Honda Accord owner is paying $73 -- seventy-three dollars -- to fill up the popular sedan’s 18.5-gallon tank. Drivers shell out even more at the pump in cities such as Los Angeles ($81 per tankful) and Chicago ($83).
To identify the best cities to beat rising gas prices, we focused on three key factors that impact drivers: local gas prices, average commute times and the percentage of people who carpool to work. Carpooling, in particular, is an important indicator because it reduces traffic congestion for all drivers and lowers fuel expenditures for carpoolers themselves. Since this analysis is aimed at drivers specifically, we didn’t take into account any potential savings from using public transportation rather than getting behind the wheel.
Check out our list of the 10 best cities to save on gas.
1. Amarillo, Texas
Length of commute: 17.6 minutes (U.S. average: 24.2 minutes)
Share of carpoolers: 12.1% (U.S. average: 10.4%)
Gas price per gallon: $3.64 (U.S. average: $3.93)
Cost to fill up a Honda Accord: $67
Texas traditionally ranks at the low end of the gas-cost spectrum, says Avery Ash, who tracks regulatory affairs for AAA. That has to do with the way gas is priced. When you fuel up, you aren't just paying for gasoline -- you're also paying taxes on that gas, the cost of refining it from crude oil, and the expense of transporting and distributing it to your local gas station.
In Texas, the gas station and the refinery are rarely far apart, cutting down on distribution costs. Amarillo, for one, sits just 45 miles south of Valero's 5,000-acre McKee Refinery, which processes oil from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Taxes also keep costs low for Texas commuters. The state taxes gas at 38.4 cents a gallon, well below the national average of 48.8 cents.
2. Casper, WY
Length of commute: 17.7 minutes
Share of carpoolers: 11.7%
Gas price per gallon: $3.38
Cost to fill up a Honda Accord: $62
Rising gas prices don't faze Casper commuters, who currently enjoy the cheapest gas in the country. It’s a welcome reality of the local economy, says Joshua Deifel, who supervises Casper's city planning. "Wyoming's main industries are all energy-related," he points out. The state is one of the largest coal and natural gas producers in the U.S., and it extracts a growing portion of the country's crude oil.
But Casper's jealousy-inducing $3.38 per gallon involves more than the small town's proximity to Sinclair, Amoco and Texaco refineries. So-called midcontinent crude oil such as Wyoming's currently enjoys a lower price on the commodities market. The state also taxes gas at 32.4 cents per gallon, the lowest rate in the nation.
3. Flagstaff, AZ
Length of commute: 18.0 minutes
Share of carpoolers: 13.7%
Gas price per gallon: $3.94
Cost to fill up a Honda Accord: $73
Flagstaff benefits from a shorter-than-average commute, but if you really want to know why driving costs skew low in this dry mountain city, look no further than the number of minivans on the road. Nearly one in seven people carpool to work, according to 2010 Census data, and by the city's count that number's even higher -- roughly one in five.
Kimberly Sharp, Flagstaff's neighborhood planner, chalks it up to the city's outdoorsy, environmentally minded culture. "We have an amazing natural environment and weather, super-clean air and very cool people," she says. "We're an eco-friendly community." Biking and walking to work are also big here, and only 68% of commuters actually drive to work alone, ten percentage points below the national average.