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Cost of gas the year you started driving

  • Cost of gas the year you started driving
    1/ The Library of Congress // Flickr

    Cost of gas the year you started driving

    Since the introduction of Henry Ford’s Model T in the early 20th century, cars and driving have become synonymous with American industry and culture. With more than 800 cars on the road for every 1,000 Americans, according to the World Health Organisation’s Global Status Report on Road Safety in 2015, our wheels have become more than just a way to get from A to B—they're a way to shape and define our identity.

    Gasoline prices have been relatively reasonable as of late, but it wasn’t long ago that Americans were trading in their H2 Hummers to avoid paying exorbitantly high gas prices, let alone waiting in line for hours at the pump in times of severe shortages. But for nearly every mile driven, American consumers find themselves inextricably linked to a complex global commodity that can have a major impact on the cost of cruising: fuel. An increase in demand for oil in developing economies alongside an expansion in production from countries (like the U.S.) that once imported most of their oil, led to a sharp drop in oil prices that’s largely held through today. But back during the Arab-Israeli War in 1973, Arab oil manufacturers banned exports to the U.S. due to their support of Israel, leading to a gas shortage and sky-high prices. Most of the time, both the highs and the lows are out of drivers’ hands.

    So how has the price of gas changed throughout the years? To see when fuel was dirt cheap, Stacker ran the numbers on the cost of a gallon of gas throughout the last 82 years. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we analyzed the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline from 1976–2018 along with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for unleaded regular gasoline from 1937–1976, including both the absolute and inflation-adjusted prices for each year.

    Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you first started driving.

    You may also like: Must-drive roads in every state

  • 1937
    2/ Reg Speller // Getty Images

    1937

    - Absolute gas price: $0.19
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.22 (#10 most expensive in 82-year span)

    After President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, the economic state of the country seemed hopeful: Americans were beginning to emerge from the financial wreckage of the Great Depression, and unemployment rates dropped more than 10% in just a few years. In 1937, the nation was hit by yet another period of economic downturn, during which unemployment spiked once more. A number of federal economic decisions, such as switching to a contractionary monetary policy, impacted inflation and led to relatively high gas prices.

  • 1938
    3/ FPG // Getty Images

    1938

    - Absolute gas price: $0.18
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.18 (#13 most expensive in 82-year span)

    In an effort to protect smaller gas station operators from the aggressive pricing of bigger companies, the state of New Jersey instituted a law in 1938 that prevented gas stations from raising prices more than once a day. In 2005, this law was put to the test when civil action was taken against 20 gas stations for doing exactly that. 1938 also brought about a recovery of the economic downturn that had begun in 1937.

  • 1939
    4/ Fox Photos // Getty Images

    1939

    - Absolute gas price: $0.17
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.95 (#16 most expensive in 82-year span)

    1939 marked the official end of the Great Depression, and therefore the beginning of America’s return to a more stable economy. This year also marked the beginning of World War II; entering the war two years later, though devastating, would greatly invigorate the American economy and workforce. Gas prices began to drop at this time, as the US teetered on the edge of a period of revitalization.

  • 1940
    5/ Hulton Archive // Getty Images

    1940

    - Absolute gas price: $0.16
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.69 (#28 most expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1940, development in the world of automobiles changed the American car permanently: the Oldsmobile became the first car to offer the Hydra-matic, at an additional cost of $57, illustrating a move away from manual driving. This early version of an automatic car offered no setting for “Park”; instead, the driver was supposed to put the car in reverse and then turn it off. Gas prices fell again this year, fairly substantially, and though the U.S. had not yet joined World War II, the nation was in a period of rearmament and providing aid to Great Britain.

  • 1941
    6/ Fox Photos // Getty Images

    1941

    - Absolute gas price: $0.17
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.67 (#31 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Between 1940 and 1941, absolute gas prices rose by a cent, but inflation-adjusted prices dropped by two cents. This is due to the fact that at this moment in history, inflation was rising faster than actual prices; in fact, the inflation rate in 1941 was nearly 10%. At the tail end of the year, the United States finally entered World War II, thereby igniting a shift in global politics and economics.

  • 1942
    7/ Everett Historical // Shutterstock

    1942

    - Absolute gas price: $0.18
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.66 (#32 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The United States was now a player in World War II, which meant the introduction of gas rationing. Gas rationing had little to do with a shortage; what the United States armed forces needed was rubber, so non-essential rubber usage (like car tires) had to go. In order to stop people from wearing out their tires and needing rubber that could have gone to military efforts, the U.S. decided to ration gas, limiting the number of gallons various driver classes could purchase per week.

  • 1943
    8/ George Marks // Getty Images

    1943

    - Absolute gas price: $0.19
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.54 (#36 least expensive in 82-year span)

    While World War II succeeded in reinvigorating the American economy, it also brought multiple industries to a complete stop. Over the course of the war, only 139 cars were produced in the United States. Instead of making cars, key players like Chrysler and General Motors were busy producing things like guns, tanks, and aircraft components. Therefore, the gas prices in 1943 applied only to American-made cars that were already in existence, as getting a new domestically produced set of wheels at this time was not an option.

  • 1944
    9/ Fox Photos Archive // Getty Images

    1944

    - Absolute gas price: $0.19
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.42 (#27 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Between 1943 and 1944, though the absolute price of gas remained steady at $0.19 a gallon, the inflation-adjusted price dropped by several cents. This has to do with a strengthening American economic state: the war necessitated such a high degree of productivity that real wages rose by 50% between 1939 and 1944, allowing Americans to save and spend more. The war created new industries, pulled women and African Americans into the workforce, increased overtime pay, and encouraged Americans to participate in their own economy from an ideological standpoint.

