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.
"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?