AAA: Average driver spends $706 a month on vehicle expenses

In its latest annual analysis of vehicle ownership costs, AAA determined that small sedans are the most cost effective segment while pickup trucks put the greatest strain on a driver's budget.

AAA's "Your Driving Costs" evaluation found that the average cost of vehicle ownership is $8,469 per year. This marked an average of $706 per month and was down from 2016's six-year low of $8,558 per year.

"Determining the cost of a new vehicle car is more than calculating a monthly payment," said John Nielsen, managing director of AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair. "While sales price is certainly a factor, depreciation, maintenance, repair and fuel costs should be equally important considerations for anyone in the market for a new vehicle."

The latest analysis of driving costs expanded to include four new segments: small SUVs, half-ton crew cab pickup trucks, hybrids, and electric vehicles. The report also looks at the costs of owning medium sized SUVs, minivans, and small, medium, and large sedans. The calculations are based on the costs associated with the five best selling vehicles in each segment, as well as an assumption that the vehicle is driven 15,000 miles each year.

Small sedans had the lowest average cost at $6,354 per year, followed by small SUVs ($7,606), hybrids ($7,687), medium sedans ($8,171), and electric vehicles ($8,439). Pickup trucks had the most expensive ownership expenses with an average of $10,054 per year. Other segments with above average costs included medium SUVs ($9,451), large sedans ($9,399), and minivans ($9,146).

Most of these expenses were attributed to depreciation, with AAA saying the average new vehicle loses $15,000 in value during the first five years of ownership. The report says electric vehicles had the highest annual depreciation costs at $5,704, followed by minivans at $3,839. Annual depreciation costs were lowest among small sedans ($2,114) and small SUVs ($2,840).

While electric vehicles had the highest depreciation costs, they also had the lowest fuel and maintenance costs. AAA found that the average driver spends 10.26 cents per mile on fuel, or $1,539 per year when driving 15,000 miles annually. The average electric vehicle required just 3.68 cents per mile in fuel costs, or $552 a year. Pickups had the highest fuel costs at 13.88 cents per mile, or $2,082 a year.

AAA estimated that the average driver spends 7.91 cents per mile—$1,186.50 a year—on regular maintenance, repairs, and new tires. Maintenance costs were highest for large sedans at an estimated 8.44 cents per mile, or $1,266 a year. Electric vehicles required an average of only 3.68 cents per mile ($982.50) for maintenance.

"Although electric vehicles can have higher up-front costs, lower fuel and maintenance costs make them a surprisingly affordable choice in the long run," said Nielsen. "For even lower costs, car shoppers can avoid high depreciation costs by selecting a used electric vehicle."

Electric vehicles were also the only segment with negative costs for license, registration, and taxes, since tax credits and other incentives are available when purchasing these vehicles. On average, AAA calculated that these benefits shave $656 from annual electric vehicle ownership costs. Across all segments, the average annual cost for license, registration, and taxes was $718.

Other costs showed relatively little variation among segments. AAA determined that the average driver spends $1,178 a year on auto insurance and $674 on finance charges.

AAA has published its "Your Driving Costs" report annually since 1950. In that year, when average gasoline costs were 27 cents per gallon, the organization calculated that it cost nine cents a mile to drive a vehicle 10,000 miles annually.


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