  • 1945
    10/ Keystone Features // Getty Images

    1945

    - Absolute gas price: $0.19
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.29 (#24 least expensive in 82-year span)

    After years of conflict and a global loss of 70 to 85 million lives, World War II came to an end. Consequently, the end of the war also brought about the end of gas rationing in August of 1945, as well as the removal of limitations on automobile production. Many automobile companies announced plans to expand their facilities, and begin producing at rates far higher than before the war in order to meet the pent-up demand of American consumers.

  • 1946
    11/ Carl Perutz // Getty Images

    1946

    - Absolute gas price: $0.19
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.22 (#20 least expensive in 82-year span)

    The postwar era brought both relief and complications for the automobile industry. Big names were ready to return to production and capitalize on an American public that suddenly had money to spend, but workers were also demanding more rights; an early 1946 steelworker strike brought production to a halt. Once matters were resolved (steel companies settled after pressure from President Truman), cars began to roll out, including new models from Ford and a Chrysler convertible.

  • 1947
    12/ FPG // Getty Images

    1947

    - Absolute gas price: $0.21
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.39 (#26 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Today, full-service gas stations have largely gone the way of drive-in movie theatres and travel agents: while they're not entirely gone, pumping your own gas is certainly a more common practice. The slow death of full-service gas stations began in 1947 when Los Angeles gas station operator Frank Ulrich advertised cheaper prices in exchange for customers pumping their own gas. It was a hit, with the tiny station selling hundreds of thousands of gallons in a single month. Within a few decades, self-serve gas was commonplace across the nation.

  • 1948
    13/ Keystone Features // Getty Images

    1948

    - Absolute gas price: $0.24
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.54 (#35 least expensive in 82-year span)

    1948 marked a monumental discovery in the world of oil, which would impact the ways in which the U.S. and the world received crude oil. In the early 1940s, American geologists working for Standard Oil of California were searching for oil in Saudi Arabia. They discovered a geological bend in a riverbed that indicated an underlying oil field. Further exploration was put on pause during the war, but in 1948, a test drill hit oil. This was the beginning of a series of discoveries about the Ghawar Field, which would turn out to be the largest oil field in the world.

  • 1949
    14/ Hulton Archive // Shutterstock

    1949

    - Absolute gas price: $0.25
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.63 (#36 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Petroleum, also known as crude oil, was found in underground reservoirs and used to make gasoline, and therefore the global price of crude oil began to directly impact the cost of gas. The United States both imported and exported petroleum, though for many years the nation imported far more than it exported. In 1949, the United States exported more petroleum products than it imported, making it a net exporter. This would not happen again until 2011.

  • 1950
    15/ Hulton Archive // Getty Images

    1950

    - Absolute gas price: $0.25
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.57 (#38 least expensive in 82-year span)

    The 1950s may conjure images of sock hops and “Leave It To Beaver”-esque viewing material, but nothing defines this decade more than its cars. In 1950, the automobile industry produced nearly 8 million vehicles and capitalized on popular features like the hardtop convertible. The automatic transmission also continued to grow in popularity, with an estimated 1.5 million automatic units sold in 1950.

  • 1951
    16/ George Marks // Getty Images

    1951

    - Absolute gas price: $0.26
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.45 (#28 least expensive in 82-year span)

    American gas and consumption reached an all-time high in 1951: the per capita consumption of gasoline was 295 gallons, and U.S. oil production hit 6.2 million barrels a day. While Americans consumed more oil, the U.S. did not always increase its production rate. In 2000, for example, oil production dropped to 5.8 million barrels a day. It would eventually rise again, and in May 2019, the United States hit a crude oil production average of more than 12 million barrels per day.

  • 1952
    17/ Evening Standard // Getty Images

    1952

    - Absolute gas price: $0.26
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.46 (#31 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In the 1950s, competition in gasoline retailing became an issue. Competitors would constantly drop prices in order to remain appealing to customers, winning over potential buyers with the promise of freebies, like car accessories. In Philadelphia, concern over the practice of competitive pricing reached such a scale that a faction of retail dealers asked the governor to look into some retailers' dishonest practices and initiate preventative legislation.

  • 1953
    18/ George Marks // Getty Images

    1953

    - Absolute gas price: $0.28
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.60 (#40 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The national average gas price in 1953 may have been $0.28 a gallon, but for those looking for a bargain, Omaha, Neb. was the place to be. Omaha native Lynn Folgate remembered getting gas that year (her first year driving) for the low price of $0.18 a gallon, according to recollections shared with the Rockford Register Star. Folgate also recalled that during her years as a “pump jockey,” people often purchased gas by demanding a specific gallon amount, rather than a dollar amount, perhaps as a relic from years of gas rationing.

  • 1954
    19/ Central Press // Getty Images

    1954

    - Absolute gas price: $0.28
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.63 (#37 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The U.S. experienced a slight recession between 1953 and 1954. In the wake of the Korean War, actions taken by the Federal Reserve and Treasury caused a rise in interest rates, leading to general pessimism towards the American economy. This brought upon a decrease in aggregate demand (the total demand for goods and services within the economy) and set in motion a three-quarter economic decline. Though the absolute gas price remained steady from 1953 to 1954, consumers overall spent less money during this time, and the GDP contracted 1.9% in the first quarter of 1954.

