What Is the Total Cost of Car Ownership?

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The automotive market, online and off, is saturated with new and used cars that you can review with just a few clicks. Often overlooked during car research, the total cost of ownership is essentially a calculation of all the costs involved in buying and using a car over a period of time.1 This total cost of ownership includes not only the purchase and finance price of the car, but maintenance costs, fuel costs, insurance, and the depreciation that happens over the entire life of the car. Knowing the total cost of car ownership is a great way to determine if the car is a good deal in the long run.

How much will a car cost me over 5 years?

Now that you know how the total cost of ownership impacts the vehicle you may select, you might be wondering what your total cost of car ownership will be. This will depend on the kind of car you purchase, but there are some general guidelines for different types of cars that can give you a good idea of how much you’ll pay in the long run.

For a mid-size car (e.g. 2020 Subaru Legacy), the average cost over five years (including depreciation) amounts to about $32,000, depending on where you live.2 For a small SUV (e.g. 2020 Ford Escape), the five-year cost increases to about $36,000. With a minivan (2020 Honda Odyssey), the average cost for five years is about $40,000.2

For more specialized vehicles, the costs start to fluctuate. A sports car (2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost) has a total cost of ownership over five years of about $38,000. For a truck (2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular Cab) it comes in at about $41,000, and for an electric car ( 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric) the average five-year cost is about $36,000.2

What are the major costs of owning a car?

To get a little more in-depth, let’s break it down into cost per facet of ownership over those five years. Below, you can see factors like upkeep, fuel and insurance costs, and how depreciation (the decline in value nearly all vehicles experience over time) affects value.

Maintenance

The average monthly cost of maintenance and repairs over five years is $99.3
Below are two examples of approximate maintenance costs over 5 years of car ownership.2

  • Mid-size car – $2,542 (2020 Ford Fusion S)
  • Compact SUV – $3,436 (2020 Toyota RAV4 LE)

Fuel

The average monthly cost of gas for 15,000 miles/year is $146.3
Below are two examples of approximate fuel costs over 5 years of car ownership.2

  • Mid-size car – $8,014 (2020 Ford Fusion S)
  • Compact SUV – $6,696 (2020 Toyota RAV4 LE)

Insurance

Including liability, comprehensive, collision, and any additional state-mandated coverage, the average monthly cost for car insurance is $133.4 Learn about the factors that influence car insurance cost.
Below are two examples of approximate insurance costs you may cover during 5 years of car ownership.2

  • Mid-size car – $3,540 (2020 Ford Fusion S)
  • Compact SUV – $3,260 (2020 Toyota RAV4 LE)

When shopping for insurance make sure to compare car insurance quotes and review the details of each policy.

Car loan

In the second quarter of 2020, the average monthly car payment was $568 for a new vehicle and $397 for a used vehicle in the U.S., according to Experian’s State of the Automotive Finance Market.5

Miscellaneous

The monthly estimate for registration, taxes and other fees is about $12.3

Depreciation

Depreciation is the rate at which a car loses value after purchase. Use a car depreciation calculator to estimate a car’s potential depreciated value.

Now that you know what the total cost of car ownership means, and what it might be for yours, you can go into the car buying process a little more informed and ready to make the best decision. Find out if buying or leasing a car is right for you.

 

1 “ Total cost of ownership” https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/total-cost-of-ownership?q=Total+cost+of+ownership, (Accessed March 8, 2021).

2 “What Is 5-Year Cost to Own?” https://www.kbb.com/new-cars/total-cost-of-ownership/,  (Accessed March 8, 2021).

3 “What Is the Total Cost of Owning a Car?” https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/auto-loans/total-cost-owning-car, (Accessed March 8, 2021).

4 “Average Car Insurance Costs in 2021”  https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/car-insurance-basics/how-much-is-car-insurance/, (Accessed March 8, 2021).

5 “State of the Automotive Finance Market,” Experian (Q2 2020), https://www.experian.com/content/dam/marketing/na/automotive/quarterly-webinars/credit-trends/2020-q2-safm-final.pdf, (Accessed March 8, 2021).

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