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Gasoline price per gallon reaches record high in Missouri, but what about price per mile?

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 10:03 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The average price of gasoline in Missouri hit an all-time high on Wednesday and it’s almost there in Kansas. But, it might not be as bad as it seems.

Sure, the price per gallon is higher now. But, so is average income and cars get a lot more miles per gallon. Consider those things and some economists say it’s not as bad now as it was decades ago.

The record price isn’t keeping the Westport QuikTrip any less busy. But, it did have some steaming.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Ashlee Middlebrook. “But, unfortunately, it’s something that we have to live with.”

Sitting across the street at Andy’s Custard, the Stewart family was also taking a break from the heat. They just moved back from several years living in Italy, where gas costs a lot more. So, they feel like they’re saving.

“I’m grateful that we have good jobs,” said family matriarch Jessica Stewart. “When we think about how much we make now compared to what people used to make, it probably evens out.”

MarketWatch writer and economist Rex Nutting wrote in March about keeping the headlines in perspective. As he explained it, 90 degrees in 1980 feels the same as 90 degrees today. However, the value of a dollar has changed. The typical income has gone up. And, that’s not the only factor; improved fuel efficiency means a gallon takes most people farther.

He adjusted the price per gallon to 2022 dollars then figured in changes in mpg for vehicles on the road to calculate cost per mile from 1980 to today. The price per gallon would need to jump to almost $7 per gallon, he wrote, for it to rise to the 1980 and 1981 (national) price of 30 cents per mile.

It makes perfect sense to Jessica Stewart.

“I think it’s easy to look at the number and be alarmed at first but, in reality, I don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be,” Stewart said.

Then again, data based on “typical” or average is one thing. Making ends meet is another.

“I mean, rent has gone up,” said Middlebrook. “So, I bought a bicycle so that I can go back and forth to work and home, so I don’t have to drive my truck,”

A website called InflationData.com looked solely at price per gallon since 1918. Besides 1918, when gasoline production was just starting, the highest national average was in 2012. That price was just a penny off from the national average now. However, that doesn’t figure in a yearly average and not the highest price of each year. Also, it does not consider the fuel efficiency piece to calculate price per mile.

AAA reports the current average price per gallon on Wednesday, May 11 this year as follows:

  • United States: $4.404
  • Missouri: $3.985
  • Kansas City Metro (MO side): $3.933

The lowest price per gallon in February 2022 dollars, according to inflationdata.com, was in 1998 at $1.77 per gallon.