Driving has in the past year become significantly more expensive. And it's not all because of the price of gas.
According to AAA, the cost of owning and operating a vehicle rose by 3.4 percent versus last year. The average sedan costs $8,776 per year to own and operate—provided you keep your vehicles for five years and drive a typical 15,000 miles per year—as figured by AAA's annual 'Your Driving Costs' study. SUVs can cost quite a bit more: up to $11,239 annually.
The 2011 edition of the annual study started in December 2010 and used the then-current average price of $2.88 per gallon of gasoline. Even at that—an 8.6-percent rise over a year before—the slight rise in fuel economy for a number of vehicles wasn't enough to offset the higher prices at the pump.
Burning rubber? Pay up.
Tire prices factored in, too, rising a whopping 15.7 percent in a year, according to the AAA, due to skyrocketing raw-material costs as well as higher energy and transportation costs. Tires alone are now costing 0.96 cents per motoring mile, on average.
That said, vehicle depreciation is still the largest cost (and most widely overlooked) associated with vehicle ownership. On average, a vehicle loses $3,729 annually—nearly five percent higher than last year—based on those who drive 15,000 miles per year.
The study includes expenses due to fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, depreciation, finance, license, registration, and taxes. For the finance portion of it, the group uses ten percent down, six percent interest, and a five-year loan as benchmarks.
Not all aspects of ownership got pricier
The bright spots? We're paying less for both maintenance and insurance. Both of these ownership costs dropped versus last year, with average insurance rates down about 6.1 percent ($63 annually, to an average $968 annually) and maintenance expenditures down more than two percent—likely due to longer maintenance intervals.
2012 Ford Focus
It still costs considerably less to go small. A small sedan—like the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, or Chevrolet Cruze (Cobalt)—costs 45.1 cents per mile, according to the study, while a medium sedan—Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, or Chevrolet Impala—costs 57.3 cents and a large sedan (Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, or Buick Lucerne) costs 73.2 cents.
The annual study is intended to be compared to previous years' results and altogether models the average AAA member's costs associated with vehicle use for five years and 75,000 miles of ownership.
Click here to download the study's methodology and key points in brochure form.