No Wonder There Are So Many Curbside Classics In Oregon – It’s The Cheapest State For Car Ownership

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Ok, that headline might be a bit confusing. According to, Oregon is the cheapest state in the US to operate a vehicle, with an average cost of $2,204 per year (the highest is Georgia, with an annual cost of $4,233). So what’s the connection to there being so many older cars on the streets here?

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First, there are a couple of reasons why Oregon is cheap. There is no sales tax, nor any kind of recurring automobile property tax. License/registration fees are dirt cheap: $86 for two years ($19/year more in Multnomah County/Portland). Bankrate says that “Kelley Blue Book estimates the combined vehicle fees in the state amount to just $157 per year”. I’m assuming that includes the state gasoline sales tax, otherwise it doesn’t compute.

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Insurance averages $724 per year, on the low side. I pay just a bit over $200/yr insurance for Liability/Uninsured Motorist coverage for each of my cars, but skip the Collision/Comprehensive coverage. If I break it, I pay for it.

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Gasoline runs on the high side here on the West Coast, but we just don’t use as much of it ($942/year avg.), because we drive less in Oregon than just about any other state; 16% less than the national average. Why? Oregon is hardly a compact or densely populated state. But our urban areas have profoundly less urban sprawl, thanks to the first comprehensive Land-Use Law in the country, enacted in 1973 (Oregon SB 100 &  101). That established Urban Growth Boundaries, and all development must occur inside of them, until the available land is used up. This has led to more compact urban development, as well as unspoiled  countryside just minutes away, instead of patchwork development spreading far and wide.

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This has also fostered much better than average transit systems, like Portland’s pioneering Metro light rail, and Eugene’s EMX Bus Rapid Transit system. Eugene is the smallest city in the country to have a BRT system. And of course, bicycle use is very high too.

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So there’s just less need to commute by car, and the old Volvos can be spared the grind of a long daily commute. And why not have several of them, when registration fees are so cheap? Between effective urban planning, a laid-back attitude, and the lack of rust, Oregon has all the ingredients to be Curbside Classic Heaven.

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