AAA study: Cost of owning a car is rising
It's time to allocate some more dollars to your car budget -- even if you own your car outright. The 2012 Your Driving Costs study by AAA has found that the cost of owning and operating a car in the U.S. has gone up nearly 2 percent over the previous year on average, bringing the average costs to 59.6 cents per mile, or $8,946 annually, based on driving an average of 15,000 miles.
Overall costs have increased primarily due to jumps in fuel and tire prices, though the study also cited increases in maintenance and auto insurance, which were up 0.7 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.
The increases in maintenance costs were attributed to higher prices of oil and more cars requiring synthetic oil, which is more expensive. AAA noted in the study that these costs were partially offset by manufacturers recommending longer intervals between oil changes, but it noted that these new service intervals, or the period between recommended services such as oil changes, require more time, which can result in increased costs overall. The study calculated costs based on manufacturers' recommended service intervals, but many Americans change the oil more frequently than is recommended. Read my Driving for Dollars column on "How often should you get an oil change?" for more info.
However, car depreciation decreased by 4.9 percent from last year and offset some of the overall ownership cost increase as a result. The AAA study attributed this decrease to the increased prices for used cars. This gain can be lost if consumers are unaware of the increased value of their used cars when they trade them in for a newer model. Read my column on "4 tips to snag the best used-car trade-in" for advice.
AAA assessed data from the five top-selling vehicles in each category for 2011. The study found that it is most expensive to drive an SUV, followed closely by a large sedan. Annual costs for an SUV were $11,360 on average for 15,000 miles of driving, or a cost of 75.7 cents per mile. Large sedans had average annual costs of $11,324, or 75.4 cents per mile. Minivans were the next most expensive, averaging $9,504 per year, or 63.4 cents per mile. Medium sedans averaged $8,780 annually, or 58.5 cents per mile. Not surprisingly, small sedans had the lowest ownership costs of $6,735 annually, or 44.9 cents per mile.
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