  • 1955
    20/ Three Lions // Getty Images

    1955

    - Absolute gas price: $0.29
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.70 (#26 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Smack in the middle of a thriving economy, and with more and more people relocating to the suburbs as a result of the baby boom, 1955 was a particularly fruitful year for the automotive industry. Close to 9 million cars were sold this year, and automobile manufacturers were experimenting with style and substance, introducing new technology in impressive designs. One of the most significant cars from this year was the Chevrolet Bel-Air, from Chevrolet's three “Tri-Five” series.

  • 1956
    21/ George Marks // Getty Images

    1956

    - Absolute gas price: $0.30
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.75 (#22 most expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1956, inflation-adjusted gas prices and absolute gas prices increased slightly from the previous year. As more people began living in suburbs outside of centralized industrial hubs, Americans began using more fuel—between 1955 and 1956, the average gallons per vehicle jumped from 761 to 771, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Americans were also beginning to get fewer miles per gallon, meaning they were likely spending more on gas overall.

  • 1957
    22/ Hulton Archive // Getty Images

    1957

    - Absolute gas price: $0.31
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.76 (#21 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The federal gasoline tax has remained at 18.4% since 1993 and exists with the intention of raising money to pay for infrastructure like roads and highways. The current structure of this tax dates back to 1957, when a system was set up to send all money made from the gasoline tax directly to the federal Highway Trust Fund. The general public expressed support for the idea of this tax being spent on things that would help them navigate their cities. Since then, that cash supply has been put towards other projects.

  • 1958
    23/ Keystone Features // Getty Images

    1958

    - Absolute gas price: $0.31
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.65 (#33 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The 1958 recession signaled the sharpest economic downturn during the generally prosperous era between World War II and the 1970s. Many industries were deeply affected during this time, with the automobile industry as a prime example. In fact, 1958 was the worst year for automotive workers since the industry-wide wartime halt a decade earlier. This period of economic distress lasted less than a year, but impacted unemployment, spending, and the strength of the dollar.

  • 1959
    24/ George Marks // Getty Images

    1959

    - Absolute gas price: $0.31
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.65 (#34 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Between 1958 and 1959, neither the absolute price nor the inflation-adjusted price of gas shifted, remaining steady at $0.31 and $2.65, respectively. However, there was a shift in America's attitude towards oil at this time. President Eisenhower introduced the Mandatory Oil Import Program, placing restrictions on the amount of oil that could be imported into the United States. His reasoning was based on national security concerns and a desire to prevent America from becoming too reliant on other nations for energy.

  • 1960
    25/ Ber Belis // Getty Images

    1960

    - Absolute gas price: $0.32
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.69 (#29 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Throughout the 1960s, new cars continued to blend exciting new technology with increasingly sleek design. Style was moving away from the 1950s “bigger is better” mentality, and towards a pared-down but intensely powerful world of automobiles. Muscle cars, which originated in this decade, are a perfect example of this new ideal. Additionally, 1960 marked the founding year of OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), made up of the world's biggest oil producers. This force exerted its power over oil and gasoline prices for the United States and the rest of the world.

  • 1961
    26/ Douglas Grundy // Getty Images

    1961

    - Absolute gas price: $0.32
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.64 (#35 most expensive in 82-year span)

    In January of 1961, John F. Kennedy took office as the 35th president of the United States. This marked the tail-end of a short recession, which led to a period of immense economic expansion (the longest in history up to that point), lasting until 1969. The year ended with a moderate 6 million or so cars sold. Some cars that were introduced in 1960 include the Mazda B Series, the Fiat 2300, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass.

  • 1962
    27/ John Lloyd // Flickr

    1962

    - Absolute gas price: $0.32
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.62 (#38 most expensive in 82-year span)

    There was no change in the absolute price of gas between 1961 and 1962, and the inflation-adjusted price dropped by just by two cents. The world was shaken on Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated during a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Though experts agree that Kennedy's economic legacy is complicated—his tax cuts remain a popular point of discussion on that front—he certainly presided over a period of immense economic prosperity in the United States, leading to low unemployment rates even after his death.

  • 1963
    28/ Pixabay

    1963

    - Absolute gas price: $0.32
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.59 (#41 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The 1960s were not necessarily a time of great environmental concern or awareness, but Americans were starting to take notice of factories and cars negatively impacting air quality. In 1963, the Clean Air Act was officially passed. This legislation allowed for the creation of a program that researched methods of controlling air pollution, in an attempt to control current levels.

  • 1964
    29/ Rob // Flickr

    1964

    - Absolute gas price: $0.32
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.54 (#34 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1964, the median income for American families was $6,600 a year. This marked a strong year for consumers—this median income was 5% higher than it had been in 1963, and more than double what it had been in 1947. Absolute gas prices once again remained steady at $0.32 per gallon, meaning that at this time, a gallon of gas made up a slightly smaller percentage of a person's total income than it did in 2018.

  • 1965
    30/ Harry Bensen // Getty Images

    1965

    - Absolute gas price: $0.33
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.62 (#39 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The Clean Air Act of 1963 was an important move in the direction of environmental awareness, and the 1965 amendments to this law specifically targeted automobile emissions. The amendments, known as the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act, prioritized setting specific standards for car emissions, beginning with 1968 car models. The amendments also raised awareness and promoted research on how pollution in the United States could impact air quality in Mexico and Canada.

  • 1966
    31/ Archive Photos // Getty Images

    1966

    - Absolute gas price: $0.34
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.58 (#41 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Few cars can sum up the automobile style preferences of the 1960s like the Ford Mustang. Beginning with the Mustang I, a two-seater that prioritized style over substance, the car eventually morphed into its 1966 identity: often a red convertible with all the flair of the popular muscle car ideal. In 1966, Ford sold approximately 500,000 Mustangs Coupes, making it one of the most popular and lasting models the brand ever produced.

