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Driving costs you $8,776 a year

By Claes Bell ·
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 7 am ET

With gas prices headed higher and discounts on new cars in short supply, it's no surprise a new AAA survey shows the cost of owning and operating cars is going up:

AAA released the results of its annual 'Your Driving Costs' study today revealing a 3.4 percent rise in the yearly costs to own and operate a sedan in the U.S. The average costs rose 1.9 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile, or $8,776 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.

Could riding the bus fund your retirement?

Could riding the bus fund your retirement?

"Despite seeing reduced costs for maintenance and insurance this year, there is an overall increase in the costs to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. this year," said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair, Buying and Consumer Programs. "The 2011 rise in costs is due to relatively large increases in fuel, tire and depreciation costs as well as more moderate increases in other areas."

The 3.4 percent increase in overall costs the AAA study found would have likely been even higher if it had been able to take into account the stratospheric rise in gas prices we've seen in the first half of 2011. As it was, the study found an 8.6 percent rise in fuel costs for the average driver, and that was at $2.88 per gallon.

The cost category that saw the biggest percentage increase was tires, which rose 15.7 percent year-over-year. The biggest increase in absolute terms was in the category of vehicle depreciation, or the amount of value a car loses over time. The AAA study found the average sedan losing $3,728 per year worth of value, up 4.9 percent over last year.

This isn't the first time I've seen this annual study, but the price people, myself included, pay to drive never ceases to amaze me. Of course, they're getting a lot of significant things in return for their $8,776: convenient shopping, the ability to get to work on time, an easy way to go on vacation, among other things. I'm not immune to the charms of a beautiful new car, and new cars today are without a doubt the most luxurious and technologically advanced in history. But people should at least know the cost of buying into America's love of the automobile.

I mean, think of what you could buy for $8,776 per year. If you walked everywhere for one year, you could have a lavish vacation in Paris. If you rode a bike for 10 years, you could pay cash for a house in a lot of places. If you rode the bus for 30 years, our simple savings calculator says you'd be close to a fully funded retirement, with over a million bucks sitting in the bank! Maybe Harvey Pekar was on to something.

What do you think? Would you stop driving to fund your retirement? Or is the loss of convenience and freedom too high of a price to pay?

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Virgina Nassar
April 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Too late for me to ride the Bus to save for my retiirement. I retired 13 years ago. We move to another city that we believed is more better to live. But I was just sorry for my self there is no bus available in our place. The public buses is too far to walk. Vanpool will not work for me. Since I am qualified for senior and disabled bus i applied and due to my health condition and old age I was approved. I sold my old truck Honda to my nephew for a small amount of money. This time I save for my CAr Insurance, car registration, gas and maintenance. I am free to worry i am riding Paratransit for $5.00 one way pick up and drop off to my driveway. $8,776.00 is good to be true but I don't have it it is just the free of worry. Just ride the Paratransit. Thanks!

Pace Suburban Bus
April 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Thank you for letting us know that there is little public tranportation in your area. I am not sure if you knew about this, but Pace Suburban Bus also runs what is called a Vanpool Incentive Program. It is a form of public transportation, just more personalized. Those currently registered in the program save hundreds of dollars a month over driving their own cars. If there is a chance that a group of co-workers within your company or organization would be willing to share the ride, then vanpool would definately be the best option for you. Sure, it is not a bus or a train, but it is certainly as beneficial.