Transportation Economic Trends
Household Spending on Transportation:
Average Household Spending
The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) is the only Federal survey that contains information on the complete range of expenditures for individual households, including transportation, along with select demographic, geographic, and socio-economic characteristics. This page presents average household spending from the CE. Data and discussion on total national household spending on transportation also available.
- Households spent an average of $10,742 on transportation in 2019—the second largest household expenditure category after housing when spending on behalf of households, such as healthcare benefits, is excluded. This expenditure has increased more slowly than housing, food, and health expenditures.
- In 2019 rural households spent more on transportation than urban households (22.5 and 16.7 percent of total expenditures, respectively).
- Households in the bottom fifth spent more of their after tax income on transportation than those in the top fifth (37.4 and 11.0 percent of total expenditures, respectively).
Average Household Transportation Expenditures: Consumer Expenditure Survey
The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE), administered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), measures individual household spending in the United States, including transportation. It counts out-of-pocket spending and does not count spending on behalf of households, e.g., healthcare payments by insurance companies. For this reason, transportation accounts for a larger portion of all household spending than in total national household spending.
Over time, transportation as a percent of all household spending has declined slightly.
Of the transportation items purchased, the average household devotes most of its transportation budget to purchasing, operating, and maintaining private vehicles (see table below).
Transportation Expenditures and Income
Households spend similar percentages on transportation across all income categories except for the bottom income quintile, or the bottom fifth of households by income. Higher income households spend more on transportation because they are more likely to own vehicles and own more of them.
Household Expenditures in Urban and Rural Areas
Rural households tend to spend more on transportation than urban households in part because rural households have higher rates of vehicle ownership.