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Every year, the number of cars on the road increases exponentially. Americans drive more and more miles. And the average miles driven per year by motorists in the United States is at an all-time high.

Think about it. Do you drive your car more miles per year than you used to? According to the statistics, the answer is categorical for the vast majority of Americans, regardless of their age, geographical location, economic status or gender. Most Americans are simply driving an increasing number of average miles driven per year. And, it’s affecting the way they’re buying cars.

“A few years ago, I changed jobs and my commute doubled,” says John, a 52-year old father of three that lives outside Cleveland, Ohio. “I now drive over 50 miles to and from work every day. Then we’re busy driving the kids around on the weekends.”

John quickly realized his lifestyle was out of sync with the terms of his new car lease. “Last year I drove over 15,000 miles. I was spending too much money on gas and I realized I was exceeding the mileage on my vehicle’s lease.”

John’s situation is rather typical. With the average miles driven per year increasing, many Americans need a more fuel-efficient car. Plus, it’s clear that the realities of modern life and travel have exceeded the mileage limits of many new car leases, which usually average 10,000 or 12,000 miles a year.

For many new-car shoppers, especially those with long work commutes like John, that’s just not enough. But there are high-mileage leases available, and one may be right for you. Here we hope to help you understand those lease terms and technicalities, and we’ll answer these important common questions.

What’s the National Average Miles Driven Per Year?

Curved Road with snowy background mountains

According to United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Americans now drive an average of 13,476 miles per year. That’s the most in history. Do the math and the average American drives well over 1,000 miles a month.

The FHWA goes so far as to break down its data by age as well as gender. Here are eight things you should know.

  1. On average, men in America drive much more than women, regardless of age. American males drive an average of 16,550 mile every year, while women only drive 10,142.
  2. Men between the ages of 35 and 54 drive the most, covering 18,858 miles every year.
  3. Women over 65 years old drive the least. They average just 4,785 miles a year.
  4. Men over 65 years old drive much more than female seniors. They average 10,404 miles a year.
  5. Young males also drive more than young women. Between the ages of 16 and 19, males drive an average of 8,206 miles every year, while women drive only 6,873.
  6. Those numbers jump between the ages of 20 and 34, which is when most Americans get their first real jobs and start commuting. Now males drive an average of 17,976 miles annually, and women drive 12,004 miles.
  7. That mileage gender gap widens between the ages of 35 and 54, when women drive 11,464 miles every year.
  8. Between the ages of 55 and 64, women drive far less than men, with an annual average of just 7,780 miles. Men in that age bracket average 15,859 miles a year.

The Department of Transportation also breaks down its average miles driven per year data by state. Interestingly, Alaskans drive the least, with an average of just 9,915 annual miles per licensed driver. Here’s a list of the 10 states people drive the most.

  1. Wyoming with an average of 21,821 miles
  2. Georgia with an average of 18,920 miles
  3. Oklahoma with an average of 18,891 miles
  4. New Mexico with an average of 18,369 miles
  5. Minnesota with an average of 17,887 miles
  6. Indiana with an average of 17,821 miles
  7. Mississippi with an average of 17,699 miles
  8. Missouri with an average of 17,396 miles
  9. Kentucky with an average of 17,370 miles
  10. Texas with an average of 16,347 miles

How Do You Calculate Miles Driven Per Year?

Odometer of a car in park

There are several ways to best calculate the amount of miles you drive every year. The most elementary is to check your cars odometer and divide the vehicles total mileage by the number of years you’ve owned the car. If you’ve driven the car about 50,000 miles and you bought it five years ago then you drive about 10,000 miles a year.

This of course only works if you bought the car new. If that’s not the situation, there are also many helpful, easy to use mileage calculators online that can help you figure out your annual average miles driven per year in just a few minutes.

The typical calculator, however, is just a conversion table. It asks you to approximate how many miles you drive in a day or week and it will annualize it for you. For instance, if you surmise that you drive just 17 miles a day, that’s 119 miles a week and a total of 7,000 miles a year.