  • 1967
    32/ Tadson Bussey // Flickr

    1967

    - Absolute gas price: $0.35
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.58 (#40 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1967, the United States was in the midst of the Vietnam War. By this point, the U.S. troop count in Vietnam was nearing half a million, casualties were rising on both sides, and American anti-war sentiments were becoming increasingly prevalent. Elsewhere in the world, the scene was being set for the 1973 oil crisis, during which gas shortages plagued America, as major global oil suppliers like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait temporarily banned shipments. This came in response to the Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, which occurred in 1967. Use of oil as a tactical playing card in this way is referred to as the “oil” weapon.

  • 1968
    33/ Hulton Archive // Getty Images

    1968

    - Absolute gas price: $0.35
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.51 (#33 least expensive in 82-year span)

    There might be no more picturesque image than sitting behind the wheel of a Mustang California Special, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with the wind in your hair, perhaps on your way to grab a 50-cent hamburger—because it's 1968. The Ford Mustang California Special coupe was produced in a limited run (only about 4,000 were sold) and sold primarily in California in the 1968 auto year. This car is a strong example of 1960s style and the West Coast glamour that was idealized at the time.

  • 1969
    34/ Three Lions // Getty Images

    1969

    - Absolute gas price: $0.36
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.46 (#30 least expensive in 82-year span)

    At the end of Richard Nixon's first year as president in December of 1969, unemployment had fallen to 3.5% (a low that has yet to be matched), and inflation was at 6.2%. Because of this, prices generally rose, even as overall spending remained about the same. This may have contributed to gas prices rising a cent from 1968, from $0.35 to $0.36 per gallon.

  • 1970
    35/ Keystone Features // Getty Images

    1970

    - Absolute gas price: $0.36
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.35 (#25 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Despite past political efforts, by the early 1970s the United States had developed a reliance on imported oil. Technological advances meant that more oil and gasoline than ever before was required to maintain daily life, but the U.S. was producing less and less oil domestically. This would ultimately develop into the 1973 oil crisis. The economy also took an overall hit this year—GDP growth was only 0.2%, down a substantial amount from the year prior, and inflation continued.

  • 1971
    36/ David Falconer // Wikimedia Commons

    1971

    - Absolute gas price: $0.37
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.26 (#22 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Gas prices climbed in 1971, as did taxes, due to inflation and general economic instability. The situation became so dire that President Nixon issued a 90-day freeze on all prices and wages in the nation. He demanded that everyone, from the individual to the corporation, cooperate voluntarily. The freeze brought about mixed reactions, and though it did initially inject some much-needed life back into the stock market, the success was short-lived.

  • 1972
    37/ The Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

    1972

    - Absolute gas price: $0.37
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.22 (#19 least expensive in 82-year span)

    The 1973 gas crisis caused widespread panic and national gasoline shortages. This event caught most by surprise, but not Steward Udall, a writer for The Atlantic who predicted the crisis in 1972. Udall was convinced that insufficient American oil production, coupled with an unstable market in the Middle East would prove problematic, and wrote that “the impact of these tremors can already be anticipated.”

  • 1973
    38/ The U.S. National Archives // Flickr

    1973

    - Absolute gas price: $0.41
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.29 (#23 least expensive in 82-year span)

    The most famous historic event to do with gasoline and gas prices, the 1973 oil crisis began when the members of OPEC declared an embargo against nations that had supported, or appeared to support, Israel during the Arab-Israeli war earlier that year. This embargo meant that the United States, which had become extremely reliant on foreign oil, suddenly faced gasoline shortages. In response, gas prices soared, and lines at gas stations got longer. The impact of this crisis ultimately stretched far beyond availability; in fact, the crisis shifted the balance of global politics and forced America to take a position in the Middle East in order to end the embargo.

  • 1974
    39/ David Falconer // Wikimedia Commons

    1974

    - Absolute gas price: $0.55
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.79 (#19 most expensive in 82-year span)

    When 1974 began, the United States was still very much in the midst of the oil crisis that had begun the previous year as retaliation against nations that OPEC believed supported Israel. This was accompanied by a stock market crash that lasted throughout 1973 and 1974, and gas prices continued to skyrocket. In some states, license plates ending with odd or even numbers could fill up only on certain days. Eventually, negotiations resulted in Israel withdrawing its troops from the Suez Canal in exchange for lifting the embargo.

  • 1975
    40/ Lyntha Scott Eiler // Wikimedia Commons

    1975

    - Absolute gas price: $0.59
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.74 (#23 most expensive in 82-year span)

    By 1975, the public was scarred and suspicious; two years of waking up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for gasoline had taken its toll on morale, and gas prices increased once again. Along with changes in price, however, came changes with how money was spent. Throughout the 1970s, the credit card was gaining popularity, and women were beginning to demand equal rights in the realm of credit and finances. In fact, a year after the Senate passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a bank opened that was geared specifically toward women.

  • 1976
    41/ Everett Collection // Shutterstock

    1976

    - Absolute gas price: $0.61
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.69 (#30 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Absolute gas prices rose by two cents between 1975 and 1976, though inflation began to slow down around this time. The inflation adjusted price dropped by five cents between the two years. Though the oil embargo that had caused gasoline shortages had been lifted, the United States now faced another energy crisis: a natural gas shortage that resulted in layoffs in the automobile industry. Businesses and homeowners alike struggled to function and stay warm as winter approached.

