ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Gasoline consumption in the U.S. is at its lowest rate in more than 30 years, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The study, a follow-up to a series of research reports published by UMTRI's Michael Sivak over the past two years, examined recent trends in fuel consumption by cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and vans in the U.S. fleet from 1984 to 2013.
According to Sivak, a research professor at UMTRI and director of the Sustainable Worldwide Transportation research consortium, U.S. fuel consumption is below 1984 levels and down 14-19 percent from peaks in 2003 and 2004.
"Despite population growth of 8 percent, the absolute amount of fuel consumed by light-duty vehicles decreased by 11 percent during the period 2004 — the year of maximum consumption — through 2013," said Sivak in a statement.
Sivak's research found that in 2013 the average amount of fuel used per person in the U.S. was 392 gallons, down 17 percent from the 2004 peak. And the average fuel consumption per driver in 2013 stood at 583 gallons, a reduction of 16 percent from the 2004 peak.
The average fuel use by an American household was 1,011 gallons in 2013, which represents a decrease of 19 percent from 2004.
In 1984, the study notes, annual fuel-consumption rates were 400 gallons per person, 608 gallons per driver, 602 gallons per vehicle and 1,106 gallons per household.
In addition to analyzing fuel-consumption rates, Sivak's research also looked at changes in the number of vehicles on the road and in the distance driven per year. In both cases, rates per person, per driver and per household were all found to be at their lowest levels since the 1990s.
Part of the reason for the reduced fuel use is that Americans are simply driving less. But also, notes Sivak, "the reductions in the fuel-consumption rates reflect, in part, the added contribution of the improvements in vehicle fuel economy."
Consumers looking to minimize household fuel expenditures might want to check the Edmunds 40 MPG Club, a list of some of the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered vehicles in the 2015 model year.
Some notable models in that club include the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, 2015 Dodge Dart Aero, 2015 Fiat 500, 2015 Ford Focus SFE, 2015 Honda Civic HF, 2015 Mazda 3, 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage, 2015 Nissan Sentra FE+ and the 2015 Toyota Corolla LE Eco.
Edmunds says: With fuel-economy rates increasing steadily, car shoppers have a broader selection of fuel-efficient vehicles to choose from than ever before.