Transportation Economic Trends

Household Spending on Transportation:

Average Household Spending

The Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) program 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 are also available.
2021 Year-in-Review
  • Households spent an average of $10,961 on transportation in 2021—the second largest household expenditure category after housing when spending on behalf of households, such as healthcare benefits, is excluded. Transportation expenditures grew by the third largest amount (11.6 percent) from 2020 to 2021, behind apparel and services (22.3 percent) and food (13.4 percent).
  • Households in the lowest income quintile spent the least on transportation ($4,273 vs $19,204 by households in the highest income quintile) but faced a larger transportation cost burden, spending 26.9 percent of their after-tax income on transportation compared to 10.4 percent by the highest income quintile in 2021.
  • Rural households spent more on transportation ($13,665) and experienced a higher transportation cost burden (17.3 percent) than urban households ($10,362 and 13.2 percent, respectively) in 2021.

Average Household Transportation Expenditures: Consumer Expenditure Survey
The 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 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.

Average Household Expenditures | Household Expenditures by Income Level | Household Expenditures in Urban and Rural Areas
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.

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Recommended citation
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at

Bureau of Transportation Statistics
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.