  • 1977
    42/ The Library of Congress // Flickr

    1977

    - Absolute gas price: $0.66
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.70 (#27 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Unemployment in 1976 had reached 7.7%, and President Jimmy Carter inherited a nation that was still in recovery from years of oil shortages, inflation, and general economic instability. Gas prices jumped up again this year, from $0.61 in 1976 to $0.66 in 1977, but the economy did prosper during Carter's first year in office, and unemployment rates fell for the two ensuing years.

  • 1978
    43/ Orange County Archives // Flickr

    1978

    - Absolute gas price: $0.67
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.57 (#37 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Just a few years after the 1973 oil shock, a second crisis reared its head. Consumer inflation was steadily increasing, and though the Federal Reserve tried to combat this issue, it proved ineffective—prices were about to jump once more. The worst of the crisis would occur the following year, and the beginning of the Iranian Revolution helped set the stage.

  • 1979
    44/ Warren K. Leffler // Wikimedia Commons

    1979

    - Absolute gas price: $0.90
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.10 (#15 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The Iranian Revolution began in January 1978, disrupting the country's oil exportation process. Availability dropped as a consequence, but in reality, Iranian oil exportation only dropped by a small percentage. Nevertheless, the panic was enough to send gas prices around the globe skyrocketing once again. America was, for the second time in a decade, faced with high prices, long waits at the gas station, and extreme inflation. In November, the global situation worsened as the 444-day Iranian hostage crisis began.

  • 1980
    45/ The Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

    1980

    - Absolute gas price: $1.25
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.77 (#6 most expensive in 82-year span)

    After the oil crisis of 1979, gas prices surged once more in 1980, jumping from $0.90 to $1.25 per gallon as global oil prices peaked. Jimmy Carter's presidency was marked by inflation, gas shortages, and international crises, and despite his 1979 “crisis of confidence” speech, Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan.

  • 1981
    46/ Don Emmert // Getty Images

    1981

    - Absolute gas price: $1.38
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.78 (#4 most expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1981, the oil and gasoline panic gave way to a glut, though as the New York Times cautioned, the idea of a “glut” was a “dangerous and costly illusion.” There wasn't more oil, simply a change in demand for the product. High prices meant that demand and consumer interest had fallen, and this lack of demand created a global surplus in the oil market. Additionally, the Reagan administration effectively deregulated the oil market. Suppliers were suddenly more eager to sell, as higher interest rates increased the cost of keeping large amounts of stock. Though prices rose again in 1981, they were moving closer to pre-crisis numbers.

  • 1982
    47/ RickDikeman // Wikimedia Commons

    1982

    - Absolute gas price: $1.30
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.35 (#9 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The automobile industry struggled throughout the 1980s, and one unlucky victim of this hardship was the DeLorean. Made iconic by its role in the “Back to the Future” franchise, the Delorean was already famous due to the lavish legacy of its founder, John Z. DeLorean. In October of 1982, however, DeLorean shuttered its doors. Perhaps the option of a 24-karat gold-plated DeLorean, retailing at $85,000, simply didn't have enough mass market appeal.

  • 1983
    48/ Minesweeper // Wikimedia Commons

    1983

    - Absolute gas price: $1.24
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.11 (#14 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Gas prices still hovered at levels far above their pre-crisis numbers in 1983. Just five years prior, gas was $0.67, almost half the price in 1983. The “oil glut” of the 1980s was causing prices to drop to the point where major oil suppliers marked down their crude oil to as little as $5 a barrel. This came in sharp contrast to the globally jacked-up oil prices of just a few years prior, but since demand for gasoline had fallen so sharply, oil suppliers were forced to slash prices.

  • 1984
    49/ Ken Lund // Flickr

    1984

    - Absolute gas price: $1.21
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.91 (#18 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Between the 1960s and the 1980s, global awareness of the fossil fuel industry's impact on the environment grew rapidly. A 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara garnered public condemnation of offshore drilling, and in the early '80s, Congress banned new offshore drilling in most parts of the country's coastal waters. However, offshore drilling continues in areas of the Gulf of Mexico, and as regulations shift, this practice makes up a higher and higher percentage of the United States' total oil production.

  • 1985
    50/ Pixabay

    1985

    - Absolute gas price: $1.20
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.79 (#20 most expensive in 82-year span)

    As environmental awareness and concern began to take root, the government turned its attention towards the automobile industry with regards to fuel economy standards. In 1975, Congress introduced the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which set standards intended to double the average car's fuel economy by model year 1985. As a result, the average mileage in a passenger vehicle jumped from 13.5 miles per gallon in 1975 to 27.5 miles per gallon a decade later. Light truck fuel economy also increased, and many Americans paid less for gas in total (even though prices per gallon were still fairly high at $1.20).

  • 1986
    51/ The Library of Congress // Flickr

    1986

    - Absolute gas price: $0.93
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.11 (#15 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Oil prices collapsed in 1986, as Saudi Arabia changed course in its approach to the oil market. Rather than drumming up prices as it had in the past, it increased production in an attempt to dominate its share of the global market. Oil prices were plummeting and had fallen by 70% since 1983. Gas prices had dropped nearly $0.30 from the year prior, with a sweeping impact on the American economy and job market. The oil and gas extraction industry lost 150,000 jobs over the course of the year.

  • 1987
    52/ Eric Chan // Wikimedia Commons

    1987

    - Absolute gas price: $0.95
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.08 (#13 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Heading into 1987, many feared lasting damage as a result of the oil price collapse. However, in December of 1986, several OPEC members agreed to cut production, thereby raising prices. The cuts would bring OPEC oil prices up to $18 per barrel, and in 1987, gas prices began to stabilize. OPEC had previously used a fixed-price system of this kind, the abandonment of which had been an attempt to dominate the world market, but led to plummeting gas prices.

