Automotive Maintenance

What it costs to drive a new car in 2021

ThinkstockPhotos car key hundred dollar bills

It’s easy to figure out how much it will cost to buy a car. It’s even displayed on the vehicle, hence the phrase “sticker price.” 

What’s harder is determining how much you’ll spend each year once fuel, auto insurance, maintenance, and other costs are factored in. To help provide answers, the AAA Your Driving Costs study investigates driving-related expenses each year to see which way they’re trending.1

This year, the total annual cost to drive a new vehicle 15,000 miles came out to $9,666, or about $800 per month.

The top 3 annual driving costs

air

3. Maintenance & repairs

The cost of keeping a car running smoothly (including factory-recommended maintenance, as well as the average cost of an extended warranty) comes in as the third-highest expense at about $1,425 per year. Note that the numbers vary widely among vehicle types.
 
ANNUAL COST: $1,425

PER MILE COST: 9.55¢

fuel

2. Fuel

Gas is the most visible driving-related cost for those with gasoline and diesel cars. Ever-improving fuel efficiency is reflected in the study’s finding that new car owners, on average, will spend about $1,600 annually on fuel. This is based on data from May 2020 – May 2021, which does not include recent spikes in gas prices. Drivers of electric vehicles enjoy the lowest fuel costs: The study found that the average EV driver will spend just $550 annually. 

ANNUAL COST: $1,608

PER MILE COST: 10.72¢

speedometer

1. Depreciation

Though far less conspicuous than gas or repairs, depreciation—the decline in the value of a car as it ages and racks up mileage—is the undisputed king of annual costs. The study found that electric cars can lose their value particularly quickly, as older used models frequently have shorter ranges or less capability than newer electric models.
 
ANNUAL COST: $3,900

PER MILE COST: 26¢

Which cars cost most to drive?

Small sedan icon

Small sedans

It’s not surprising that small 4-door cars would be the best deal. With thriftier price tags and higher fuel efficiency, insurance and gas cost less. Examples include the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Toyota Corolla. 

ANNUAL COST: $7,230

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Subcompact SUVs

The popularity of SUVs has led to a boom in these small, fuel-efficient crossovers, which enjoy a low rate of depreciation. Examples include the Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, and Jeep Compass. 

ANNUAL COST: $8,017

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Compact SUVs

Compact SUVs offer a blend of affordability and capability. Many keep costs down by using the same underpinnings as sedans. Examples include the Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue. 

ANNUAL COST: $8,494

Hybrid car icon

Hybrids

Somewhat lower fuel costs and slightly higher sticker prices: This is the tradeoff of hybrids, and on average, it makes them cheaper to drive than their non-hybrid counterparts. Examples include the Ford Explorer Hybrid, Hyundai Ioniq, and Toyota Prius. 

ANNUAL COST: $9,009

Electric vehicle icon

Electric vehicles

With no gasoline engine and no gas to buy, EVs greatly reduce annual maintenance and fuel costs. Depreciation hits them hard, though, averaging about $5,300 a year. Examples include the BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, and Tesla Model 3. 

ANNUAL COST: $9,294

Medium sedan icon

Medium sedans

Medium-sized sedans come with medium-sized expenses—they fall in the middle of the pack on fuel cost, maintenance, and so on, though they're relatively expensive to insure. Examples include the Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. 

ANNUAL COST: $9,366

Midsize pickup truck icon

Midsize pickups

As high-end pickups have gotten larger and more expensive, automakers have increasingly begun offering mid-range pickups with better fuel economy. Examples include the Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger, and Honda Ridgeline.

ANNUAL COST: $9,415

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Medium SUVs

Midsize SUVs are the biggest beneficiaries of relatively low oil prices, but they're still the second most expensive segment to own. Examples include the Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Subaru Outback. 

ANNUAL COST: $9,967

pickupTruck

Half-ton pickup trucks

With high fuel costs, high insurance premiums, and pricey maintenance (such as for 4-wheel drive), larger pickups rank as the most expensive vehicles to own. Examples include the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150, and Ram 1500. 

ANNUAL COST: $11,587

How to reduce your cost of driving

oil

Reduce maintenance costs

Spending a little money on preventive maintenance now may save you an expensive repair down the road, so follow the manufacturer-recommended service schedule, and do your own regular checks of fluid levels and tire pressure, too.
 
Visit a AAA Approved Repair facility if your car needs more extensive work—members receive a 10% discount (up to $50) on regularly priced parts and labor.2

electric

Reduce fuel costs

One way to use less fuel is to make sure you're keeping your vehicle fuel-efficient. That means keeping the tires properly inflated, having your alignment checked, getting regular oil changes, eliminating excess weight in the car (e.g. rarely used sports equipment), and rolling up the windows when driving at high speed.

Another way is to buy a more efficient vehicle. Look for an all-new, eco-friendly ride in the AAA Car Guide if you’re in the market for the next level of fuel efficiency.

rental

Reduce depreciation

As the saying goes, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates the average car is driven 13,500 miles a year, so drive less than that and your car will hold its value longer.
 
One easy way to put fewer miles on your car is to rent a car for road trips instead of taking your own. With Hertz, AAA members get up to 20% off rentals and free unlimited mileage on most rentals, plus many other benefits. 

Cost of driving calculation equations

Find your own cost of driving with our calculator

The Your Driving Costs PDF includes an interactive calculator that can help you figure out your cost-per-mile, based on what you pay for gas, how far you drive, and other expenses.

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