When budgeting is a major factor in choosing a people hauler, you need to look beyond the purchase price in determining the cheapest-to-own family sedans, says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at the auto research website Edmunds.com.
"A lot of consumers look at price alone when several components determine ownership cost," she says.
Online consumer sites like Edmunds.com and Cars.com often provide a research tool to help shoppers fine-tune their new-car choices based on a more comprehensive cost of ownership than just price. Cars.com calls its tool Total Cost of Ownership, while Edmunds.com labels its tool True Cost to Own.
Because certain costs, like gasoline, are always in flux, and driving habits vary wildly, the cost of ownership as estimated by these tools isn't absolute. "It should be used as a comparison tool," Caldwell says.
Cars and Edmunds calculate their cost-to-own estimates based on a five-year-ownership period and driving 15,000 miles per year. Both sites measure seven components in determining ownership cost: depreciation, taxes and fees, financing, fuel, insurance, maintenance and repairs. Edmunds includes any available federal tax credits; Cars.com includes opportunity costs.
Here are five cheap-to-own family sedans based on Edmunds.com's Total Cost of Ownership feature. Figures will vary depending on the ZIP code used.