  • 1988
    53/ peterolthof // Flickr

    1988

    - Absolute gas price: $0.95
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.00 (#10 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1988, OPEC leaders met once again to discuss oil production limits, which had previously been established as 16.6 million barrels per day. Bringing production down to this level was intended to raise prices globally and meet a benchmark oil price of $18 per barrel. With these cuts and limitations in place, gasoline prices in 1988 matched those of 1987, signaling that the falling prices had come to an end.

  • 1989
    54/ Joehawkins // Wikimedia Commons

    1989

    - Absolute gas price: $1.02
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.06 (#12 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Though not exactly a time of prosperity for the automobile industry, 1989 brought about two important additions to the American world of cars. The Lexus LS 400, born from Japanese car giant Toyota, launched this year, and changed the world of luxury cars forever. On an episode of “Top Gear,” the model was described as “petrifyingly good.” This wasn't the only way in which Japan solidified itself as a key player in the American luxury car industry: Nissan also introduced the Infiniti this year

  • 1990
    55/ Steve Morgan // Wikimedia Commons

    1990

    - Absolute gas price: $1.16
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.22 (#18 least expensive in 82-year span)

    The first federal gasoline tax, of $0.01 a gallon, was put into place in 1932. The gas tax was always intended to create revenue to be used towards new infrastructure, but in 1990, that changed. Congress approved a package in which the gas tax would be raised from $0.091 to $0.14 a gallon, but half of the additional revenue created would be put toward reducing the national deficit. Some experts believe this permanently altered public attitude towards the gas tax. Instead of seeing it as a necessary and even helpful price for maintaining roads, it had transformed into a federal cash pot.

  • 1991
    56/ Infrogmation of New Orleans // Wikimedia Commons

    1991

    - Absolute gas price: $1.14
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.09 (#14 least expensive in 82-year span)

    At the start of 1991, the United States was still in the midst of the Gulf War, which had begun in August of 1990 when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait. This Iraqi invasion caused a decrease in oil production, leading to a spike in oil prices keenly felt by a country in recession. The average price of gasoline in 1991 remained fairly inflated at $1.14 per gallon.

  • 1992
    57/ Ed Schipul // Flickr

    1992

    - Absolute gas price: $1.13
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.00 (#9 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in the presidential election. A factor politicians often point to in terms of the victory was a rising unemployment rate. Though gas prices also spiked under Bush's watch, they were on the decline by the election. Clinton used the previous recession as a means for painting Bush's economic strategies as problematic, and famously had the phrase “the economy, stupid” scrawled on a campaign headquarters whiteboard as a reminder of how much Americans cared about this issue.

  • 1993
    58/ Phillip Capper // Flickr

    1993

    - Absolute gas price: $1.11
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.91 (#6 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Throughout 1992, 10 million Americans were unemployed, the poverty rate hit 15.1%, and inflation was still impacting family income. As a response, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore launched an economic strategy that slowly began to shift the economy forward. This strategy involved eliminating the deficit, prioritizing education as a means for creating American jobs, and opening foreign markets.

  • 1994
    59/ Daniel Case // Wikimedia Commons

    1994

    - Absolute gas price: $1.11
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.87 (#3 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Gas prices remained steady from 1993 to 1994, hovering at $1.11 per gallon. Some of the most popular cars for that model year included the 1994 Lexus SC, the Cadillac DeVille, and the BMW 3 Series. This same year, the introduction of NAFTA changed the way that cars would be produced. Because of NAFTA, the United States is able to trade freely with Canada and Mexico, and Mexico has since become a key player in automobile manufacturing.

  • 1995
    60/ Daniel Case // Wikimedia Commons

    1995

    - Absolute gas price: $1.15
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.88 (#5 least expensive in 82-year span)

    The '90s were a time of economic prosperity, job growth, and increased productivity that paved the way for a technological revolution. Although some of this growth was due to political strategy, many factors could be considered “lucky mistakes” or unpredictable. For instance, Clinton's effort to reduce the deficit shouldn't necessarily have helped with unemployment rates, but it did. The reduction of the deficit aided in bank recapitalization, which pumped up the economy and reduced unemployment as well.

  • 1996
    61/ Phil Walter // Getty Images

    1996

    - Absolute gas price: $1.23
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.96 (#8 least expensive in 82-year span)

    From 1995 to 1996, gas prices jumped substantially, and some cities hit prices far above the national average. Some pumps in New York City spiked as high as $1.56 per gallon. Analysts blamed the price hikes on the rising costs of crude oil, which hit $25 a barrel in the spring, forcing those who refined crude oil into gasoline to bump up their prices as well. Higher prices were also caused by higher national demand for gasoline, which some believe resulted from increases in speed limits across the country.

  • 1997
    62/ The Josh // Wikimedia Commons

    1997

    - Absolute gas price: $1.23
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.92 (#7 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1997, a one-day gas boycott brought down prices by 30 cents per gallon overnight—or at least, so says a 2012 Facebook post that received wide circulation as it called for a similar boycott. When officials from various agencies looked into this claim, however, they found no federal records or news archives in reference to a 1997 “gas out.” In truth, gas prices remained fairly steady throughout 1997 and matched average prices of the year prior, save for changes in inflation.

  • 1998
    63/ Coolcaesar // Wikimedia Commons

    1998

    - Absolute gas price: $1.06
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.62 (#1 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Gas prices fell substantially from 1997 to 1998, dropping from an average of $1.23 per gallon to just $1.06 per gallon, the lowest since the government began tracking gasoline prices. In some states, average costs fell below a dollar. These low prices were caused by the falling costs of crude oil, which was selling on the New York Mercantile Exchange for less than half of what it had been a year prior. While cheap gasoline is usually welcome news for consumers, the same can't be said for the oil industry. Some small oil producers were forced to shut down entirely, as bigger corporations faced layoffs and extreme cost-cutting measures.

