The top-selling car in 1980 was the Oldsmobile Cutlass. Gas mileage on this vehicle averaged 20 miles per gallon (17 city/23 highway). By 2023 the Honda CR-V claimed the title as the most popular two-wheel drive car. The CR-V reported mileage at 31 miles per gallon (28 city/34 highway). This represents an increase of 55 percent over this 43-year period. Mileage has been increasing at a compound rate of around one percent a year.
Back in 1980 gasoline was selling for $1.19 per gallon and blue-collar hourly compensation (wages and benefits) was $9.12 per hour. This indicates a time price rate of around 7.83 minutes per gallon.
Today, gasoline is selling for around $3.37 per gallon and blue-collar hourly compensation (wages and benefits) is up to $36.50 per hour, indicating a rate of around 5.54 minutes per gallon. While the nominal price of a gallon of gasoline has increased by 183 percent, the time price has actually dropped by 29 percent.
But how much does it cost to travel one mile? That depends on the time price of gasoline and the car’s mileage. In 1980 at 20 miles per gallon, the time price per mile on the Cutlass would be around 23.5 seconds. By 2023, with the CR-V getting 31 miles per gallon, the time price per mile would be around 10.7 seconds. The time price per mile has decreased by 54 percent.