Quick, how much does it cost to run your car? If you’re like most people, your mind probably went to how much you spend on gas. So you’re thinking, what, $40 a week, $2,080 a year—not bad, huh? Actually that’s just the down payment. A new report from AAA says that the average car owner in reality spend $9,122, up almost two percent from last year.
If you drive a typical well-equipped sedan 15,000 miles a year at today’s prices ($3.486 per gallon, which I’d consider cheap), the AAA “Your Driving Costs” survey says, the actual cost is 60.8 cents per mile. Drive only 10,000 miles, and your bottom line goes up to 78.3 cents per mile.
Gas is a big part of it, but there’s also maintenance, tires, insurance, depreciation, finance costs, and license/registration/taxes. That last one is a big bite for me—as soon as I pay one town tax bill, another one seems to be due.
And, of course, it matters what kind of car you drive. A small car like the tiny Smarts above will cost 16.70 cents per mile or less in driving costs alone, versus 21.09 for a medium sedan, and 23.48 for a large sedan. Move on up to an SUV with four-wheel-drive, and now we’re looking at 26.15 cents.
Says AAA, “If you commute to work by car, figure about $61 in total vehicle expenses per 100 miles. If that seems like a lot, driving a more fuel-efficient model or using public or alternative transportation options could save you money.” Ah, but that’s a bitter pill for Americans to contemplate. Never was a population more in love with the private automobile, which we usually drive to work alone. Whatever happened to saving money with a carpool?
The costs of a number of things have gone up from last year, including insurance (up 2.76 percent, to $1,029 each year on average), gas (up 1.93 percent) and maintenance and repairs (up a whopping 11.26 percent, or a shocking 4.97 cents a mile).
My guess is that even these hikes aren’t going to get people to give up their cars. But at the same time we’re seeing a huge increase in car sharing—vehicles just when you need them. Some of us, at least, are sitting down with a clean sheet of paper and figuring out that they’re better off spending their money on somebody else’s car.
Kelley Blue Book did a survey of the cheapest cars to own, and some of the answers are surprising. The five-year cost of the Porsche Panamera is $87,411, and believe it or not that makes it a bargain in the high-end luxury class. A payout of $60,250 gets you a Lincoln MKT, the cheapest upscale SUV. The Ford Mustang takes the performance car class at $52,896. In the crossover category, it’s the Toyota Highlander Hybrid at $51,363.
The minivan is the Mazda5 at $38,891. The Hyundai Sonata takes the mid-sized car niche at $38,232. Chevy’s Volt wins the electric class at $37,153. In the hybrid/alternative class it’s the Honda Insight at $33,014. In the compact category, look to the Hyundai Veloster, $30,902. And, finally, the all-time cheapest car KBB found, the Scion iQ, was $27,006. So the high-end car will call you three times as much over five years as the subcompact. That’s certainly something to think about when you’re car shopping.