Sticker shock: The real cost of owning your car

AAA's new study highlights cost of car ownership
Posted at 9:19 AM, Sep 14, 2017

When it comes to our cars, the cost of gas, oil changes, tires, insurance, and those dreaded repairs all add up. Many drivers don't realize how much their car really costs them.

Kat Coughlin knows how expensive an older car can become.

"The tie rod, the tires, the transmission went out," she said about her older Taurus. "I think we spent about $3,000 trying to repair it."

Repairs like that can blow the budget. So it helps to know the true cost of owning a car, not just the monthly cost that the salesman puts on the sales sheet.

AAA adds up all the costs and fees

A new study by AAA finds the average cost of owning a new car is $8,469 a year for 2017, when you factor in depreciation, insurance, gas and maintenance costs.

AAA says a lot of people buy a car just based on emotions, looking only at that monthly payment of, say, $300 a month. But AAA says you are really paying $700 a month, on average.

The agency says drivers don't stop to think what it will cost to maintain the car over a year or two, whether or not it is off the manufacturer's warranty.

Bobby Drake is the head mechanic at an AAA repair shop.

"Even if it's a relatively new car you still have a lot of maintenance," he said.

He says many people add to those costs by postponing maintenance, to save a few bucks now.

For instance, he sees them wait for the brakes to wear down to metal, and start grinding. That will require costly new rotors in most cases, he says, turning a $100 brake-pad job into a $400 brake and rotor job.

"Follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance, and that will definitely save you a lot of money in the long run."

Differences between vehicle types

Meantime AAA says some types of vehicles cost a lot more to operate than others.

Assuming gasoline at $2.34 a gallon, AAA saysyou can expect to pay the following amounts.

  • Small cars average $6,354 annually.
  • Small SUV's average: $7,606.
  • Hybrids average $7,687.
  • Midsize sedans average $8,171.
  • Minivans average $9,146.
  • Midsize SUV's average $9,451.
  • Full size pickups (which also applies to SUV versions of those trucks) average $10,054 a year.

Full size pickups and SUV's have higher initial costs, require larger, more expensive tires, often require pricier oil changes for their V8 engines, and can cost more to insure.

So consider the true costs when you are car shopping, so you don't waste your money.


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