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, 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 $9,561. That’s a $279 increase from the previous year.

 

The top 3 annual driving costs

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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 $1,350 per year. Note that the numbers vary widely among vehicle types.
 
ANNUAL COST: $1,350

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2. Fuel

Gas is the most visible driving-related cost for those with gasoline and diesel cars. A sustained drop in oil prices, combined with ever-improving fuel efficiency, is reflected in the study’s finding that new car owners, on average, will spend about $1,650 annually on fuel. Drivers of electric vehicles enjoy the lowest fuel costs: The study found that the average EV driver will spend just $550 annually. 

ANNUAL COST: $1,650

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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 much shorter ranges than newer electric models.
 
ANNUAL COST: $3,721

 

Which cars cost most to drive?

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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 will naturally cost less. Examples include the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and Toyota Corolla. 

ANNUAL COST: $7,515

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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 other medium sedans. Examples include the Ford C-Max, Kia Niro, and Toyota Prius. 

ANNUAL COST: $8,148

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Small SUVs

Small SUVs are a fast-growing segment, thanks to a blend of affordability and capability. Many keep costs down by using the same underpinnings as small sedans. Examples include the Chevy Trax, Mazda CX-3, and Nissan Juke. 

ANNUAL COST: $8,362

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Medium sedans

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

ANNUAL COST: $8,734

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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 almost $6,000 a year. Examples include the Audi eTron, Chevy Bolt, and Nissan Leaf. 

ANNUAL COST: $9,118

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Medium SUVs

Non-compact sport utility vehicles are the biggest beneficiaries of current low oil prices, keeping them below large sedans in annual cost. Examples include the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and GMC Acadia. 

ANNUAL COST: $10,036

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Minivans

Depending on your needs, a minivan may make the most sense—a 7- or 8-seat van beats a 5-seat car on value if you regularly have that many passengers. Examples include the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Kia Sedona. 

ANNUAL COST: $10,101

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Large sedans

These cars feature big prices and more tech, thus costing more to repair and insure. They also prioritize power over fuel efficiency. Examples include the Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Impala, and Nissan Maxima. 

ANNUAL COST: $11,182

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Pickup trucks

With high fuel costs, high cost to insure, and pricey maintenance (such as for 4-wheel drive), pickups rank as the most expensive vehicle to own. Examples include the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150, and Toyota Tacoma. 

ANNUAL COST: $11,308

How to reduce your cost of driving

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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

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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 (i.e. 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.

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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. 

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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.

Download the PDF

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