What is the Average Miles Driven Per Year?
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What is the Average Miles Driven Per Year?

By Autolist Editorial | March 30, 2021

The current average miles driven per year sits at around 13,500. This is the highest number of annual miles Americans are driving than any other time in history. Of course, this is only average miles. Many factors affect the number of miles everyone drives, including their state of residence, age, and gender.

The number of average miles driven per year is a self-explanatory statistic: It is the number of miles that average Americans put on their vehicles on an annual basis. This information can come in handy in various circumstances.

Knowing annual miles driven per year can help make an informed used car purchase. It can influence which new or used car various populations can utilize best. It can even help most vehicle owners obtain a low-mileage discount from their insurance companies, depending on the stipulations.

The Demographics

When looking at the average annual miles driven per year, it is easiest to break up the licensed driver population into three separate categories: State of residence, age, and gender. The U.S. Department of Transportation tracks the information garnered from studying these people groups to follow individuals' driving habits and establish current and historical trends.

States with the Most Miles Driven

The most profound and perhaps most easily trackable demographic is annual miles driven per state of residence. There is a sizeable difference between the states with the fewest miles per year and the most. There is also an upward trend currently in average miles per year around the country.

Wyoming is the king of high-mileage drivers. Its residents drive an average of more than 20,000 miles per year. Trailing a bit behind Wyoming are Georgia, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Minnesota, with relatively small gaps between the four.

A clear trend emerges here: States that are more sparsely populated and relatively open require more driving. There are relatively few population centers in these states, and average drivers' commutes suffer as a result (with the exception of the Atlanta region in Georgia). It makes sense that Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, and Texas finish fifth through tenth place in annual average miles driven per year.

States with higher populations and more metropolitan areas like California, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts have much lower annual mileage numbers. Both Florida and New York fall under 12,000 average miles and California comes in well below 15,000 average miles.

Despite these comparably low averages, both Alaska and Arkansas bring the overall average down significantly. They both come in under 10,000 average miles driven annually. These states are both different from California and New York since they are not as populous. Still, the populations that exist are concentrated in smaller areas, driving down the necessity for lengthy commutes.

What Impact Does Age Have?

Age grouping is another significant factor in driving trends, in addition to average driven miles per year. Like state demographics, age demographics show somewhat expected results: Drivers aged 35 to 55 drive the most average miles per year than any other age group.

Close behind is the age group between 20 and 34. Again, this could be somewhat expected. These ages make up the majority of the working class that requires some commute. Falling behind this group are those aged fifty-five to sixty-four. Even though they are in the middle of age class, they drive an average of about 3500 miles less per year than the two top groups.

The 16 to 19-year-old age group and the 65 and over age group bookend everything and comprise the remaining population. Both contain nearly identical averages of around 7,700 miles driven per year, fewer miles than any other group.

Interestingly, studies from the Federal Highway Administration have found that the number of older drivers, particularly those over the age of sixty, has increased. Conversely, the overall number of teen drivers has increased in recent years, even though those who can obtain a driver's license have held off for longer than ever as well.

What Role Does Gender Play?

On average, when considering the age groups listed above, the U.S. Department of Transportation has found that men always drive more average annual miles than women. Gender is a more complex demographic to analyze, not because it cannot be tracked, but it coincides with the age group of any given driver.

Men between the age of 35 and 55 drive the most average miles per year at nearly 19,000 miles. This eclipses the average miles for women in the same age group by over 7,000 miles per year and surpasses the second-highest average miles per year group, men between 20 and 34 years old.

Among women, the highest average miles driven annually comes from the 20 to 34-year-old group at around 12,000 average miles. Even though men still drive more average miles per year, the closest grouping comes from 16 to 19-year-olds with a gap of only about 1,400 miles per year. Women 65 and older drive the least average miles per year.

All this data matters most when it comes to insurance rates. Men generally have higher insurance rates as a result of the FHWA data above, and the fact that women drive fewer average miles is usually a huge benefit.

History and Driving Trends

A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report found that, after a thirty-five-year decline in the number of teenagers obtaining driver's licenses, the trend is starting to reverse itself. The number of licensed teenage drivers has begun to increase again in the last five years.

Though the average driver's implications will likely be potentially rising insurance rates, this data could also signal a more robust economy. Conversely, the Federal Highway Administration analysis shows a sharp decline in sixteen-year-old drivers after 2009 when the most recent recession affected industries across the board.

