Why are California’s gas prices so much higher than other states? Simply put, California has many taxes and fees from environmental regulations and their own special blend of gas that other states don’t have.
There is also an additional 39 cents per gallon for greenhouse, low carbon and underground tank storage fees.
Combined, California gas taxes and fees are a minimum $1.14 plus a 2.25% gas tax. Actual gas tax varies because 2.25% sales tax is calculated from the current price of gas which fluctuates.
California has the highest state gas tax rate, followed by Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The lowest state gas tax rates can be found in Alaska, followed by Missouri and Mississippi.
Here are California’s Current Gas Prices by County and Major Metro Area.
California Gas Tax & Fee Breakdown
|Gas Tax/Gas Fee||Tax Rate|
|Sales Tax (one of six states that charge a sales tax on gas)||2.25%|
|Low Carbon Fuel Standard Fee (hidden tax)||22 cents/gallon|
|Fuels Under the Cap Fee (hidden tax)||15 cents/gallon|
|Underground Tank Storage Fee (hidden tax)||2 cents/gallon|
|Primary and Second California excise taxes *||53.9 cents/gallon|
|Federal tax||18.4 cents/gallon|
|Electric car owners pay a $100 annual fee||$100|
Why Gas Prices are High in California
Aside from having the aforementioned highest gas tax rate in the country there are many hidden gas taxes and policy driven factors that increase the price of gas in California. Here are additional factors that have led to the highest gas prices in the U.S.
- Oil suppliers also pay taxes imposed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to fight greenhouse gases which are then passed on to consumers.
- California lawmakers have pursued policy agendas designed to inhibit drilling and production within its borders as part of an overall program to try to reduce emissions.
- The California government has implemented emissions regulations that far exceed current federal regulation and implemented mandates requiring a rapid phasing-out of gas-powered cars and replacing them with electric vehicles (EVs).
- Special California Gas Blend: Expensive additives in California fuel make it cleaner burning and less pollutant but more costly to produce. There are only about 15-20 refineries producing this gas at any given time.
- California has five major refiners that provide 96% of the gasoline: Chevron, Marathon, PBF Energy, Phillips 66 and Valero.
- When too many of these refineries shut down due to damage, repairs or other issues, gas prices typically increase more.
- There are no pipelines bringing refined oil into the state.
- Gas prices may continue to go up as stricter laws are implemented. For instance, a law was passed in 2021 that required Northern California refineries to slash their fine particulate air pollution.
Gas Rates by Period
A California gas tax increase took effect on July 1, 2022 as part of annual inflation adjustment. The new rate is 53.9 cents per gallon, an increase of 2.8 cents per gallon from 51.1 cents per gallon.
California lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom failed to come to an agreement to suspend the increase for 12 months before the latest increase took effect.
The next California gas tax increase will take effect on July 1, 2023.
Why is the gas tax going up?
The gas tax hike is part of Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair & Accountability Act, which the California Legislature passed by state lawmakers in April of 2017 and includes increases in gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. The money raised by the gas tax goes towards paying for bridge and road repairs. SB 1 also increased the taxes on diesel fuel and raised the cost of registering a vehicle.
|Period||Sales Tax Rate ((plus applicable district taxes)|
(Excludes Aviation Gas))
|Tax Rate per gallon|
(Excludes Aviation Gas)
California Vehicle Registration Fees
There are a number of different fees that can be charged during registration depending on various factors. The fees that are required from all vehicles include:
|California Highway Patrol Fee||$29.00|
|Vehicle License Fee||0.65% vehicle’s purchase price or declared value|
Depending on where your vehicle is registered, you may be charged county fees. You may also be required to pay a Smog Abatement Fee of $25 if your vehicle does not require a smog inspection. Other fees that can be included are:
- Weight certifications (over 10,000 pounds)
- Any special license plate fees
- Any unpaid parking violations or toll evasion bail
Vehicle registration fees were increased each year due to Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair & Accountability Act.
Use the CA DMV Registration fee calculator for more accurate estimates.