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AAA: Cost of car ownership dips slightly

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ORLANDO, Fla. (May 13, 2014) — It will cost slightly less to own and operate a car this year, according to AAA Inc.

The automobile club’s annual "Your Driving Costs" study calculates a 2.7-percent decrease in the cost to own and operate a sedan in the U.S., with the average cost down 1.64 cents to 59.2 cents per mile, or $8,876 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.

“Despite increases in maintenance and registration fees, American motorists are experiencing an overall decrease in the cost to own and operate a vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA managing director of automotive engineering and repair.

“A large decrease in fuel costs and lower tire, insurance and depreciation expenses are saving owners more than one and a half cents on every mile they drive.”

Among the study’s findings are:

  • Fuel costs showed the single largest percentage decrease from 2013 to 2014, declining 10 percent to 13 cents per mile. The average cost of regular grade fuel fell 5.96 percent, to $3.278 from $3.486 per gallon. At the same time, vehicle redesigns and improved power train technologies that take into account higher federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards have been improving the average fuel economy of sedans used in the study. Fuel costs in the 2014 study were calculated using the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline during the fourth quarter of 2013.
  • This year maintenance costs increased nearly 2 percent to 5.06 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. AAA’s estimates are based upon the cost to maintain a vehicle and perform needed repairs for five years and 75,000 miles, including labor expenses, replacement part prices and the purchase of an extended warranty policy.  For 2014, some vehicles had lower costs due to longer service intervals or reduced labor times, while others experienced an increase in labor times and/or part prices that led to a rise in maintenance costs. AAA also identified an increasing number of vehicles requiring low-viscosity semi- or full-synthetic motor oils, which cost more than conventional oils but provide better fuel economy, added engine protection and allow for longer oil change intervals.
  • After several years of increases due to rising costs for raw materials, energy and transportation, tire costs for 2014 fell 3 percent to 0.97 cents per mile. AAA credited the decrease to two main factors: some redesigned sedans come equipped with less expensive tires and some tire prices have declined.
  • In 2014, average insurance costs remain essentially unchanged at an average annual cost of $1,023, vs. $1,029 last year. Insurance rates vary widely by driver and driving record, issuing company and geographical region. AAA insurance cost estimates are based on a low-risk driver with a clean driving record and for 2014 this group saw a negligible premium decrease. Premium quotes, covering seven states across the country and insurance companies from five AAA clubs, showed minor declines for most small and medium sedans, with large cars having small increases.
  • After a small rise in depreciation last year, the tide has turned and depreciation decreased for 2014 to $3,510 per year from $3,571. While the numbers are improved in all three sedan categories, they are particularly strong in the medium-size area where several very desirable redesigned models have been introduced, AAA said.

AAA has published its ‘Your Driving Costs’ study since 1950, when driving a car 10,000 miles per year cost 9 cents per mile and gasoline sold for 27 cents per gallon.

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