Study: Average Annual Vehicle Ownership Nearly $10,000


The average cost of owning a vehicle is now $9,666 per year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). While the sum is up substantially over the 2019 average of $9,282, 2020 was sitting at a much tighter $9,561.

Of course, none of this means anything to you unless you happen to drive the most typical vehicle in the most likely manner imaginable. The problem with coming up with a representative figure is that it doesn’t actually represent any one driver or automobile. But AAA was good enough to provide some basic calculation tools to help determine where you fall on the spectrum and some pointers on how to bring those rates down. Though the biggest factor remains which hunk of metal happens to be occupying your driveway. 

Running a half-ton pickup with a monstrous motor? AAA has some bad, albeit predictable, news for you relating to your decision to own something from a segment boasting the highest overall driving costs at 77.3 cents a mile.

If that seems a little steep, maybe it’s time to get back into sedans. While not nearly as popular as they once were, they remain a solid value and are typically much more engaging to drive than crossovers. The smaller ones also happen to be the most affordable segment at 48.2 cents per mile. But if we’re sticking with averages, we should probably be talking about crossovers that will run you near 56.3 cents per mile.

But this is assuming you’re averaging 15,000 miles each year. Drive a little more and you’re likely to be saving more. Drive a little less and you’re basically paying to have the car take up space for a few more cents per day. But there is a myriad of factors AAA had to consider before it could reach a determination for any one segment. The main ones are obvious — expensive vehicles that guzzle fuel and need a lot of extra maintenance aren’t going to be a blessing to your bank account.

Though there’s plenty more to consider, including the average insurance rates, the kind of financing rates each segment is likely to get, registration fees, and the dreaded deprecation rate. Some of those can be a game-changer. For example, you might think electric vehicles would have to be cheaper to own than just about anything. But AAA has them at 61.9 cents per day due to their comparatively high level of deprecation. Hybrids weren’t much better at 60 cents per mile, despite the similar focus on efficiency, and both segments tend to yield MSRPs notably steeper their a similarly sized vehicle that’s entirely dependent upon liquid fuel. That said, there will be exceptions to the rules in literally every segment.

The only sweeping generalization able to be made is that size of a car can heavily influence how much you’re spending to own it each year. Opting for a big car is typically more expensive than a smaller one, something that’s likely to be true upon the initial purchase and will remain true well into the unit’s lifespan. This likewise goes for how you treat it. A heavily modified vehicle subjected to routine abuse on a racetrack isn’t a business venture, just a fun way to lose money.

[Image: New Africa/]

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