GasBuddy looked at median household income data by county and compared those numbers to average prices for the same specific geography. On a national basis, the report concludes that the average consumer works some nine minutes and five seconds for the typical gallon of fuel purchased this Labor Day weekend.
The pace of gasoline price gains has outstripped income growth throughout the century. In 2000, for example, the average person needed to work a mere four minutes and 35 seconds in order to fund a U.S. gasoline purchase. On Labor Day 2000, the U.S. average for unleaded regular was just $1.52 gal, or more than $2 gal lower than motorists face for the upcoming holiday.
Residents of Loudoun County, Virginia can boast the easiest route for filling up their tanks. Based on that county’s median household income, residents need only spend three minutes and 32 seconds on the job in order to buy local gasoline at the $3.62 gal average price tag. In fact, Virginia accounts for half of a top ten list of counties where fuel is most affordable based on income. Others making the top end of the list: Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington, and Stafford counties.
On the flipside, not all Texas residents are beneficiaries of the 21st century oil boom. A GasBuddy ranking of the top ten most expensive counties (when measured against local income) finds four Lone Star counties in the mix: Brooks, La Salle, McMullen, and Hudspeth. Hudspeth County, Texas residents have to toil for nearly half an hour per motor fuel gallon, or 25 minutes and 54 seconds, GasBuddy concludes.
Virginians and Texans alike might be jealous of those living in Douglas, Colorado 13 years ago. Back in 2000, those residents only had to work for two minutes and 18 seconds to get their gallon. This year, that labor cost has ascended to four minutes and 13 seconds, or nearly twice what those Colorado residents paid 13 years ago.
When people in Magoffin, Kentucky go to the pump this weekend, they probably won’t pause and reflect on how they need to put in about 22% less time for fuel than they did last year. Conversely, denizens of Camas, Idaho have to increase their work time by 16% from 2012 when they pay for contemporary gallons.
Based on the county-specific data, there is a wide variation in how much of the workday is devoted to the next tank of gas. But on a year-to-year basis, we’re all working about the same amount of time when paying the U.S. average of $3.54 gal.
GasBuddy analysts predict that retail gasoline prices are likely to slip lower in the last four months of 2013, which in combination with stable incomes should decrease the amount of time necessary to purchase a gallon of fuel for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Most of the gasoline price attrition through the remainder of the year will be attributable to relaxed gasoline specifications that make it easier to manufacture motor fuel after September 15.