Transportation Economic Trends

Household Spending on Transportation:

Transportation Economic Concepts


This page highlights transportation economic concepts related to household spending on transportation.

Data Sources on Household Spending on Transportation | Per-mile Vehicle Expenses

What Are the Major Data Sources Measuring Household Spending on Transportation?


Personal Consumption Expenditures

Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), measures total national household spending on goods and services. It measures total household spending on durable goods, such as vehicles; nondurable goods, such as fuel; and services, such as for-hire transportation. PCE also measures total national transportation spending by governments, employers, and other organizations on behalf of households—for example, employee transit subsidies. BEA produces PCE using data from a range of sources, including trade organizations, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

PCE measures total national spending only; it does not measure differences in household spending by income or social group.

Level of detail: total national expenditures made by household

Consumer Expenditure Survey

The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE), administered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), measures individual household spending in the United States. The CE is a nationally representative sample of households providing detailed information on expenditures, income, and household characteristics. The CE does not include expenditures made on behalf of households, such as healthcare premiums paid by businesses and housing assistance from nonprofits and the government. As a result, healthcare and housing expenditures are smaller and account for a smaller share of total expenditures than measured by Personal Consumption Expenditures.
The CE is the only Federal survey that contains information on the complete range of expenditures for individual households, including transportation.
The CE often is used to measure transportation cost burden.
Level of detail: average annual household expenditures with demographic, socio-economic, and geographic detail.

What Data Sources Measure Per Vehicle-Mile Expenses?

The American Automobile Association (AAA) publishes per-mile vehicle operating cost estimates in Your Driving Costs. To calculate the costs, AAA estimates annual costs using estimated driving costs for nine vehicle types (small, medium, and large sedans; small and medium sport utility vehicles; minivans; pickup trucks; hybrid and electric cars) weighted by sales. AAA revised its methodology for estimating costs and added new vehicle types in 2017; as a result, estimates from previous years are not comparable. AAA’s estimates assume that drivers drive 15,000 miles a year and trade in vehicles after 5 years. Fixed costs include depreciation, insurance, licensing, registration, taxes, and finance charges. Operating costs include fuel, tires, maintenance, and repair. AAA’s per-mile vehicle expenses are different from the Internal Revenue Service standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes. Beginning January 1, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) is:

•   58 cents per mile driven for business use (up 3.5 cents from the rate for 2018),
•   20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 2 cents from the rate for 2018, and
•   14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.


Recommended citation
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at www.bts.gov/product/transportation-economic-trends.



The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multimodal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation.
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