Fueling up in ND: State ranks high in estimates of gas spending

GRAND FORKS -- One of the only things Judy Korsmo didn't like about her weekday commute from Northwood to Grand Forks was the amount she spent on gas.

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Press Photo by April Baumgarten Drivers try to make their commute home via Third Avenue West during rush hour in Dickinson. North Dakotans spent an average of $1,207 on gas per vehicle annual, the fourth-highest in the country.

GRAND FORKS - One of the only things Judy Korsmo didn’t like about her weekday commute from Northwood to Grand Forks was the amount she spent on gas.
She bought a Toyota Avalon with 37 miles per gallon in an effort to save money, but still spends about $60 a week on gas. Still, she enjoys the relaxing 40-mile drive to and from work.
“It’s such a pleasant drive,” said Korsmo, who teaches at Ben Franklin Elementary School. “Until I get into Grand Forks, when there’s a little more traffic, I pretty much have 40 minutes of a very tranquil drive.”
Korsmo’s $60 a week on gas for about 10 months a year adds up to about $2,400, an example of why North Dakotans ranked high in an analysis of gasoline costs. The analysis from estimated North Dakotans spend an average of $1,207 annually per vehicle on gasoline, fourth-highest in the country.
The ranking can be explained by the large distances between attractions and population centers, gas prices, a tendency to drive larger vehicles and harsh winters, said Gene LaDoucer, an AAA spokesman based in Fargo.
Costs The Bankrate analysis was part of a study of individual car ownership by state, which included repair and insurance costs. The gasoline spending was analyzed using figures like average miles traveled and average gas prices, but not actual travel patterns, according to its author Chris Kahn.
Minnesotans spend on average $1,033 per vehicle on gas annually, according to Bankrate.
Wyoming residents led in gasoline costs with $1,588 per car annually, according to Bankrate, followed by Alabama and Mississippi.
The Associated Press reported the average American household spent more than $4,000 in gas in 2011.
LaDoucer wasn’t necessarily surprised by North Dakota’s high ranking, considering the rural nature of the state. North Dakota ranked sixth for its 12,248 highway vehicle miles traveled per capita in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
“A lot of people do a great deal of traveling to visit friends and family across the state,” he said. “If you want to drive to the lake or somewhere, driving 60 miles is something that occurs regularly.”
Idling cars in winter can also use up gas, LaDoucer said, and cold weather affects fuel economy. He added the state typically hovers around the national average in gas prices, and sometimes just above it.
Meanwhile, many Americans are spending more on gasoline and other essential items like groceries. According to a Gallup poll released this month, 58 percent of respondents reported spending more on gasoline or fuel than they did a year ago, while only 12 percent spent less.
“All of this suggests that the increasing cost of essential items is further constraining family budgets already hit hard by the Great Recession and still reeling from a stagnant economy,” Gallup stated.

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