15 Most Expensive States for Gasoline — and How It Got That Way
Does it seem like you’re paying more at the pump in 2017? It’s more than a feeling. According to statistics from AAA, U.S. gasoline prices averaged $2.59 at the start of fall 2017 — more than 25 cents above the prices from a year earlier ($2.33). While hurricanes played a role in this huge jump, gas prices have been higher throughout the year. In April, Americans were paying an average of $2.53 for per gallon.
Overall, it’s been a rough year for commuters, but residents of certain states are getting hit the hardest in the wallet. According to AAA data, gas prices fluctuate as much as 67 cents per gallon of regular (over 25%) in a road trip across the continental U.S. If you’re wondering who pays the most and why, we have answers. Here are the 15 most expensive states for gas and why people who live there pay more. Unless otherwise noted, quoted prices come from AAA data.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which tracks fuel costs across America, listed relatively cheap gas prices for the Lower Atlantic region over the past six years, but in 2017 the prices have soared above other states. Georgia residents were paying $2.69 per gallon on average in the first days of fall. With few refineries in the area and supply dipping during hurricane season, this trend could continue.
Next: Bay State prices are high because refineries are scarce.
After the West Coast, residents of New England and Central Atlantic (New York, Pennsylvania) states traditionally pay the most for gasoline. According to the Energy Information Administration, the distance from oil refinery and pipelines plays a big factor in gas costs, and that hits this region especially. In Massachusetts, the few product terminals make the distance to local pumps even greater. Drivers paid an average of $2.70 per gallon here in the first days of fall.
Next: The Green Mountain State has only a single petroleum terminal.
Whereas oil terminals are scarce in Massachusetts, they’re practically nonexistent in Vermont. Only one site off Lake Champlain serves residents of the Green Mountain State, and local prices reflect the supply issues when demand jumps. Gas prices hit $2.71 per gallon of regular gas in September 2017. That number was up 28 cents since August, but prices have hovered around $2.35 for most of the year.
Next: Ocean State residents lose when demand ramps up.
12. Rhode Island
Normally, Rhode Island residents pay about the national average price for gasoline. However, when demand ramps up across the country, Ocean Staters see fuel costs soar. Prices hit $2.71 per gallon of regular gas at the start of fall. That number was 36 cents higher than the average from August. Though Rhode Island has a population of only 1 million, the state’s few oil terminals likely see volume dip in hurricane season.
Next: Gem State residents always face high prices at the pump.
Though Eastern states may have seen fuel costs jump following hurricanes, Idaho residents should be used to paying more than the national average for gas. With no in-state refineries and few product terminals piping in product, costs have held above $2.70 since August and topped $2.78 in September. Even when prices were down near $2.20 across America in late 2016, Idaho drivers still paid 20 cents above the average.
Next: The Silver State treats gas like liquid gold.
Nevada is home to the “Biggest Little City in the World” and some of the highest gas prices in the country, too. A gallon of premium gas typically runs drivers over $3 per gallon in the Silver State. And regular cost $2.80 in September. Generally, Nevadans pay about 30 cents per gallon above the national average, so if anything the spread got a bit lower when hurricanes hammered the East Coast.
Next: Drivers pay for that New York state of mind.
9. New York
While most people in New York City have little use for a private automobile, other residents of this huge state pay the price to drive. Compared to the national average, Empire State motorists pay between 10 and 20 cents more for a gallon of regular gas. With the hurricanes affecting prices, drivers faced $2.80 per gallon at the pump in September. A nearby refinery in Linden (immortalized in The Sopranos credits) keeps things relatively under control.
Next: The nation’s capital sits in the top 10, too.
8. Washington, D.C.
Following a slew of September hurricanes, D.C. residents found themselves paying an extra 30 cents than the average American per gallon. The steep $2.83 for regular you saw on signs around the nation’s capital was especially high, but it wasn’t particularly unusual for D.C. drivers. Area residents usually pay between 13 and 20 cents more per gallon than people living in neighboring states. Unfortunately, that means taxpayers foot high bills for gas-guzzling government vehicles when drivers fill up in town.
Next: Hurricanes hit the Constitution State hard.
In terms of fuel costs, Hurricane Harvey affected Connecticut more than most states. Drivers saw prices at the pump jump nearly 40 cents per gallon between August and September, leaving residents with an average price of $2.83. Normally, the state’s distance from the Linden refinery and small geographical spread keep costs somewhat reasonable, but the barrage of storms changed the narrative quickly.
Next: Keystone State drivers see no neighborly discount.
Talk to drivers in the Philadelphia metro area, and they’ll tell you to buy gas in New Jersey. Just over the bridge from the Liberty Bell, Jersey drivers paid about 35 cents less per gallon than their Pennsylvania neighbors in late 2016. (Reasonable bridge tolls made this a winning proposition.) In 2017, the spread shrank considerably following the hurricanes, but Pennsylvania’s $2.84 per gallon price was still much higher than its neighbor’s and about 25 cents above the national average.
Next: West Coast states suffer from isolation.
In Oregon, drivers were paying 47 cents above the national average in August. Following the rash of hurricanes, states prices rose another dime per gallon, bringing the cost of regular gas to $2.89 in late September. These figures were not entirely out of the ordinary for Oregonians. The West Coast’s isolation from the rest of the country keeps this region’s prices highest. When shortages hit, prices increase even more.
Next: You can see Russia and pay over $3 per gallon, too.
Only a handful of states are in the $3 club, and Alaska joined the club during hurricane season in September when prices hit $3.01 for a gallon of regular. Normally, drivers in The Last Frontier pay more than most because of refinery limitations. Even though there are several located across Alaska, few serve the bulk of the state, geographically speaking. So the distance it takes the gas to travel increases the price despite low state taxes.
Next: High taxes hit Evergreen State drivers at the pump.
While you find petroleum ports on the coast and refineries near Seattle, the eastern part of Washington has few terminals to receive oil. That factor drives up costs, but an extra 12 cents of taxes since 2015 will keep Washingtonians paying more than the average American for the foreseeable future. Those taxes paid for improvements to highway infrastructure, so at least Evergreen State drivers will have a smoother ride. Prices averaged a whopping $3.04 per gallon in September.
Next: Island life equals pricey fuel transport.
Nearly every factor that drives up gas prices affects Hawaii. The collection of islands makes it difficult to transport fuel, and refinery limitations guarantee high prices for Aloha State drivers. Even before hurricanes rocked the East Coast, Hawaii residents paid $3.08 for a gallon of regular. Following the September storms, prices edged up to $3.11.
Next: Golden State drivers pay a heavy premium for cleaner fuel.
While there are fluctuations all across the country and several states over $3 per gallon, California drivers almost always pay the most for gas. As the Energy Information Administration website notes, the biggest reason is quality: State laws require a cleaner blend of fuel than other states, and only a few refineries provide it. Therefore, Golden State drivers feel the pinch of any periods of high demand. At the start of fall, prices stood at $3.13 per gallon, 67 cents more than the cheapest gas sold in Missouri.