Driving Costs You More Now, AAA Says

April 6, 2011

If you've been wondering why your budget just can't keep up with your car expenses, don't blame it all on the price of gas.

AAA's annual "Your Driving Costs" study has been released, and it may come as little surprise that the costs for operating a vehicle have increased.

Overall, AAA says drivers are paying 1.9 percent more than last year to keep their cars on the road. The average yearly price tag is now up to $8,776, which works out to 58.5 cents per mile based on a 15,000 miles per year average.

There are some bright spots in the figures, like the nearly 4.5 cents less per mile that drivers are paying on maintenance and insurance. The report attributes the maintenance saving on the dealers' practice of throwing in selected service operations with the purchase price of the car. The car manufacturers are also stretching out the recommended service intervals as described in the vehicle owner's manual.

The decrease in yearly insurance costs of $63 down to $968 may be a reaction to the increases that drivers experienced in 2010.

What was the largest cost that owners had to deal with? AAA says it's the loss you suffer on paper when you drive the car out of the showroom--depreciation. Sedans lost $3728 a year in value last year, which was a 4.9-percent increase over 2010. What could be the cause for an accelerated loss of value? Possibly the cars were purchased with very little rebate money, thus making the ownership costs higher at the outset. It could also be argued that the strong used-car market has meant smaller discounts on new cars.

AAA rates the costs of ownership by body style, and it is fairly easy to understand why a Ford Expedition is more expensive to run than a Ford Focus. Size does matter when it comes to operating expenses, it turns out: a Focus-sized small sedan came in at $6,758 or 45.1 cents a mile, while a 4WD SUV like the Expedition costs $11,239 yearly, or nearly 75 cents a mile, to drive.

The report has a disclaimer of sorts about the study taking place while fuel prices were still below $3 per gallon, so the impact of gas was judged to be 12.34 cents per mile for sedans at that time.

An interesting expense item that showed an increase was tires, which went up 15.7 percent. This category experienced general price increases due to rising raw material and manufacturing costs. The report cites the car makers' practice of using more premium grade tires as original equipment--which adds on top of the costs for ever-larger standard tires, and the spread of four-wheel drive, which boosts the need for full sets of replacement tires.

[PR Newswire]                 

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