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Places Where People Spend the Most on Transportation – 2019 Edition


The ease and affordability of mobility are important factors to weigh when you’re considering where you want to live. Whether you move from place to place in a car of your own, via public transportation or by bicycle or futuristic scooter, transportation is likely a critical part of daily life. How much you spend on your transportation, though, largely depends on where you live. Budgeting is important in order to sock away extra money in your savings account, so knowing how much you can expect to spend on getting the places you need to go – especially if you expect a lengthy commute – is key for calculating your expenses.

Below we rank the places in the U.S. where people spend the most on transportation. We considered 22 metro areas and looked at the following factors: average amount spent on transportation and average transportation spending as a percentage of total income. It’s important to note that if you’re making significantly more or less than the average income, this number could impact you differently compared to other people in the same area.

Key Findings

  • The South pays more. Six of the top 10 contenders in our study are in the South or the Southwest. As metro areas in these regions tend to be physically bigger than their compact northern counterparts – and offer fewer options for public transportation – this should come as no surprise to anyone who’s spent a sweltering summer south of the Mason-Dixon line.
  • Actual total cost is fairly consistent. Seven of the top 10 places in our study have total transportation costs of between $9,000 and $12,000 per year. The difference occurs when you factor in average annual incomes, which range from approximately $60,000 to approximately $96,000 per year.

1. Houston, TX

Houston, Texas ranks at the top of our list, with transportation eating up a Texas-sized chunk of residents’ income, at 15.24%. Houston’s average income isn’t particularly low, but its average transportation spending is very high. The average household there spends $12,232 on transportation costs, the second-highest amount in the top 10.

2. Tampa, FL

The weather is nice and the beach is nearby, but residents of Tampa, Florida on the Gulf Coast are going to end up spending a lot to get around. On average, Tampa denizens spend $8,307 on transportation, which is actually the smallest amount in our top 10. But a relatively low average income means that 13.77% of it is going toward transportation.

3. Phoenix, AZ

Residents in Phoenix, Arizona can expect to pay around 13.52% of their income on transportation. The average annual cost of transportation for residents here is $9,985.

4. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

The Texas metroplex Dallas-Fort Worth takes the fourth spot in our top 10. This is a sprawling community in which you might work in a different place than you live, which might contribute to the fact that people are spending 13.33% of their income on transportation.

5. St. Louis, MO

St. Louis, Missouri residents spend 13.08% of their income on transportation. That’s based on a total average spending of $9,958, the third-lowest average income in our top 10.

6. Atlanta, GA

Another place on our list in the Deep South, Atlanta, Georgia has relatively expensive transportation costs, with residents spending $11,747 a year on transportation on average, a full 13% of annual income.

7. Anchorage, AK

To traverse the roads in Anchorage, Alaska, the largest city in the Last Frontier, you can expect to pay $12,446. That’s the highest raw dollar total in our top 10, and it also represents almost 13% of the average person’s salary.

8. Detroit, MI

The first metro area in the North on our list is Detroit, Michigan. While transportation in the Motor City may be relatively inexpensive, annually you can expect to spend $10,426, which is 12.88% of the average income.

9. Los Angeles, CA

The traffic in Los Angeles, California is notorious, and transportation costs there are expensive too. On average, Los Angeles residents spend $9,741 of their income on transportation costs, which translates to 12.74%.

10. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, Maryland residents won’t be charmed by having to spend an average of $11,049 on transportation each year, approximately 12% of their income.

Data and Methodology

In order find the places where people spend the most on transportation, we looked at data for 22 metro areas included in the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey. Specifically, we looked at data for the following metrics:

  • Average transportation spending. This is the annual amount that the average household spends on transportation (including vehicle expenses, gasoline, and public transportation). Data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey.
  • Average household income. This is the annual average household income. Data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

We divided the average transportation spending in each metro area by the average household income in that area. The result represents the average transportation spending as a percentage of total income. We ranked the places according to those percentages, from highest to lowest.

Tips for Improving Your Savings Rate

  • Talk to an expert. Getting help is the most important step for improving your financial situation. Find a financial advisor using SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and we match you with up to three advisors, all fully vetted and free of disclosures. You talk to each advisor, ask questions and move forward after considering your options.
  • Design a budget and stick to it. A budget is key to financial success. Figure out what your budget should look like with SmartAsset’s free budget calculator.

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