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The true cost of owning a car

Written by Linda Vergon - 2 Comments

This post comes from Cathy at our partner site Quizzle.com.

If you’re a driver, you’ve undoubtedly thought about how much it costs to buy a car. Maybe you’ve lusted after a $500,000 Lamborghini, while knowing you can only afford a $20,000 Honda Civic. And you’ve probably considered the cost of purchasing a car when you’ve created your family’s budget.

But have you ever wondered how much it costs to own a car? Costs of ownership include items like gas, registration fees, insurance, maintenance, and depreciation. When you think about how the cost of those items varies widely, it’s no surprise that the cost of ownership varies widely depending on the car.

In general, smaller cars not only cost less to buy (which results in lower financing costs), they also cost less to own. They are usually more fuel efficient (so you save on gas), and cheaper to maintain. They even depreciate less than larger cars. So overall, smaller cars have a smaller impact on your finances. That’s something to take into consideration when you are selecting a car to purchase.

AAA conducts an annual “Your Driving Costs” study. Results released in April 2013 concluded that the average sedan costs $9,122 to own and operate each year; a minivan costs $9,795 to own and operate; and an SUV with 4 wheel drive costs $11,599. Of course, your individual costs will vary depending on the specific car you drive and how many miles you put on it each year.

You can reduce your car ownership costs by buying a late-model used car, which will reduce the amount of depreciation, and following basic maintenance guidelines and driving safely, which will help keep repair costs to a minimum. Selecting a fuel efficient car may reduce the cost of gas, but keep in mind that some fuel efficient vehicles like hybrids can cost more upfront.

If you want to calculate the cost of owning a car before you purchase one, you can obtain a copy of AAA’s “Your Driving Costs” brochure at your local AAA branch, or use the “True Cost to Own” calculator at Edmunds.com or similar calculators at other sites.

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Published on September 27th, 2013 - 2 Comments
Filed under: Automotive, Consumer, Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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2 Responses to “The true cost of owning a car”

  1. 1
    Insurance Hunter Says:

    Many people don’t realize really how much a car costs to own/lease. There is a lot more to having a car then insurance, gas, and your monthly payment. You have to factor in things like repairs, and things that you don’t think about that will pop up.

  2. 2
    mary s. Says:

    We have only had 1 car since we married, I always take public transportation..Since I am older than dirt now it costs so little who would buy a car, the people who live directly across from us have lots of crap cars, I noticed they hauled them with many towing trucks to a place and sold them and that was that, they still have 3 cars and the young kid has one, he too bought two trucks when he got his inheritance he told us, we thought him really really dumb..he is loaded and the cheapest kid I ever met in my life the postal carried ticketed him he got a big fine and just had the other truck towed and sold the one, he got nothing in comparison for his outlay, we get a big kick out of the family they are the oddest people always running after money and never having one damn dime..We on the other hand are old enough and would never live like they do, we have an only child she squeezes her money like she is going to be executed, always had many savings accounts since she was born the only girl grandchild for 22 years and lovingly spoiled the family was dirt poor but they gave her money on her many birthdays and one nice toy, they are and we are jewish they never equated money with love, but said she would go to college..She got a huge amount to go from a holocaust survivor who held her when we moved west to be near some family, she worked in college to boot for the president of the university, she is a smarty pants and wants to take care of us, she saves religiously and never cares what others do with their hard earned money, they throw it away but not her, she wants us to be okay, can you imagine this from a tiny tot who used to want to look at toys and never touch them and ask how much mamma and poppa? an old soul in a tiny body..She is so smart she helps us to decide on purchases, she is the throw back to her great grand parents from Poland all professionals in banking and many other professions, taken tooo damn soon in the Holocaust!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! love your blogs, you tell it like it really is, a car shmar who cares, I can get around our town for quarter and many jobs I have held pay my bus pass…I am delighted!

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