Find by category:

Exhaust Notes

Driving a car costs more than $9,000 per year, says AAA

Annual study finds average car maintenance costs will increase the most, while gas prices will be up only slightly.

By Douglas Newcomb Apr 16, 2013 11:27AM

The cost of driving is going up, but it’s maintenance, not gasoline, that's now taking the biggest share of your driving dollar.

According to an annual AAA study, the price of driving will rise 1.96 percent in 2013, compared with last year. The AAA study, based on owning one of 15 top-selling sedans in the United States and operating it for 15,000 miles per year, showed that the average cost for car owners will jump 1.17 cents to 60.8 cents per mile, or $9,122 per year.


The largest component of that total cost will come from maintaining a vehicle, which will see the single largest percentage increase of any category, growing by 11.3 percent to 4.97 cents per mile on average.  AAA based its estimates on the cost of maintaining a vehicle and performing needed repairs for five years and 75,000 miles, including labor, replacement parts and an extended warranty policy. 

AAA attributed the increase in maintenance costs to a rise in labor and parts charges for some models, as well as a hike in the price of extended warranty policies due to high loss ratios by underwriters. “Many factors go into the cost calculation of owning and operating a vehicle,” John Nielsen, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said in a statement.


Fuel and insurance price increases will take growing slices of the driving-cost pie. “This year, changes in maintenance, fuel and insurance costs resulted in the increase to just over 60 cents a mile,” Nielsen said.


The study predicted that fuel prices will rise only 1.93 percent -- to 14.45 cents per mile on average for sedan owners -- as gasoline prices remain relatively stable. The average cost of regular gas used by most of the vehicles in the study rose 3.84 percent, from $3.357 to $3.486 per gallon. But this was partially offset by several vehicles in the survey that achieved significant improvements in fuel economy. (Fuel costs in the 2013 study were determined using the national average price for regular gas during the fourth quarter of 2012.)


Average insurance costs for sedan owner are projected to rise 2.76 percent, or $28, to $1,029 a year. Insurance rates vary drastically depending on the driver, driving record, issuing company and region. The AAA study based its insurance cost estimates on a hypothetical low-risk driver with a clean record.


AAA obtained quotes from five of its own clubs, as well as insurance companies representing seven states. Overall, there is an across-the-board but modest increase in insurance premiums for all sedans, with large cars seeing a lower price increase than small- and medium-size sedans.

Depreciation costs in 2013 will also be up slightly, by less than 1 percent, to $3,571 per year. AAA said that this is likely due to growth in new-vehicle sales, which has put more used cars in the marketplace. That in turn drops the resale value of older models in good condition.


One expenditure that's unlikely to change is the cost of tires, which are estimated to remain at 1 cent per mile on average for sedan owners. AAA attributed this stability to a leveling off of past cost rises based on raw materials, energy and shipping.  


“Before you make any vehicle purchase, it is important to determine ownership and operational costs and compare them to your current and future financial situation,” Nielsen said.

To figure out your own expenditures, you can download AAA’s brochure, which contains a worksheet that can be filled out and personalized for a specific driver, vehicle and location.


[Source: AAA]

Apr 16, 2013 2:25PM

$1200 for driving 4000 miles?  What kind of car are YOU driving.  Ditch it now.

Apr 16, 2013 2:35PM
Apr 16, 2013 2:58PM

Am I the only one who is confused here? If operating cost for a car come out to 60.8 cents a mile and if maintenance is "the largest component of that total cost", then how can maintenance cost be only 4.97 cents per mile. Somebody needs to redo their math. In any case I’m surprised to find that vehicle operating cost had gotten so high. 60.8 cents per mile is even higher than the standard IRS mileage rate which is supposed to cover the cost of using your own car for company business. Of course if you have to drive a lot for your job and you’re smart you have a second car just for work, something that has low maintenance cost and gets great mileage, like a 15 or 20 year old Honda or Toyota, etc. Then you actually end up pocketing all that extra mileage money and you don’t wear out your nice new car. That’s what I’ve always done at least. Of course I’ve also always done all my own repairs, which cuts way down on costs.

Apr 16, 2013 3:27PM
I'm not sure what kinds of cars these guys were looking at in their study, but the numbers do add up if you don't have a very economical car...

My 2003 Honda Civic has 172k miles on it and the only maintenance I have had to do for it is oil changes ($25 every three months) and I've replaced the brakes.  Heck, because I have to have studded tires in the winter I haven't even had to buy new tires yet!  It gets 38MPG like clockwork EVERY time I fill up (with a standard range of 37-39) I figure I have put about $13,500 into gas (172,000/38=4526.31 X an average of $3 per gallon), $7200 in insurance (full coverage is $58 per month for 120 months), about $1000 for oil changes,  I'll add $300 in new headlights and misc. and I bought it for $12,000.  So my total cost is $35,000... or, $3500 per year.

That's 20 cents per mile...

Buy more efficiently... 
Apr 16, 2013 3:13PM
and if you are a professional (ie. dressed like you might be worth mugging) and take public transport through some of the crappier parts of the average big city you are writing a blank check up to the value of YOUR LIFE...

I'll take the cost of driving, thanks

Apr 16, 2013 3:22PM
Just Drive! I drive a gas belching road yacht and am not concerned about anything, In fact I would like to drive a 1970 Chrysler Newport and drive all of you left lane phone jockeys off the road. And really a GPS. I see a lot of you playing with those too! and it's in your own back yard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Apr 16, 2013 3:08PM

Here is my solution.  I have a 2001 car without collision and own a 2013 Honda scooter that cost $3400, goes 70+ mph, and gets 105 mpg.  I put 90% of my miles on the scooter and leave the car in the garage whenever I can.  My overall transportation costs are much, much lower than average.

Apr 16, 2013 5:31PM
Who's putting these figures together?  What a load of crap!  I can only assume these figures are ONLY for a HUMMER.  I can tell you that I don't have any where near these costs they claim we are to have.  Someone has their head up their ....
Apr 16, 2013 2:34PM
well if yuu bought a cummins gas guzzler or a SUV.. thats YOUR problem...
Apr 16, 2013 2:50PM
Repair shop rates are unbelievably high.  I haven't found any local under 100.00 per hour.  You would think that supply and demand would put pressure on these rates but it doesn't appear to be happening.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
MSN Money


Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.

Have a story idea? Tip us off at