Cost of Driving Has Risen 3.4%, Study Finds

Rising gas prices. Costlier tires. Lousy deals on vehicle resales. If it seems that it’s costing more to operate a motor vehicle these days, that’s because it is — 3.4% more than a year ago, according to auto club AAA.
cost-up
Cost of driving has risen 3.4%. The average annual cost to own and operate a sedan in the USA, based on 15,000 miles of driving, rose 1.9 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile, or $8,776, says AAA’s 2011 “Your Driving Costs” study.

The increased costs to own and operate a vehicle were driven mainly by large increases in fuel prices, depreciation costs and tire prices, says John Nielsen, AAA national director of auto repair, buying and consumer programs.

“Tires are up a lot,” he says. “That’s based on two things. The cost of raw materials, energy and transportation has gone up. And the average tire cost is going up, because the manufacturer is putting a better grade of tire on as original equipment.”

The cost of tires showed the largest percentage increase in this year’s study, rising 15.7% to an average of 0.96 cents per mile for sedan owners.

Rising gas prices fueled an 8.6% increase to an average of 12.34 cents per mile to operate a sedan. Average depreciation costs, the largest cost for vehicle owners, rose 4.9% to an annual average of $3,728 for sedans.

Among the good news in this year’s report:

Small sedans such as the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla depreciated less than bigger vehicles. “As buyers were responding to their economic concerns and began purchasing either a used car or smaller vehicle, that caused the resale value of that category to hold up well,” Nielsen says.

Maintenance and insurance costs both declined. Maintenance costs fell 2.2% to an average of 4.44 cents per mile for sedans, reflecting a trend by automakers to include a portion of scheduled maintenance in the purchase price and extend recommended maintenance intervals. Average insurance costs for sedans fell 6.1% to $968 a year, based on estimates for low-risk drivers with excellent records.

To calculate the costs of driving, AAA incorporates standardized criteria designed to model the average AAA member’s use of a vehicle for personal transportation over five years and 75,000 miles of ownership.
The auto club has published the annual “Your Driving Costs” since 1950. That year, it cost 9 cents a mile to drive a car 10,000 miles per year, and gas cost 27 cents a gallon.