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Itemized average total costs for the average American driver to own and operate an automobile.[1] This yearly value, around 6650 USD, corresponds, according to AAA, to a small sedan.[2]

The car internal costs are all the costs consumers pay to afford owning and running a car.[3] Normally these private expenditures are divided by fixed or standing costs and variable or running costs.[4] Fixed costs are those ones which do not depend on the distance travelled by the vehicle and which the owner must pay to keep the vehicle ready for use on the road, like insurance or road taxes. Variable or running costs are those which depend on the use of the car, like fuel or tolls.[5]

Compared to other popular modes of passenger transportation, especially buses or trains, the car has a relatively high cost per passenger-distance travelled.[6] Motorists in the United Kingdom seem to spend on the car an average of roughly 1/3 of their average net income,[7] while motorists in Portugal seem to spend 1/2 of their net income. For the average car owner, depreciation constitutes about half the cost of running a car,[7] nevertheless the typical motorist underestimates this fixed cost by a big margin, or even ignores it altogether.[8]

The IRS considers for tax deduction calculations, that the automobile has a total cost for drivers in the USA, of 0.55 USD/mile, around 0.26 EUR/km;[9] and according to the American Automobile Association the average driver of the average sedan, spends totally approximately 8700 USD per year, or 720 USD per month, to own and operate their vehicle.[2]


Standing costsEdit


Normalized car depreciation for several models obtained from online retailer from USA.

The yearly depreciation of a car, is the amount of a financial quantity, the car value decreases every year. Normally this value is correlated with the price a certain car has on the market, but on average a car has a depreciation around 15% to 20% per year.[10][11] Depending on market conditions, cars may depreciate between 10-30% the first year.[12]

Car taxesEdit

Car taxes, road taxes, vehicle taxes or Vehicle Excise Duty are the amount of money car owners pay to the state or to certain regional government within a country, normally yearly, to allow the car to circulate within that region or state. These taxes serve, theoretically according to the respective legal provisions, either to maintain the roads and all the correspondent infrastructures or to compensate the negative externalities caused by the motor vehicles. These taxes normally depend on CO2 emissions, the engine displacement of the vehicle motor, the vehicle weight or on some percentage of the car value.


Insurance serves to provide financial protection against physical damage and/or bodily injury resulting from traffic collisions and against liability that could also arise there-from. The prices may largely vary depending on the coverage levels and in the UK, the payment frequency normally is made by trimester, semester or by year. In USA, payments are normally made monthly. In countries such as Spain, Germany and England it is possible to contract an insurance by days.


Vehicle inspection is a procedure mandated by national or subnational governments in many countries, in which a vehicle is inspected to ensure that it conforms to regulations governing safety, emissions, or both. Normally these inspections are made annually and the price varies depending on the region.

Car financeEdit

The subject of car finance comprises the different financial products which allows someone to acquire a car with any arrangement other than a single lump payment. When used, and for the purpose of assessing the private financial costs, one must consider only the interests paid by the car owner, as some part of the amount the owner pays each month for the finance is already embedded in the depreciations costs.

Cost of capitalEdit

The cost of capital, applied to a purchase of a car, is the amount of money the car owner could have obtained, if they, instead of buying the car, applied that amount of money to other worthy investment. The cost of capital is the rate of return that capital could be expected to earn in an alternative investment of equivalent risk. Considering by default the car has depreciation, and that such depreciation is already considered at a certain cost item, the cost of capital of owning a car, is then the income that the car owner could have obtained with the money spent on such car. One example could be a common standard interest rate in a deposit account.[13]

Running costsEdit


The fuel costs depend basically on four factors, namely the distance travelled by the car, the price paid for the fuel, the energy efficiency of the car and the type of driving. In Western countries, this cost normally is the second highest after depreciation.


The maintenance of a car can have the purpose to be a long term or a short term maintenance. This cost might be very irregular and somewhat unpredictable but tends to increase with the age of the car. On this item are included car parts that need to be replaced after a certain period of time (for example every two years) or with a specific number of travelled kilometres or miles, like tires or filters.

Repairs and ImprovementsEdit

Repairs costs are completely unpredictable because they depend on the number and severity of car collisions, like dents repairing for example. These costs also refer to spare parts substitution due to malfunctioning. On this cost item it might be included also the parts bought to improve the performance or the aesthetic of the vehicle.


The costs of parking include all the money the user needs to pay to park their car. This applies normally to car parking lots, like in offices, public buildings, shopping centres or in the downtown; but also on the public space (normally in the inner part of some city) using parking meters. This cost might be relatively predictable, if the user for example has a monthly contract with some parking lot company, or if he rents a private parking space.


A toll road, also known as a turnpike or tollway, is a public or private roadway for which a fee (or toll) is assessed for passage. Normally this applies to motorways, bridges and tunnels but it might also apply, like in some cities such as London or Stockholm, to gain access to the city-centre. This cost might be predictable if the user passes the tolled roadway, a defined number of times per month.


A traffic fine or traffic ticket is a notice issued by a law enforcement official to a motorist accusing violation of traffic laws. Traffic tickets generally come in two forms, citing a moving violation, such as exceeding the speed limit, or a non-moving violation, such as a parking violation. These tickets almost always imply the payment of a certain quantity of money. This cost might be completely unpredictable, but one way for the user to assess it, is to calculate per year the total money spent in fines, in the last few years.

Car washesEdit

The cost of car wash varies according to the frequency users wash their car, and with the price of each wash, that normally depend on the type of washing.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Automobile costs for United States; Average monthly cost per type". Automobile Costs Calculator. April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Stepp, Erin (April 28, 2015). "Annual Cost to Own and Operate a Vehicle Falls to $8,698, Finds AAA". NewsRoom. American Automobile Association. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  3. ^ The Automobile Association (2014). "Motoring Costs".
  4. ^ The Automobile Association (2014). "Motoring Costs 2014" (PDF). (PDF file).
  5. ^ The Automobile Association. "Car running costs 2013/14".
  6. ^ Diesendorf, Mark, "The Effect of Land Costs on the Economics of Urban Transportation Systems" (PDF), Proceedings of Third International Conference on Traffic and Transportation Studies (ICTTS2002), pp. 1422–1429, ISBN 978-0-7844-0630-4, archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-19, retrieved 2008-04-15
  7. ^ a b Osborne, Hilary (2006-10-20). "Cost of running a car 'exceeds £5,000'". The Guardian. London: Guardian Media Group.
  8. ^ Meek, James (2004-12-20). "The slow and the furious". The Guardian. London: Guardian Media Group.
  9. ^ IRS (June 23, 2011). "IRS Increases Mileage Rate to 55.5 Cents per Mile".
  10. ^ Simon Donohue, Business reporter (BBC) (27 August 2013). "How to beat price depreciation when choosing a new car".
  11. ^ John Fuller. "What is car depreciation?".
  12. ^ Lee, Thomas (4 October 2016). "Buy These 12 Cars Used, Not New Based on Study of 14 Million Cars". Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Car running costs, Your guide to how we calculate car running costs". The Automobile Association. 7 July 2014.

External linksEdit