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Gas Tax Too Expensive

November 26th, 2003 by

  • Raising the gas tax in New Jersey by 12.5 cents per gallon, as proposed by an independent commission this week, would cost the average driver of a mid-size Honda Accord an extra $72 per year, or about $6 per month.
  • It’s a minimal expense, compared with the choices many New Jersey drivers make that raise their driving costs.
  • Ownership of sports utility vehicles, typically the most expensive vehicles to drive, more than doubled in New Jersey between 1992 and 1997, the most recent years measured. New Jersey has one SUV for every 16 people.
  • The average driver of a Ford Explorer SUV pays $1,540 annually for gas, based on today’s average gas price. In contrast, the owner of a Honda Accord pays roughly half that amount, or $888 annually. The owner of Honda’s gas-electric Civic Hybrid pays less still, about $491 annually.

(Estimates are based on 15,000 miles annual travel, and manufacturer list miles-per-gallon/city driving for the Ford Explorer: 15 mpg, Honda Accord: 26 mpg, and Honda Civic Hybrid: 47 mpg. The average November gas price of $1.54 cents per gallon is from the AAA, SUV ownership is from the Census Bureau’s Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey)


A proposal to raise the gas tax by 12.5 cents per gallon would have a minimal impact on the drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles, and a large payoff for all drivers if the funds are used as proposed for the repair of today’s aging infrastructure and projects to alleviate heavy traffic.

In fact, by trading down to a mid-size car like the Accord, an Explorer owner could cover the $72 in additional gas taxes, and still pocket another $580 per year in gas savings. The Accord owner, if trading to a Civic Hybrid, would cover the additional $40 in gas tax while pocketing another $350 a year in gas savings.

Other options abound for reducing the cost of driving, and the consumption of fuel, including walking and biking. By driving just 24 fewer miles per week in their current vehicles, the drivers of the Explorer, Accord and Civic Hybrid could completely recoup their additional annual gas tax of $125, $72 and $40, respectively.

Critics who say raising the gas tax is too expensive should question the other options available for managing the costs of driving. Most important to consider is the state of New Jersey’s roads and bridges (many now reaching the end of their 50-year lifespan) and the funds available for repair. Perhaps the best question to ponder is whether it’s too expensive to NOT raise the gas tax

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