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What your paid-for car is costing you

The cost of owning a car is going up -- even if you're through with car payments, it's still costing you more to drive.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 5, 2013 4:37PM

This post comes from  Tara Baukus Mello at on MSN MoneyIf you own your car outright, you might not think it costs you that much to own it, but AAA's 2013 Your Driving Costs study shows that costs range from nearly $7,000 to more than $11,000 for the average American, depending on the kind of car driven.

Man changing oil © Ron Chapple, Getty ImagesWhat's more, the cost of owning a car is rising, which means it's costing you more money to drive your car year after year even though it's worth less and less.

Taking a look at the 2013 study provides some eye-opening data that may make you think twice about the kind of car you own, your driving habits, and whether you should shop around for auto insurance or the lowest gas prices.
Different car types equal different costs
AAA calculated the average costs for six different car types based on the ownership costs in the study. It found that the average cost of all sedans -- the majority of cars on the road -- is 60.8 cents per mile or $9,122 annually, based on 15,000 miles of driving. Small sedans cost the least -- $6,967 annually. Four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles cost the most -- $11,599 annually -- largely due to the fuel costs of those cars. Perhaps surprisingly, large sedans cost almost as much -- $11,248 -- as four-wheel-drive SUVs, while minivans, which often have about the same amount of passenger and cargo-carrying capability as many SUVs, averaged just $9,795.

Depreciation doesn't compensate
In last year's study, depreciation rates had slowed significantly, making cars worth more and partially offsetting the increases in ownership costs. According to the 2013 study, depreciation rose 0.78% to $3,571 annually on average. AAA attributed this to an increase in used cars available, which has softened resale values.

Next, for other ownership costs, we'll focus on the sedan as our example.

Maintenance costs jump
The AAA study found that there were significant increases in the cost of labor and parts over the past year. As a result, average maintenance costs are up by 11.26% on average for sedan owners, the largest percent year-over-year increase, to 4.97 cents per mile. Included in that figure are the labor and parts costs to maintain and repair the car for five years and 75,000 miles as well as purchasing an extended warranty. AAA noted that figure also has increased due to increases in extended warranty prices -- the result of high losses by underwriters.

Insurance costs more, too
While AAA notes that auto insurance rates vary widely due to numerous factors, car insurance is rising 2.76 percent to $1,029 annually for the average sedan owner over 2012. To arrive at its average, AAA used a hypothetical low-risk driver with a clean driving record and obtained quotes from five AAA clubs and insurance companies representing seven states.

Fuel costs rise marginally
While gas prices have continued to rise, fuel costs are up only slightly, partially offset by improvements in car fuel economy. The average cost for regular unleaded gasoline is up 3.84%, but due to improved fuel economy, fuel costs have risen just 1.93% to 14.45 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. For its calculation, AAA uses the national average for regular, unleaded gas in the fourth quarter of the prior year.

Tire costs remain stable
After an increase in the 2012 study, tire costs have remained stable this year, as manufacturing and shipping costs for tires have leveled off. The average sedan owner pays a penny per mile for tires.

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Aug 5, 2013 6:19PM
Thumbs up if this article is worthless
Aug 5, 2013 6:39PM
Ok, let's see.....11k dollars a year is what the EXPERTS say it cost me to to drive my totally paid for 2001 Jeep grand Cherokee Limited. Lets figure this out.....15000 miles per jeep gets 20 MPG. That's 750 gallons of gas. At 3.75 per gallon that's 2812.50. Lets just say four oil changes per year that 120 bucks. Tires cost....using round numbers....1000 bucks they last about 50k miles. That's 250 bucks a year. That's roughly 3200. Insurance ...400 per year 3600. I'm thinking they are a little off on their figures!!!!! And I have NO CAR PAYMENTS!!!!!! 

Aug 5, 2013 7:14PM
Article must have been written by a salesperson!
Aug 5, 2013 7:01PM
I live in Florida and I drive a beautiful 2005 PT Cruiser GT/HO Turbo Convertible. It's paid for and I carry only liability insurance. Avg 22 MPG combined city/highway. Maintenance costs last year were less than $500. If the engine or tranny goes out tomorrow...big hairy deal. I'll just have it fixed.

 I'll take that any day and those of you who want to be enslaved to a $500 per month car payment + astronomical insurance rates...Have a LARGE time.

Aug 5, 2013 7:19PM

1996 F-150. 215,000 mi. I-6 that I can squeeze 25-30mpg long distance (Ok, I drive a bit slow). Its American, so replacement parts are cheap, which I replace when worn out, maybe $150-$300/year average. I owe nothing on it. I pay $25 monthly for insurance since its only worth $2,000 tops. I have power everything, air/heat, stereo, passenger seating and 36 square ft of cargo space... Tell me why I need a new car?


I'm not impressed when someone drives around in their fancy brand new car that they try and show off, but my nearly 20 year old truck gets compliments from every single mechanic because it takes a lot more than money to show a vehicle you love it.


Ooops, I think I went off topic.

