Costs To Own & Operate A Car Going Up, AAA Reports

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FLORHAM PARK — AAA released the results of its annual Your Driving Costs study on Wednesday, revealing a 3.4 percent rise in the yearly average costs to own and operate a sedan in the United States. The average costs rose 1.9 cents per mile to 58.5 center per mile ($8,776 per year), based on 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,” said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair, Buying and Consumer Programs. “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.”

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Tire costs had the largest percentage increase, rising 15.7 percent to 0.96 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. The rises in costs of raw materials, energy and transportation has led to notable tire price increases in recent years and 2011 is no exception. 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. “The study is meant to provide an overview of the yearly costs involved in owning and operating a vehicle. Some of those costs can fluctuate greatly at different points during the year, such as what we have experienced since the middle of February with the price of fuel, however these figures can still be used to compare categories of vehicles,” explained Nielsen.

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.

Both maintenance and insurance costs are lower in the 2011 Your Driving Costs 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.

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

The 2011 Your Driving Costs study is the 61st edition published by AAA. In the first edition, in 1950, driving a car 10,000 miles annual cost nine cents per mile and gasoline sold for 27 cents per gallon.

The AAA New Jersey Automobile Club, headquartered in Florham Park, provides automotive, travel, insurance, financial and educational services to residents of Essex, Morris and Union Counties. Visit AAA online at AAA.com.


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