For the most meticulous calculation, however, it’s best to first track your mileage for a typical week. Most people drive more during the week than on the weekends, so documenting your mileage for a single day and multiplying the number by 365 will probably give you false total.

To avoid this problem, it’s better to chronicle your mileage for a typical week or even a month, then multiply the number by 52 weeks or 12 months.

The process to track your mileage is easy and doesn’t take much time. Your car does it for you. Every car has a trip meter. Before you leave the house next Monday morning, reset it so it reads all zeros and drive normally. Don’t even think about it.

After dinner the following Sunday, walk out to your car and document how many miles you’ve driven the car that week. For many Americans, it’ll be about 250 miles.

That’s the case for Eileen, who drives her Audi SUV about 13,000 miles year around Los Angeles. Every morning she drives her teenage daughters to school, then she drives to work, which is about 15 miles from her neighborhood. In the afternoon she leaves work to pick up her girls.

Then, there’s usually a volleyball game or practice to get to. Add in errands and the occasional night out and she averages about 1,100 miles a month.

Like John in Ohio, Eileen’s daily routine causes her to exceed the mileage of the typical car lease. This became a problem when she leased a Volvo a number years ago for 36 months with a 36,000 mileage limit.

Is a High-Mileage Lease Right For You?

Usually, standard new-car leases limit mileage to between 10,000 and 15,000 miles a year. However, if you drive more than 15,000 miles a year, a high-mileage lease of a new car may still be a better option than purchasing a car. This is especially valid if you don’t want to keep the car for more than two to four years.

Also, for many consumers, leasing a car has tax benefits over owning. This is often the case for small business owners and self-employed individuals because businesses can deduct lease payments as an expense. And in most states you’ll pay less sales tax if you lease. Check the tax laws in your state to see if this is germane to you and your geographic location.

To take advantage of those benefits, many Americans are asking their dealers for a high-mileage lease, which allows up to 30,000 miles of average annual mileage.

Shoppers should keep in mind that a high-mileage lease can be considerably more expensive than a low mileage lease that limits annual mileage to 10,000 or 12,000 miles. This is because the car is worth less at the termination of the lease due to its higher mileage.

In many cases, however, a high-mileage lease can still be less expensive than purchasing the vehicle. Buyers may find that a high-mileage lease will still have a lower monthly payment than purchasing the car.

Also, if you calculate for the depreciation of the car or truck over the period of ownership, as well as the financing costs, a lease may cost you less money overall.

Buyers should also always remember that the mileage restrictions of a lease are not limited on an annual basis. Instead it’s the total number of miles driven over the duration of the lease that maters.

For instance, if you lease a vehicle for 36 months with a 43,200 mileage limit, that averages out to 12,000 miles a year. But you can use that mileage at any rate you’d like during the three years you have the car. If you drive it only 10,000 miles the first year, you have an average of over 16,000 miles a year remaining.

Buyers trying to decide whether to lease or buy should also realize that going over the total agreed mileage of lease probably isn’t as exorbitant as they fear. Usually the additional fees are about $.20 per mile. So an extra 1,000 miles only adds up to an additional $200.

Before you decide if a particular car and a high-mileage lease is right for you, crunch the data, look at the numbers, and have a clear understanding of your average miles driven per year. Like most drivers in the U.S., your average miles driven per year is probably more than you think, and the annual financial impact has been greater than you’ve realized.

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What’s the Average Miles Driven Per Year? | Car Lease Guide
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What’s the Average Miles Driven Per Year? | Car Lease Guide
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Average miles driven per year varies and is used in calculating car leases. Learn how to get the best lease deal with an accurate calculation.
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Scott Oldham is an award winning automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience. Based in Los Angeles, Scott has written for Car and Driver, Autoweek, Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds.com, Popular Mechanics and Autoblog. Scott is also a former President of the Motor Press Guild and is currently on the jury of the prestigious North American Car and Truck of the Year Award. He can be found on Twitter: @RealScottOldham

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