ORLANDO, Fla. (June 4, 2007) — The average cost of operating a car in the U.S. did not change in the past year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), as lower fuel costs offset higher costs in other areas.
That's likely to change the next time AAA conducts its study, as the cost of gasoline has skyrocketed to more than $3 per gallon.
Operating a car costs 52.2 cents a mile, or about $150 week, AAA said in its latest study of the market. The average price of fuel used per mile dropped slightly to 8.9 cents from 9.5 cents, AAA said, based on an average cost per gallon of regular gasoline of $2.26 in last year's fourth quarter. (However, the cost per gallon, on average, is currently about $1 more as of Memorial Day.) In addition, AAA said the costs of maintenance and repair, tires and depreciation remain unchanged.
However, minor increases in the costs of insurance, financing and licensing, registration and taxes offset any savings consumers might have realized from lower fuel costs, AAA said.
The association's “Your Driving Costs” study looks at operating and ownership costs of five top-selling models in three popular size classes: small, medium and large sedans. The results show that consumers can save money by switching to smaller vehicles from larger models.
AAA's estimated average driving costs are higher than the Internal Revenue Service's allowance for 2007 business mileage of 48.5 cents per mile. The IRS has never allowed full reimbursement of all expenses associated with automobile ownership and use, AAA said. The group has published research on driving costs since 1950.
AAA's study calculates the average costs of all expenses associated with owning and operating a vehicle over five years and 75,000 miles of driving. Covered expenses include fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, license, registration, taxes, depreciation and finance charges.
For example, AAA's research shows the average annual cost of driving a small sedan is $6,217 per year, while a large sedan costs almost 50 percent more to own and operate at $9,380 per year.
Smaller, but still significant, savings can be realized by driving a minivan instead of a larger, more expensive and less fuel-efficient SUV—$8,639 per year vs. $9,997 based on 15,000 miles of driving.