How much does it really cost to drive your car?

HOUSTON – You know how much you pay for your car insurance each month and how much you spend at the pump filling up your gas tank, but do you know how much it actually costs to own your car far beyond maintenance and fuel? Traffic Expert Anavid Reyes breaks down AAA’s numbers for the average annual driving costs for 2020.

Bottom line

The average annual driving cost is the highest on record since AAA began tracking expenses in 1950 at $9,561. Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases a person will make in their lives. Before embarking on the car-buying journey, it’s important to understand how much it will cost beyond just the sticker price. Since 1950, AAA has published it’s annual Your Driving Costs study that breaks down the cost of owning a new car, including depreciation, finance, fuel, insurance, license/registration/taxes and maintenance/repair.

2020 costs broken down

AAA uses five top-selling models in each of nine vehicle size/type categories to calculate ownership costs across a number of areas.

  • Owning a small sedan is the cheapest way to go. It has the lowest cost across the board: 50.10¢/mile.
  • Sedans are even cheaper than owning an electric car, which costs 60.79¢/mile.
  • Texans love their pickup trucks – but they have the highest overall driving costs-- 75.39¢/mile.

These are then combined and averaged to determine the overall cost to own a new car in 2020. For the full list of vehicles included in this year’s study, click here.

  • Depreciation: this is the difference between new-vehicle purchase price and estimated trade-in value at the end of five years and 75,000 miles, AAA calculated this to be $3,700 per year which is up 12% from last year.
  • License, Registration and Taxes: these costs include all governmental taxes and fees payable at the time you buy your car, as well as fees due each year to keep the vehicle licensed and registered. On a national average, you’re dropping about $900 a year, up 19% compared to 2019.
  • Fuel: This year, drivers paid less for gas, so this category fell 8% due to an increased supply, coupled with a decreased demand related to COVID-19. On average, drivers paid 11 cents per mile.
  • Maintenance and Repair: AAA calculated drivers paid 9 cents per mile a 4% increase from last year.

About the Author:

Traffic expert and What’s Driving Houston reporter, proud Latina, lover of animals, food and our beautiful planet.