2011 Is Priciest Year Ever for Gasoline: $3.53 Per Gallon, Over $4K Spent Per Household

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By the time 2011 ends, the typical U.S. household will have spent $4,155 gassing up their vehicles. That’s one out of every $12 of median household income—the highest proportion for filling up in three decades.

Gas prices have dropped significantly over the past few months. As late as mid-September, a gallon of regular cost $3.65, on average nationally. According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the average gallon of regular is now selling for $3.21, a drop of 44¢, or 12%.

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Consumer Reports states that gas prices have dropped 6¢, on average, in the last week alone, and as much as 10¢ a gallon in the Rocky Mountain states. Slightly over a month ago, the average gallon of regular cost $3.41.

But guess what? Even though gasoline has gotten cheaper, it’s not cheap. That $3.41-per-gallon average in mid-November represented the highest-ever price for gas for that time of year.

As the year comes to a close, the Associated Press reports that the typical U.S. household will have spent $4,155 filling up at the pump in 2011. That’s an all-time high. It’s also 8.4% of the median household income—the highest percentage coughed up for gasoline since 1981, when oil prices had soared due to complications in the Middle East.

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July 2008 saw the record-high for the one-day average price of a gallon of regular: $4.11. But when 2011 is done, it’ll hold the title as the most expensive year for gasoline, with an overall average of $3.53 per gallon. That’s 76¢ more than 2010’s average—an increase of 21.5%.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.