What It Really Costs To Own a New Car in 2021


You know that the cost of owning a car is more than just what you pay for the vehicle itself. But are you factoring in ALL of the costs?

How Much Are You Paying To Drive Your Car?

AAA’s recent report, Your Driving Costs, shows the average costs for operating your vehicle in 2021. Here’s how the expenses are broken down:

  • Operating Costs: costs per mile, fuel and maintenance 
  • Ownership Costs: full-coverage insurance, license, registration and taxes
  • Total Costs: operating + ownership expenses

The study finds that midsize pickups, such as the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger and Honda Ridgeline are the cheapest to own. Their yearly average cost: $6,178.

Four-wheel-drive medium SUVs, such as the Subaru Outback, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota Highlander cost their owners the most at $9,968 annually.

To come up with its figures, AAA looked at detailed driving costs for the top-selling 2021 models in nine vehicle categories.

Below, you’ll see the average yearly costs for the vehicle categories selected by AAA. The numbers below apply to a motorist who drives 15,000 miles per year.

Here’s How Much These Vehicles Cost You Out of Pocket Each Year

Vehicle CategoriesAverage Total Cost Per Year
Small Sedan$7,230
Median Sedan$9,366
Subcompact SUV$8,017
Compact SUV (FWD)$8,494
Medium SUV (4WD)$9,968
Midsize Pickup$6,178
1/2 Ton Crew Cab Pickup$7,844
Hybrid Vehicle$6,803
Electric Vehicle$7,589

How To Find Out How Much Your Car Really Costs

AAA has come up with several mathematical formulas to help you calculate how much your car is costing you over the course of a year. To sum them up, you’ll need to:

  1. Keep track of all expenses related to your car including fuel, maintenance costs and insurance.
  2. Jot down the number of miles on your odometer each time you fill up with gas and how much you paid for fuel.
  3. Tabulate these numbers to figure out your cost per mile, operating expenses and ownership costs.

See AAA’s Your Driving Costs study for a detailed look at figuring out your costs.

Final Thought

Because of the currently distorted car market, money expert Clark Howard says now is not the time to buy a new or used vehicle

“If you can at all avoid it, don’t replace your car. Keep your current car,” he says.

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