Loan Advice

What is the Cost of Owning a Car?

by Jim Hughes   March 19, 2019

From car maintenance to the insurance, there are many fees that make owning a car more expensive than you might have imagined.

Consider all the costs of owning a car before buying a one.

Missing the bus can make a bad day a whole lot worse. It’s enough to make you never want to ride again. You may even consider the true cost of owning a car. As you look for ways to free yourself from the public transportation system, it’s wise to consider all the expenses that go along with driving.

The average cost of owning a car is $10,000 a year, according to AAA auto club. That’s likely quite a bit more than what you’re paying to ride the bus.

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Why Owning a Car is So Expensive?

While your average American spends $10,000 to own and maintain a car, there are those paying much less than that. Here’s how the costs stack up.

Monthly Loan Payments

For car owners still paying off an auto loan, this will be the most expensive part of automobile ownership. The average price of a new car is around $30,000. The average interest rate for an auto loan is around four to five percent. If you punch those numbers into a car loan calculator, you’re looking at a monthly payment of $552 to $566 that will take five years to pay off.

However, you can find a new car for a lot less than $30,000. Used cars start in the hundreds, although car maintenance will likely be more expensive. An emergency payday loan can help you make your first payment if you need a car in a hurry.


The average American drives 13,476 miles a year. Depending on how far you drive and your car’s combined MPG, the cost of gas can really add up. According to, the average price of gas is 2.88 per gallon.

Those driving a Ford F-series can drive around 22 miles per gallon (MPG). That’s about $147 a month for gas on average. You will only pay around $62 a month to gas up a fuel-efficient car like the Toyota Prius which gets 52 MPG.

Car Maintenance Costs

The cost of maintaining a car can vary according to a few factors:

  • Whether it’s a luxury car – nicer cars eventually cost more to maintain, but they usually cost less earlier in their life-cycle. For instance, a BMW may only cost you $10 to maintain in its third year, but that’ll go up to $1,125 in the tenth year. A Honda may cost you $145 in its third year, but only $455 in its tenth.
  • How new it is – a newer car should cost less to maintain than an older version of the same car.
  • If you get into an accident – damage that’s your fault will cost at least as much as your deductible.

If you’re buying a used car, you need to pay extra attention to these numbers, as it may end up costing you more in the long run.

Also, you will need to replace your car’s tires every 50,000 or so miles. For the average driver, that means once every few years at the cost of around $200 a tire.

No matter what kind of car you get (besides one that’s purely electric, like a Tesla), you will need to get the oil changed a couple of times each year. This will set you back around $50 each time. Again, luxury cars cost more. A BMW oil change can run you upwards of $200.

Car Insurance

Car insurance is an important figure to remember when you are adding up the cost of a car.

Insuring your car will cost around $800 each year. Considerations your insurer may make when setting your rate include:

  • The amount of coverage you require
  • The make, model, and year of your car
  • How good of a driver you are

Tickets and accidents will increase your rate anywhere from three percent up to 255 percent. A comprehensive claim is at the lower end of the spectrum. Understandably, the rate goes up depending on the seriousness of the offense:

  • Talking on a cellphone – 16 percent increase
  • Failure to stop – 19 percent increase
  • Speeding 10 MPH over the limit – 20 percent increase
  • Speeding 29 MPH over the limit – 22 percent increase
  • Texting – 24 percent increase
  • Careless driving – 26 percent increase
  • Speeding 30 MPH+ over the limit – 30 percent increase
  • At-fault accident – 32 percent increase
  • Two speeding tickets – 43 percent increase
  • Racing – 71 percent increase
  • DUI/DWI – 79 percent increase
  • DUI/DWI second offense – 163 percent increase
  • DUI/DWI third offense – 255 percent increase

Being a safe driver with no blemishes on your record can save you a lot on insurance (not to mention what you’ll save by not having to pay for tickets and repairs). Using a discount insurance company can bring the cost down even more. Just keep in mind that when you do need coverage, most cut-rate insurance companies may not help very much.

Car Wash

A standard, no-frills car wash will set you back around $10. Add a wax treatment and anything on the interior, and you’re easily looking at twice that amount. To keep your new car looking nice, you will want to wash it every couple of weeks. So, you should factor in a cost of around $20 to $50 a month to keep your car looking its best.

Auto Accessories and Add-Ons

It’s hard to stick to the bare essentials when you’ve already paid so much for the car. Another few hundred dollars to revamp the sound system can seem like pocket change compared to the entire loan amount. Aftermarket car parts range in price, and while they are a luxury, some can feel anything but unnecessary – like, tinted windows in very hot climates. Here’s what these add-ons may cost you (also, if you need a professional to install these parts, then you’ll need to tack on an extra $50 to $200 based on how long it will take):

  • Window tinting -- $100 to $500, depending on the quality of the tint
  • Sound system -- $150 to $1,000
  • Muffler replacement -- $10 to $500
  • Spoiler -- $100 to $600
  • Suspension – $1,000 to $2,000
  • Paint job -- $300 to $3,000

For those without access to a reliable public transportation system, buying a car to get to work is a necessity. However, you can save a lot of money by not buying a car. A monthly bus pass will likely run you about $50 to $100. That’s a tenth of what you’re likely to pay to own a car.

Jim Hughes   OpenCashAdvance Marketing Manager
Personal Finance
Jim Hughes remembers checking his first email on the original BlackBerry 850 nearly 20 years ago. It was spam, and he fell for it. Even so, he’s been on the beat every day since, following the ebbs and flows of financial technology. Look to Jim for insider exclusives on shorter-duration loans, installment loans, and other popular products in fintech today.
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