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Average car ownership nearly $9,000 a year, says AAA

Posted by Bill Griffith  April 7, 2011 03:15 PM

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Back in 1950, AAA published its first "Your Driving Costs" analysis. That year, driving a car 10,000 miles cost 9 cents per mile and gasoline was 27 cents per gallon.

Now, 61 years later, both costs and annual average miles driven have gone up considerably. AAA's 2011 study is based on 15,000 miles of annual driving.

2011 Costs  Per Mile  Per Year
Small sedan  41.5 cents $6,758
Mid-sized sedan 57.3 cents  $8,588
Large sedan   73.2 cents  $10,982
4WD SUV 75.9 cents $11,382
Minivan  63.3 cents $9,489

Averaging the three sedan costs, AAA concludes that the cost of buying and driving a new average sedan rose 3.4 percent or 1.9 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile, or $8,776 per year. (Note that the above annual costs are a sum of two figures -- the fuel cost per mile and ownership costs per day. The per-mile cost is the quotient of this sum divided by 15,000 miles.)

That's of interest to all homeowners who live on a budget and any employee reimbursed per mile for business use of their vehicle.

"Despite seeing reduced costs for both maintenance and insurance this year, there is an overall increase in the cost to own and operate a vehicle in the United States this year," says John Nielsen, AAA national director of auto repair, buying and consumer programs. "The 2011 rise is due to relatively large increases in fuel, tires, and depreciation."

He noted that the cost of tires rose 15.7 percent to an average of 0.96 cents per mile.

AAA's study presumes five years of ownership at 15,000 miles per year. It includes:

The price of one set of replacement tires of the same quality originally supplied.

Annual insurance costs for a married 47-year-old male with a good driving record and three- to 10-mile daily commute.

3. Fuel costs of $2.88 per gallon (the study was based on December 2010 prices)

4. Depreciation: The difference between purchase price and estimated trade-in value after five years.

5. Finance costs: Based on a five-year loan at 6 percent with a 10 percent down payment.

6. License, registration, taxes at time of purchase and due each year, based on the national average.

7. Maintenance costs include parts and labor for routine, specified maintenance. For comparison, it also included an extended warranty cost and one warranty deductible claim of $100.

Details and charts are available on the AAA Public Affairs website.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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