Gas Was 56% MORE Expensive in 1981 Than Today
Another factor to consider when comparing today's gas prices to previous years is the significant increase in fuel efficiency over the last 25 years. According to the EIA, average fuel efficiency in 1981 was about 15.6 miles per gallon (MPG), and now it is over 20 MPG, almost a 30% increase (see graph above, click to enlarge). The "Real Cost Per Mile" series above takes into account both the changes in inflation-adjusted gas prices and the changes in fuel efficiency over time.
Bottom Line: The real cost of gas in 1981, adjusted for inflation and fuel efficiency, was 56% MORE expensive than today.