Costs of Driving Accelerating Rapidly in the U.S.

WASHINGTON -- AAA’s 2011 ‘Your Driving Costs’ Study:
Cost of Owning and Operating Vehicle Increased 3.4 Percent
Notable increases in gas, tires and depreciation drive up average costs

AAA’s annual ‘Your Driving Costs’ study reveals a 3.4 percent rise in the yearly costs to own and operate a sedan in the U.S. The average costs rose 1.9 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile, or $8,776 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.

“Despite seeing reduced costs for maintenance and insurance this year, there is an overall increase in the costs to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. this year,” said Jennifer Cook, AAA Washington’s manager of Public Relations. “The 2011 rise in costs is due to relatively large increases in fuel, tire and depreciation costs, as well as, more moderate increases in other areas.”

Based on Driving 15,000 miles annually, the overall findings of the 2011 ‘Your Driving Costs’ study include:

Small Sedan = 45.1 cents/mile or $6,758/year
Medium Sedan = 57.3 cents/mile or $8,588/year
Large Sedan = 73.2 cents/mile or $10,982/year

SUV / 4WD = 74.9 cents/mile or $11,239/year
Minivan = 63.3 cents/mile or $9,489

The cost of tires had the largest percentage increase, rising 15.7 percent to 0.96 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. The rise in costs of raw materials, energy and transportation has led to notable tire price increases in recent years. Also contributing to higher average tire costs is a trend by automakers to equip their sedans with premium grade tires as original equipment.

While several vehicles included in the ‘Your Driving Costs’ study had increases in fuel economy, it was not enough to offset the rise in gas prices, which caused fuel costs to increase 8.6 percent to 12.34 cents per mile on average for sedans. The 2011 ‘Your Driving Costs’ study began in December 2010 and calculated fuel costs when the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline was $2.88 per gallon at that time.

Depreciation continues to be the largest cost for vehicle owners, and yet it is frequently the most overlooked by consumers determining the cost of owning and operating a vehicle. The 2011 AAA study found a 4.9 percent increase depreciation costs, averaging $3,728 yearly for sedans driving 15,000 miles annually.

Maintenance, Insurance Costs Fall in 2011 Study -
Both maintenance and insurance costs are lower in the 2011 study. Maintenance costs dropped 2.2 percent to 4.44 cents per mile on average for sedans, reflecting a trend by automakers to include some portion of scheduled maintenance in the purchase price and extending recommended maintenance intervals. All categories had lower costs for maintenance, but the minivan category had the largest drop with a 7.4 percent decline to 4.5 cents per mile.

Average insurance costs for sedans fell 6.1 percent (or $63) to $968 yearly. Insurance rates vary widely with driver, driving habits, issuing company and geographical region. AAA insurance cost estimates are based on a low-risk driver with excellent records, and for 2011, this group was rewarded with premium decreases that offset increases that took place in 2010. While all categories experienced declines, the large sedan and minivan categories had the largest cost savings.

61st Year of ‘Your Driving Costs’ Study -
AAA has published ‘Your Driving Costs’ since 1950. That year, driving a car 10,000 miles per year cost 9 cents per mile, and gasoline sold for 27 cents per gallon.

AAA’s ‘Your Driving Costs’ study analyzes the cost to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. Ownership costs factored into the study include the cost of insurance, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges. Operational costs in the study include fuel, maintenance and tires.

To conduct its study, AAA’s auto buying and auto repair experts compiled detailed driving costs for small, medium, and large sedans. Driving costs in each category are based on the average costs for five top-selling models selected by AAA. By size category, they are:
•Small Sedan – Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla.

•Medium Sedan – Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.

•Large Sedan – Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon.

Though not part of the AAA composite average, SUV and minivan information is also included in ‘Your Driving Costs’ to help buyers estimate operating costs for these types of vehicles. Selected models include:

•SUVs – Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner.
•Minivans – Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.