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Owning a car for less
Depreciation is the 800-pound gorilla of car ownership cost.
To be sure, a car’s purchase price is important in determining cost of ownership because it’s the base number needed to calculate a vehicle’s depreciation, or loss of value. Purchase price minus sale or trade-in price, determines depreciation.
The more value your car retains over time, the lower the total cost of ownership. Other contributing factors are fuel (miles per gallon), scheduled maintenance, repairs, state fees and financing costs (interest on your car loan).
These elements vary based on individual behavior, location and other variables. But for the sake of comparison, it’s possible to calculate averages to determine the five-year cost of ownership.
Bankrate turned to Kelly Blue Book (KBB) for a 20-vehicle (cars, trucks and crossovers) list of 2016 models with the lowest five-year cost of ownership. Bankrate plucked eight from those picks and here they are, beginning with the lowest cost of ownership.
Prices and descriptions are for the latest model year on sale in showrooms and don’t include factory destination charge.
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Chevrolet Spark LS
- Price: $13,000
- Fuel economy: 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway
- 2016 five-year cost of ownership: $26,121
Just squeaking by the Nissan Versa S, KBB ranked the Chevrolet Spark LS as having the overall lowest five-year cost of ownership. Its cost advantage reflects low fuel and insurance costs, with the lowest insurance costs among these picks. Weighing it down is its relatively high depreciation.
The LS comes with a 98-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. To gain power windows, locks and outboard mirrors requires stepping up to the 1LT trim.
However, the LS has as standard equipment 10 air bags, rearview camera, air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a four-speaker audio system, 7-inch touchscreen, MyLink infotainment interface, USB port, OnStar telematics and Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
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Nissan Versa S
- Price: $11,990
- Fuel economy: 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway
- 2016 five-year cost of ownership: $26,157
Suffering from the highest fuel cost and one of the higher insurance costs among the cars on this list, the Nissan Versa S still managed to rank second behind Spark, thanks primarily to its low rate of depreciation. This rating is for the sedan version only.
KBB broke out the Versa Note hatchback as a separate model, which didn’t fare as well as the sedan.
As you might expect, as a sub-$12,000 car, the Versa S is short on frills. Power comes from a 109-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission ushers power to the front wheels.
Creature comforts are limited to six air bags, air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a four-speaker audio system with auxiliary input jack and power outboard mirrors.
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Honda Fit LX
- Price: $15,990
- Fuel economy: 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway
- 2016 five-year cost to own: $27,772
Only a significantly higher depreciation cost put the Honda Fit behind the Nissan Versa. Fit beat Versa handily in fuel and maintenance costs. Its insurance and repair costs are middle of the pack. Extremely roomy for a subcompact, Fit provides more cargo room than its exterior size promises.
With a higher purchase price than Spark or Versa, Fit LX offers more standard convenience features than the top two cars. Thrust comes from a 130-horsepower, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine via a six-speed manual transmission.
Hill-start assist is standard. Other equipment included in the LX grade: multi-angle rearview camera, cruise control, auto on/off headlights, power outboard mirrors, windows and locks, air conditioning, 5-inch color screen, Bluetooth connectivity, and a four-speaker audio system with USB port.
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Kia Rio LX
- Price: $14,165
- Fuel economy: 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway
- 2016 five-year cost to own: $29,473
For the sake of this exercise, you could easily replace the Kia Rio LX with the Hyundai Accent SE. They share most mechanical components and vary little in terms of ownership costs. In fact, when all five-year cost-to-own factors are compared, the final numbers are a photo finish with Accent winning by less than $100. Both these Korean cars stake out costs near mid pack.
Not as well stocked with goodies as others on this list, Rio derives its go from a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 138 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission turns the front wheels.
Included in the standard equipment are hill-start assist, air conditioning, auto on/off headlights, six air bags and a four-speaker audio system with USB interface.
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Honda Civic LX
- Price: $18,740
- Fuel economy: 27 mpg city/40 mpg highway
- 2016 five-year cost to own: $30,025
Although ranked 12th on KBB’s list, Bankrate included Honda Civic LX because, in addition to a low cost of ownership, it’s a terrific all-around car. Among the more fuel efficient, Civic’s maintenance costs are lower than all but the other Honda on this list. A low rate of depreciation, though, landed it among these picks despite a relatively higher purchase price.
A 158-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission turns the front wheels. A long list of standard features include a multi-angle rearview camera, automatic climate control, capless fuel filler, power windows, door locks and outboard mirrors, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a four-speaker audio system with USB interface.
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Toyota Tacoma SR Double Cab
- Price: $24,950
- Fuel economy: 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway
- 2016 five-year cost to own: $30,463
Who would have thought a pickup truck — even a midsize one — would wind up on a low-cost-to-own list? Actually, the Nissan Frontier King Cab S is six spots farther down the list.
Here’s how a couple of trucks made the cut: an extremely low rate of depreciation. Although the Nissan Versa’s purchase price is about half that of Toyota Tacoma SR, its $8,628 depreciation cost is more than Tacoma’s $8,199.
A 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine sends output to the rear wheels by way of a six-speed automatic transmission. Air conditioning, eight air bags, hill-start assist, rearview camera, and power windows and door locks are standard, as is an integrated GoPro windshield mount.
Entertainment is from an Entune system with 6.1-inch touchscreen, six speakers, Bluetooth connectivity and USB interface.
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Jeep Patriot Sport
- Price: $17,695
- Fuel economy: 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway
- 2016 five-year cost of ownership: $31,242
Okay, Bankrate included the Patriot to have a crossover on the list. However, its total cost of ownership isn’t much more than the Honda Civic or the Toyota Tacoma. Although its depreciation rate is trends to the high end, its maintenance and repair costs are mid pack. Only Toyota Tacoma has a higher fuel cost.
Jeep promotes Patriot as the most affordable sport-utility vehicle. However, to get there, the Patriot Sport is devoid of most creature comforts.
Air conditioning is optional. The engine is a 158-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder that uses a five-speed manual transmission to turn the front wheels. Among the standard equipment in the Jeep Patriot Sport: six air bags, Uconnect voice command interface with Bluetooth connectivity and a four-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input jack.
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