03/13/2013 10:06 am ET Updated May 13, 2013

The Growing Divide in U.S. Gas Prices

Gas is one of the most considerable financial burdens on families, corporations, and governmental entities in the United States. As prices fluctuate, and rarely seem to come down, consumers have had to make tough decisions about their lifestyle and means of transportation. The United States is an extremely large country, smaller than only two others, and one of the most reliant on our personal vehicles.

However, despite our love affair, many Americans are having practical problems with owning a personal vehicle. Gas has reached a national average of over $3.70, which is almost double the price that it cost just a decade ago.

5 States Feeling the Burn, and Taking the Bus

Though the price for a gallon of gas in these areas are generally skewed upward by the general costs of living in these places, it is interesting to see the patterns. Additionally, these are generally places that tend to object less to taxation, which is another important determinant for gasoline prices.

Citizens of Hawaii are paying $4.43 a gallon, on average, which means they pay more than everyone else to get themselves from A to B. The reasons for this are obvious: Much of the gasoline in the state has to be shipped in. Hawaii is one of the States with the highest cost of living because of this, so gasoline is only one small part of the equation.

Luckily, many Hawaiians also have access to the bus, which is one of the best transportation systems in the state.

Californians also top the list as they pay an average of $4.17 a gallon. Similarly, California is one of the top three most expensive states to live in, so this is not entirely surprising.

Residents of California may be able to avoid these high gas prices by using state and government credits to buy electric or hybrid vehicles, and by making use of the state's electric car infrastructure, which is light years ahead of the rest of the nation.

The State of Alaska has the third highest in gas prices at over $4 a gallon, which is something of a mystery as the state is so energy rich. Alaska can be an expensive state to live in too, but the residents often get credits from their state to compensate for it.

Illinois, Washington D.C., and New York round out the top of the list for states paying the most at the pump as drivers shell out $4 a gallon. Washington D.C. and New York City are places where many have very high salaries and others have well established transportation networks; this means many can get around without a vehicle and others can afford to have one. Gas prices in Illinois are largely inflated by the major metropolitan area of Chicago, where the cost of living is quite high.

States Staying Behind the Wheel

The five states with the lowest gas prices are Utah ($3.59), South Carolina ($3.57), Colorado ($3.49), Montana ($3.48), and Wyoming ($3.35), states with extremely low-cost of living and that have many residents who depend on vehicles to make their living. These states are known for their farming, which means that in addition to cars, many residents need to keep tractors and other industrial grade machinery running.

In general, gas is most expensive in major metropolitan areas and areas that already have high salaries and high costs of living. In more rural areas, the cost of gas can be lower by about 50 cents. The highest gas price in the United States is $4.43 and the lowest is $3.35, with an average of $3.89; however, gas prices are extremely volatile as the market is dependent on speculation and the politics of tumultuous regions. So this number frequently changes.

However, the surge in prices can be best seen when compared to the average for a gallon of gas in 2003, which was $1.60.

Interestingly, the median household income in 2003 was $43,318 and the median household income in 2012 was $50,502. This means that gas has increased by 143 percent where income has only increased by 16 percent.

Even though gas is quite expensive in the United States as it is in Europe, the amount most United States citizens use their cars makes the burden far more troublesome and because of this, many families need to make lifestyle adjustments to pay for gas.

Today, the United States government is offering many credits and deductions for those who buy hybrid and electric vehicles as a means of reducing their fuel consumption. For more information, check out this website.