  • 1999
    64/ Pixabay

    1999

    - Absolute gas price: $1.17
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.75 (#2 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 1998, gas prices hit an all-time low across the nation, and these prices continued into the early weeks and months of 1999. By the summer, prices were beginning to increase once again as oil production experienced cutbacks, and over a period of just two weeks, gas prices rose 58 cents on average at self-service pumps. By the end of the year, absolute gas prices averaged $1.17 per gallon, climbing back towards the averages of years prior.

  • 2000
    65/ Love's Travel Stops and Country Store // Wikimedia Commons

    2000

    - Absolute gas price: $1.51
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.19 (#17 least expensive in 82-year span)

    The fears of Y2K were mostly unfounded—though some computer glitches related to formatting and calendar data did arise. In the world of gasoline, prices climbed once again, hitting $1.51 per gallon on average. Gas costs dropped off again near the end of the year, as OPEC decided to increase daily crude oil production, upping the daily output by 800,000 barrels.

  • 2001
    66/ David McNew // Getty Images

    2001

    - Absolute gas price: $1.46
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.06 (#11 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Gasoline prices dropped again from 2000 to 2001 during the first year of the Bush administration, amidst increased oil production from OPEC. In California, for example, gas prices dropped eight times over the course of nine weeks. They had risen during the spring, as usual, but continued to fall throughout the summer. In July, gas prices around the nation hit a three-month low of $1.40, though California taxes meant that the state's average price was $1.78.

  • 2002
    67/ Franco Folini // Flickr

    2002

    - Absolute gas price: $1.36
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $1.88 (#4 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 2002, gasoline prices fell for the second year in a row, both times by 10 cents or more. At this time, the National Academy of Sciences was feeling hopeful about the future of energy-efficient cars and released a study that estimated cars and trucks could meet a fuel efficiency level of 37 miles per gallon within the following 10 to 15 years. The same study also showed that falling prices weren't the only thing causing Americans to save money at the pump: the country was saving 2.7 barrels of gasoline every day as a result of increasingly more fuel-efficient vehicles.

  • 2003
    68/ Justin Sullivan // Getty Images

    2003

    - Absolute gas price: $1.59
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.16 (#16 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Only a few cars achieve true fame—Doc's DeLorean and the Batmobile may come to mind—but the Hummer H2 must be counted among the most infamous cars ever produced. The Hummer H2 was released for the 2003 model year, and with a curb weight of more than 6,000 pounds, it was not a subtle choice. The car was designed and originally produced in a time when gasoline prices were so low that filling up the behemoth's extra-large tank was possible with breaking the bank. In 2003, however, gasoline prices were on the rise, and would soon reach levels that made owning an H2 a rather unsavory option.

  • 2004
    69/ Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine // Flickr

    2004

    - Absolute gas price: $1.88
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.48 (#32 least expensive in 82-year span)

    In 2004, the United States was recovering from a recession that took place during 2002 and 2003. Fuel costs hit what was then an all-time high, reaching $1.88 per gallon on average. Multiple factors played into this price increase, among them a higher American fuel demand and consumption, and low domestic oil inventories. Additionally, OPEC's continued production cuts only served to hike gas prices further.

  • 2005
    70/ PxHere

    2005

    - Absolute gas price: $2.30
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.93 (#17 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Gas costs surged in 2005—as much at one point as 20 cents in a period of just three weeks—and crude oil prices continued to increase as well. In August, crude oil hit $67 a barrel, instigating concern over whether the world's oil supply would be able to keep up with an ever-growing demand for fuel.

  • 2006
    71/ Tim Boyle // Getty Images

    2006

    - Absolute gas price: $2.59
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.20 (#11 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Crude oil and gasoline costs surged again in 2006, hitting an absolute price of $2.59 and an inflation-adjusted price of $3.20. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency was working to impose more stringent fuel restrictions, focusing specifically on combating sulfur levels in diesel fuel. Regulations demanding the use of low-sulfur diesel had been enacted in the '90s, but in 2006, the EPA began requiring ultra-low sulfur diesel, which contains only 15 parts per million.

  • 2007
    72/ Nachoman-au // Wikimedia Commons

    2007

    - Absolute gas price: $2.80
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.37 (#8 most expensive in 82-year span)

    In 2007, oil prices rose once again, and at the end of the year had hit $90 per barrel. This caused gasoline prices to rise as well, with an increase of about 8% from the year prior. Though they ultimately continued to surge, costs dropped ever so slightly near the end of 2007, which experts attributed to the combination of lower gasoline demand during winter months, and consumers becoming disillusioned with steep numbers at the pump.

  • 2008
    73/ Niagara // Wikimedia Commons

    2008

    - Absolute gas price: $3.27
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.79 (#3 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Over the course of 2008, oil prices hit both historic highs and lows: from July to December, oil prices dropped from approximately $147 to $33 per barrel, all while nations around the globe felt the effects of the Great Recession. Oil prices directly impacted gasoline prices, which peaked this year at $3.27 before dropping substantially. The combination of falling income and rising gasoline prices also led to a large decrease in the sale of SUVs, which spelled huge financial trouble for the oil and automobile industries.

