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