It’s easy to figure out how much it will cost to buy a car. It’s even displayed on the vehicle, hence the phrase “sticker price.” What’s harder is determining how much you’ll spend each year once fuel, insurance, maintenance, and other costs are factored in. To help provide answers, AAA’s "Your Driving Costs" study looks into driving-related expenses each year to see which way they’re trending.1
For 2017, the total annual cost to drive a new vehicle 15,000 miles came out to $8,469. That’s a 1 percent decline from 2016, and the lowest cost to drive in seven years.
The cost of keeping a car running smoothly (including factory-recommended maintenance as well as the average cost of an extended warranty) comes in as the third-highest expense at $1,186 per year. Note that the numbers vary widely among vehicle types.
ANNUAL COST: $1,186
Gas is the most visible driving-related cost for those with gasoline and diesel vehicles. A sustained drop in oil prices, combined with ever-improving fuel efficiency, is reflected in the study’s finding that new vehicle owners, on average, will spend about $1,500 annually on fuel. Drivers of electric vehicles enjoy the lowest fuel costs: The study found that the average EV driver will spend just $552 annually.
ANNUAL COST: $1,500
Though far less conspicuous than gas or repairs, depreciation—the decline in the value of a car as it ages and racks up mileage—is the undisputed king of annual costs. The study found that electric cars can lose their value particularly quickly, as older used models frequently have much shorter ranges than newer electric models.
ANNUAL COST: $3,000
It’s hardly surprising that small four-door cars would be the best deal. With thriftier price tags and higher fuel efficiency, insurance and gas will naturally cost less. Examples include the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Toyota Corolla.
ANNUAL COST: $6,354
Small SUVs are a fast-growing segment, thanks to their blend of affordability and capability. Many keep costs down by using the same underpinnings as small sedans. Examples include the Chevy Trax, Mazda CX-3, and Nissan Juke.
ANNUAL COST: $7,606
Somewhat lower fuel costs and somewhat higher sticker prices: This is the tradeoff that hybrids offer, and on average, it makes them cheaper to drive than similarly sized medium sedans. Examples include the Ford C-Max, Kia Niro, and Toyota Prius.
ANNUAL COST: $7,687
Medium-sized sedans come with medium-sized annual expenses—they fall squarely in the middle of the pack on fuel consumption, cost to insure, maintenance, and so on. Examples include the Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry.
ANNUAL COST: $8,171
With no gasoline engine and no gasoline to buy, EVs greatly reduce annual maintenance and fuel costs. Depreciation hits them hard, though, at an average of almost $6,000 a year. Examples include the Chevy Bolt, Fiat 500e, and Nissan Leaf.
ANNUAL COST: $8,439
Depending on your needs, a minivan may make the most sense—a seven- or eight-seat van beats a five-seat car on value if you regularly transport that many passengers. Examples include the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Kia Sedona.
ANNUAL COST: $9,146
These cars feature big sticker prices and more advanced tech, thus costing more to repair and insure. They also prioritize performance over fuel efficiency. Examples include the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Nissan Maxima.
ANNUAL COST: $9,399
Non-compact sport utility vehicles are the biggest beneficiaries of current low oil prices, keeping them close in annual cost to large sedans. Examples include the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and GMC Acadia.
ANNUAL COST: $9,451
With high fuel costs, high cost to insure, and pricey maintenance (such as for four-wheel-drive), pickups rank as the most expensive vehicle to own. Examples include the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150, and Toyota Tacoma.
ANNUAL COST: $10,054
Spending a little money on preventive maintenance now may save you an expensive repair down the road, so follow the manufacturer-recommended service schedule, and do your own regular checks of fluid levels and tire pressures, too.
Visit a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility if your car needs more extensive work—members receive a 10 percent discount (up to $50) on regularly priced parts and labor.2
As the saying goes, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates the average car is driven 13,500 miles a year, so drive less than that and your car will hold its value longer.
One easy way to put fewer miles on your car is to rent a car for road trips instead of taking your own. With Hertz, AAA members get up to 20 percent off rentals and free unlimited mileage on most rentals, plus many other benefits.
1 “AAA Reveals True Cost of Vehicle Ownership," American Automobile Association, August 23, 2017. Annual driving cost estimates are based on use of a vehicle for personal transportation over five years and 75,000 miles of ownership. Actual driving costs will vary based on individual driving habits, location, operating conditions, and other factors.
2 If discount is requested. Cannot be combined with any other discount or coupon. Valid AAA membership card must be presented at a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility at time of service.
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