The price of a new vehicle has soared to record levels this year — but so has the cost of owning and operating it, noted AAA, which estimated the typical motorist will spend $9,666 to own and operate a new car, truck or crossover this year.
That’s up from $9,561 a year ago, the travel and road service reported. AAA factored in everything a motorist might have to shell out for, from license and registration fees to the fuel needed to get around. But, by far, the biggest expense comes in the form of depreciation, representing about 40% of what you’ll pay in 2021, AAA estimates.
“Consumers have to remember the expense of owning a car goes far beyond the monthly payment,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations. “Plus, we are seeing costs increase for a number of products recently, and cars are no exception. This trend will likely continue as new vehicles come equipped with the latest technology, which naturally drives up the sticker price.”
A variety of factors are driving up costs
The annual “Your Driving Costs” study reflects a variety of factors and can be influenced by ongoing trends. That includes surging fuel prices and, this year, the shortage of semiconductors that has depleted dealer inventories and driven up the actual cost of purchasing a new vehicle to more than $40,000, on average, for the first time ever.
All told, an American motorist should expect to lay out about $805.50 monthly. That varies, of course, depending upon the type of vehicle you own. Owning and operating a small sedan anchors the low end, averaging out to about 48.20 cents per mile. Full-size pickups, on the other hand, top the list, at 77.25 cents per mile. And electric vehicles come in around mid-pack, at 61.96 cents per mile.
There were some changes to the 2021 cost-of-ownership study, a AAA release noted, starting with the nine categories of vehicles it analyzed.
“For several years now, buyers have moved away from previously popular categories like sedans to newer styles like compact SUVs. For 2021, AAA added two new categories: subcompact SUVs and midsize pickup trucks. These replaced large sedans and minivans, both of which no longer offer enough new models to be tracked.”
Depreciation delivers the biggest hit
Depreciation is, far and away, the biggest out-of-pocket expense, the new study indicated, accounting for 40% of the annual cost of owning and operating a vehicle.
Not surprisingly, fuel is another major expense — though the 2021 AAA study may actually underestimate its impact since it was calculated using data collected from May 2020 through May 2021. That was before the current spike in fuel prices. Even so, energy costs average out to around 10.72 cents per mile, spiking as high as 15.81 cents for pickups, and as low as 3.66 cents for battery-electric vehicles.
Maintenance, repair and tire costs were next up on the list, at an average 9.55 cents per mile. Again, EVs sat at the low end, averaging just 7.70 cents per mile. Perhaps surprisingly, medium sedans — rather than pickups — are the most expensive vehicles in this category, costing an average 10.43 cents per mile.
Finally, some good news
If there was any good news, it came in the finance category. Interest rates are down by an average 1.056 percentage points, to 4.12% this year. On a typical new vehicle purchase that will generate some real savings.
The AAA suggests motorists take a complete look at what it will cost to not only purchase a new vehicle but also to insure, maintain and fuel it. Those additional expenses, if not factored in, can bust a household budget.
You can click here to access a AAA cost-of-ownership calculator.