According to Salary.com, the cost of fuel is a substantial percentage of income in many parts of the country. Until commute times get shorter or fuel efficiency increases, expect that percentage to increase as gas prices climb.
Americans are now paying an average of $2.81 per gallon to fuel the sedans, sports-cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks they depend on everyday to get to work. Commuting to and from work is all of a sudden having a substantial impact on the pocketbooks of the majority of American workers, with no end in sight.
At the current gas price level and average fuel economy of 17.8 miles/gallon, average American workers, who earn the national average salary of $40,409, spend 3.3% of their paychecks ($1,341 per year) on gas needed to commute to and from work. "And that's the average worker," says Bill Coleman, Senior VP of Compensation at Salary.com. "Consider workers making the national minimum wage of $5.15 an hour ($10,712 per year) who are currently spending 11.3% of their salary on commuting gas."
Of course, if the average car were a Prius or Civic Hybrid, which each get 40+ miles to the gallon, Americans would pay 1.5% of their salaries in fuel costs instead of 3.3%, a savings of around $730 per year.