  • 2009
    74/ Ian Poellet // Wikimedia Commons

    2009

    - Absolute gas price: $2.35
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.73 (#25 most expensive in 82-year span)

    By 2009, a combination of factors brought about the death of the Hummer as both a car and lifestyle brand. The previous year's high gasoline prices made the Hummer a very costly vehicle to drive, and attitudes towards SUVs were changing as citizens grappled with harsh environmental realities. With Hummer drivers experiencing increasing public shaming, Hummer sales dropped to 5,487 units for the year. Trouble was afoot elsewhere in the automotive industry: both General Motors and Chrysler were hit so hard by the recession that they required government bailouts.

  • 2010
    75/ Naotake Muruyama // Wikimedia Commons

    2010

    - Absolute gas price: $2.79
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.19 (#12 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Four years after “An Inconvenient Truth” detailed some of the potential lasting damage modern-scale fuel reliance could do, the automobile industry was getting in on the renewable energy game. In the wake of high gas prices, which would soon rise again, hybrid and electric vehicles began to hit the market. In 2010, the Department of Energy granted Tesla $465 million to develop electric cars at a California facility. That same year, Chevy released a plug-in hybrid, and Nissan released a 100% electric model called the LEAF.

  • 2011
    76/ Daniel Christensen // Wikimedia Commons

    2011

    - Absolute gas price: $3.53
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.91 (#2 most expensive in 82-year span)

    2011 was the first year in which average prices for both gasoline and diesel consistently stayed above $3 per gallon. These record highs can be attributed to inflated costs in the crude oil market, after the Obama administration and UN Security Council instigated a military intervention in Libya. Libya is one of the world's largest oil producers, and as a result, the nation's ability to produce and export oil was disrupted, causing price shocks throughout the global oil market.

  • 2012
    77/ Anthony92931 // Wikimedia Commons

    2012

    - Absolute gas price: $3.64
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.96 (#1 most expensive in 82-year span)

    In 2012, the national average price of gasoline was up $0.09 to a new high of $3.64 per gallon. The American Automobile Association offered a number of reasons for prices continuing to climb, including the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, among other costly storms, as well as continued tensions in the Middle East. Analysts noted, however, that despite high prices at gas stations, Americans were not necessarily spending more on gasoline overall, due to a large dip in total demand for the product.

  • 2013
    78/ Michael Rivera // Wikimedia Commons

    2013

    - Absolute gas price: $3.53
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.78 (#5 most expensive in 82-year span)

    After several years of dramatic jumps, gasoline prices fell slightly in 2013 to the same absolute price as 2011. A key reason for this movement towards lower prices was an increase in domestic oil production within the United States. In October of 2013, America produced more oil domestically than it imported from other nations. The United States had not produced more than it imported in nearly two decades, and this milestone came with an additional marker: the country had not imported so little crude oil since 1991.

  • 2014
    79/ Mike Mozart // Flickr

    2014

    - Absolute gas price: $3.37
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $3.55 (#7 most expensive in 82-year span)

    The average cost of gas in 2014 ultimately fell lower than it did in 2013, but not without a few sharp peaks along the way. In April, a time when gas prices tend to spike, the average price per gallon across the nation was $3.70, higher than it had been during the same month the previous year. The conflict in Iraq was a cause of these high prices, as ISIS seizing control of much of the country led to a disruption of Iraq's oil supply. After these summer spikes, many states would begin to see prices flatten or fall leading into the next year.

  • 2015
    80/ Tony Webster // Wikimedia Commons

    2015

    - Absolute gas price: $2.45
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.58 (#39 least expensive in 82-year span)

    By September of 2016, gas prices had fallen so much that only four states (California, Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii) maintained an average cost above $3 a gallon; in some states, the average gas price fell below $2. The falling prices can be partially attributed to the United States' rising domestic production, which typically would cause OPEC to limit its own production in order to drive up global oil demand. However, Saudi Arabia, the leader of OPEC, showed no signs of slowing and continued to export oil at its normal capacity, leading to a glut in the market and low prices at the pump.

  • 2016
    81/ SAUL LOEB // Getty Images

    2016

    - Absolute gas price: $2.14
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.23 (#21 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Gasoline prices continued to fall throughout 2015 and 2016, which, for most drivers, was only happy news. In fact, government officials estimated that the low cost of gas the previous year had saved drivers $100 billion. Some analysts pointed out that extremely low oil prices, leading to low gas prices, may be linked to concerning global trends, like slow growth in economic powerhouses like China. For the time being, however, consumers were happy with full tanks. The car industry saw its best year in a long time, with nearly 18 million units sold.

  • 2017
    82/ Michael Rivera // Wikimedia Commons

    2017

    - Absolute gas price: $2.41
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.46 (#29 least expensive in 82-year span)

    Crude oil makes up about half the price of a gallon of gas, so as crude oil prices began to creep back up in 2017, gasoline prices followed suit. Summer is typically a time for gas prices to rise, and the summer of 2017 was no different. This time, however, price hikes were due not just to the usual increase in demand, but to the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey, which hit the coast of Texas in August and caused more than $120 billion in damage. Texas is a key source of American oil, and the hurricane damaged oil refineries and crucial infrastructure, causing a rise in gasoline prices.

  • 2018
    83/ Joe Raedle // Getty Images

    2018

    - Absolute gas price: $2.56
    - Inflation-adjusted price: $2.74 (#24 most expensive in 82-year span)

    Many Americans may expect to spend out a little extra around Thanksgiving, but in 2018, higher than usual November gas prices meant that the holiday commute to your in-laws may have been even pricier. While these November pump prices were up four cents from the year prior, experts in the oil and gas industry noted that it was still a time of relatively low prices. They connected this to OPEC's 2014 decision not to institute production cuts, causing oil and gasoline prices around the world to fall.

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