Aug 5, 2013 7:47PM
Where do these a$$ hats take their cars for service? I drive between 15,000 and 18,000 miles a year and do not spend near as much as they say I should according to their research. Maybe I need to go to the more expensive mechanics so I can be a statistic. Friggin idiots.
Aug 5, 2013 6:28PM

The continued rising cost of fuel (raping of the country by the oil industry) is THE biggest cost now. "Fuel cost rising marginally"???? Bullsh*t!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Other than that, it doesn't cost any more now to own a vehicle than any other era.

Aug 5, 2013 10:30PM
the guy who wrote this also wrote an article saying that timeshares and detroit municipal bonds are a great investment.
Aug 5, 2013 6:29PM
This is a little misleading. AAA members pay more to own a car. That doesn't necessarily mean that all drivers pay more. Also, although the methods used in this study are "proprietary" according to the source, the word being used is average and not median. Averages are much easier to skew with a small, but very wealthy class of drivers. The 'average' worth of Bill Gates and the person reading this is somewhere around twenty billion dollars, but that doesn't mean you and Bill spend the same amount of money on your cars.
Aug 5, 2013 8:12PM

I comprehensively tally my auto expenses annually for income tax itemization.  I drive about 15,000 miles and spend about $3,500 to $4,000 per year.  The car looks and runs great, is long ago paid off, and depreciation is no longer an issue.  I'm a happy man and plan to drive the thing until the engine blows or it rusts out.

Aug 5, 2013 6:35PM

Actually I think my paid off truck and car are really cheaper than buying a new one. In my state costs are in this order without the payment of $229 to $400 plus depending on what I buy. 

1.  Insurance goes up by a lot in almost 500 to a 1000 a year depending on what I buy,

2. Excise tax increases almost as much as insurance. Yes there is excise tax where I live, this tax can 2 to 4 times as much as my used car and truck.

Just with these two increases and the payment.....NO!  I think almost any repair would be cheaper on my older vehicles except maybe the engine replacement or the transmission replacement, so this article is total bull.

Aug 5, 2013 7:59PM
I brought an old Corolla for $1300  four years ago. The guy had an Aunt who passed and he inherited it. He didn't want to keep the so-called foreign junk. He kept his so-called better little Ford that gets half the gas milege and needs repairs every other Wednesday. According to most of the car value trade in web sites it is still worth more than $ 2000. No loss on depreciation.  My insurance since it is old all I need is liability. Cost about $13 a month (no kidding) It's a Toyota so it never needs major repairs and it's too old to buy extended warrentees so no cot there.  I change the oil and other liquids and filters when needed. The local guy charges $15 for oil changes. Probably 3 of those a year. Tires? Got them from a junk yard for $10 each from a new wrecked car. Three years still okay. I did have to do brakes cost about $120  when I got the car.  Gasoline is still my biggest expense but not anywhere close to what this article says. I get almost 43 MPG - better if I use Shell Gasoline.  These people say it cost almost $7000 a year to drive my car???  I don't even make $7000 a year.
Aug 5, 2013 7:15PM
You'll never convince me to give up my car, silly liberal media.  Two to three hour commute via mass transit vs. 20 minutes by car?  Which am I going to pick?  An hour walk to the grocery store or three minute drive?  Which is it gonna be?  Visit any member of my family involves at least a 45 minute drive to which mass transit doesn't go, so, come on, this isn't hard media.  
Aug 5, 2013 9:05PM
this article is so full of it and it is not smelling like flowers
Aug 5, 2013 7:25PM
I drive a 1991 Dodge 3/4 ton and a 1962 Studebaker Champ P/U, they darn well better be paid off!! The Dodge requires very little in the way of maintenance & the Studebaker just needs the rust scraped off every once and while. Cheaper than payments.
Aug 6, 2013 1:46AM
teats on a boar hog serves a better purpose than this article does, if you owed payments on it you would have to add another $350.00 a month to it depending on what you had. IF you take good care of your car/vehicle you could get 200, + miles out of it, my pick up has 310,000 and still running strong not real pretty but I would drive to texas in it and I live in ILL.
Aug 5, 2013 9:19PM
We keep our vehicles until there is almost nothing left of them. You can work your life away on automobiles. If you have one paid it till it rots. Need a nice car for a trip?  Rent one! Need a bigger vehicle for a weekend outing?  Rent one! Need something to scoot around town in for a couple of days. You can now rent hybrids and/or full all electric cars. NO GAS!
Aug 5, 2013 9:13PM
$7000 plus for my car? way.  I own a 2001 with no collision insurance and leave it in the garage most of the time.  I also own a 150cc scooter that gets 105mpg, does 70mph and I put most of my miles on that.  This equals low maintenance, low depreciation, low insurance, low fuel costs...and is as much fun as an expensive sports car!
Aug 5, 2013 7:02PM

The author of this article is wrong.  Drop the insurance coverage to liability and enjoy a car without payments for as long as it's practical.

Aug 6, 2013 8:01AM
Soundz like somebody is trying to sell me a new car or the Brooklyn Bridge too? My 99 Buick gets 25 around town up to 30 on the highway, at 10 years old I had to replace the brakes, other than that over the years it was a couple batteries, tires, oil changes. No car payments, low taxes, lower insurance on an old car, I spend about $2K per year or less on maintenance, sure beats $30K for a new one. I am also fortunate to have an HONEST mechanic who doesn't sell me stuff I don't need.  
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