Even as cars become more fuel efficient, the cost of gasoline is still claiming a bigger percentage of the average American paycheck.

The average U.S. household spent $2,912 on gasoline in 2012, which amounts just less than 4 percent of their pre-tax income, according to research released Monday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That's the highest percentage in three decades.

The pinch at the pump comes even as Americans have reduced their consumption of gasoline. The country's total gasoline consumption fell in 2011 to 134.2 billion gallons, its lowest level since 2001, according to the EIA.

Higher prices have outweighed reduced consumption. Average city retail gas prices rose 26.1 percent in 2011, which was six times greater than the 3.4 percent rise in nominal household income.

In 2012, gas prices inched higher by 3.3 percent, marginally higher than the estimated 2.9 percent rise in income.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.