Gas not top reason car costs are up

Posted: April 18, 2013

The cost of owning and operating a car has gone up again - to $9,122 a year for a fully insured sedan driven 15,000 miles, according to AAA.

Surprisingly, gas prices were not the biggest culprit in the rise from 2012 to 2013.

Blame maintenance and repairs cost for an extra $75, gas for about $40 of the overall hike of about $175.

Insurance and depreciation accounted for the rest.

In total dollars, depreciation, or decline in a car's resale value, was the largest cost.

Here's the breakdown for average sedan (15,000 miles), as reported in new AAA brochure, "Your Driving Costs."

Depreciation: $3,571.

Gas: $2,167.50.

Full insurance: $1,029.

Finance charges: $848.

Maintenance, repairs: $745.50.

License, registration, taxes: $611.

Tires: $150.

The costs vary by greatly by vehicle size from $6,967 (46.4 cents a mile) for a small sedan to $9,795 for a minivan to $11,248 for large sedan to $11,599 for a four-wheel-drive SUV.

Driving a third less - only 10,000 miles - won't cut costs by a third, because depreciation and insurance costs remain fairly stable. Similarly, driving a third more won't increase costs by a third.

Factor in both size and mileage and the range becomes from $5,952 for a small sedan driven 10,000 miles to $13,141 for a four-wheel drive SUV driven 20,000 miles.

Obviously, the costs also vary from model to model (hybrids get better mileage, for example), and with driving habits (accident-prone folks pay more for insurance).

Such substantial annual costs suggest drivers think more carefully about their automotive investments.

"If you're planning to buy a car, don't just look at the fuel economy sticker," said Jenny Robinson, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Before you make any vehicle purchase, it is important to determine the overall ownership and operational costs, and if you're keeping your current vehicle, make sure you do preventive maintenance to help avoid expensive repairs."

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or


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