From looking at each demographic and combining all factors into easily accessible data, both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the general population can see how the average American driver has behaved throughout history. Current trends can also be explored to extract data that has impacts even beyond average miles driving per year.

Driving and Insurance Companies

Paying for auto insurance is a painful yet necessary expense. Insurance companies lean heavily on driving data gathered by the U.S. Department of Transportation to determine several different things. In the case of average driven miles per year, insurance companies adjust their rates based on this number and the demographic the driver falls within.

As seen above, men generally drive more than women across the board. This means that men are more likely to have an accident, and as a result, men's car insurance rates are usually higher than women's rates. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that men are always worse drivers than women, but the statistics still show that men pose a greater overall risk on the road.

One good piece of news concerning auto insurance is that most major companies offer both safe driver and low-mileage discounts for those who qualify. Low-mileage discounts are highly variable among insurance companies, so it is always best to call your provider and ask for more information and how to qualify.

With all the events of 2020, many insurance companies lowered rates because of decreased driving miles across the board, and many more people qualified for low-mileage discounts.

Getting a Low-Mileage Discount

Qualifying for a low-mileage insurance discount varies from company to company. Currently, the average low-mileage discount equates to about 3% in policy savings. Much like the average annual driven miles varies from state to state, these discounts can vary from state to state as well. California, in particular, relies heavily on average yearly mileage since it is one of the largest determining factors among the state's insurers for setting rates. This translates to greater low-mileage discounts than the national average.

Even more significant discounts of up to 15% are achievable under the right circumstances and insurance company. Some even offer the possibility of vehicle tracking to set rates. With these devices, overall driving habits are monitored: Speed, average miles, stopping, and starting are all monitored and help determine rates. This can be particularly helpful with teen drivers since both insurance rates and premiums tend to be higher than adults.

Teens rarely get many breaks when it comes to auto insurance, which is why a vehicle tracker can help. An important factor in teen driver insurance rates is that teen drivers are typically a less safe demographic than other groups. The additional costs of teen driver insurance could be a significant factor in the overall decline of licensed teen drivers in the past decade.

Another indirect way to receive a low-mileage discount is to purchase a pay-as-you-drive insurance plan, similar to a pay-as-you-go cell phone plan. You are charged insurance rates based on the mileage you travel, rather than a flat rate you pay based on several other factors. Most major auto insurers such as Geico, Nationwide, and Allstate have started offering these plans as an alternative to conventional insurance policies.

Both vehicle tracking and pay-as-you-drive insurance policies can pay off even more than conventional low-mileage discounts. Still, suppose you do receive a low-mileage discount from a traditional policy. In that case, the discount will usually apply to the base policy price rather than the insurance premiums. There is also usually not an obvious place on a typical insurance statement that outlines these discounts. For more information on this, it is best to contact your agent.

Practical Implications

Beyond the fact that driving habits and trends contribute to insurance rates, another aspect of one's average vehicle miles traveled is what vehicle to purchase when the time comes.

Because Americans' average annual mileage is going up, people are looking for more fuel-efficient vehicles to get them where they need to go. Even with fuel costs currently being lower than the national average fuel cost at this time last year, saving at the pump is still essential.

Lower fuel prices and more efficient vehicles have allowed for longer commuting distances for those living outside of urban areas. After the recession at the beginning of the decade, families are also driving more for vacations and getaways. Both of these factors contribute to increases in average annual miles driven.

Buying a used vehicle with higher than average miles on the odometer is not always a wrong choice, but it can provide a much more informed decision concerning such an expense as a vehicle, especially if the buyer has a longer-than-normal commute or likes to travel.

Putting it All Together

These statistics are certainly interesting, but they have profound implications on the insurance industry, vehicle buyers, and even the government. The data is highly variable based on three main demographic groups and the combinations produced by combining the people groups to varying extents.

It shows that men drive many more miles per year than women across the board compared to their respective demographic groups. Seniors are driving more than ever. Teen drivers are once again increasing in number after years of decline following the recession at the beginning of the decade, high teen driver insurance rates, and increased gas prices.

The average miles driven per year will continue to increase if the current trends hold, thanks to lowering fuel costs and alternative insurance policies with low-mileage discounts. Fortunately, the availability of all this data can help buyers, commuters, parents, and newly-licensed teen drivers make more informed overall decisions concerning their driving habits.