The results of AAA’s annual “Your Driving Costs” study have revealed a 1.9 percent rise in the yearly costs to own and operate a sedan in the U.S.
The average costs rose 1.1 cents per mile to 59.6 cents per mile, or $8,946 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.
“The average driving cost for 2012 is up due to relatively large increases in fuel and tire costs, and more moderate increases in other areas,” said John Nielsen, AAA director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Those increases were offset by a decrease in depreciation resulting in an overall increase of 1.9 percent.”
Fuel Costs Up 14.8 Percent
The cost of fuel had the largest percentage increase from 2011 to 2012, rising 14.8 percent to 14.2 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. The average cost of regular grade fuel (used by most of the study vehicles) rose 16.6 percent, from $2.88 to $3.36 per gallon. Several vehicles included in the “Your Driving Costs” study had increases in fuel economy, resulting in the overall average fuel cost increase being slightly less. The fuel costs in the 2012 study were calculated using the national average price for regular, unleaded gasoline during the fourth quarter of 2011.
Tire Costs Up 4.2 Percent
The cost of tires ranks second highest among the factors that rose from 2011 to 2012, increasing by 4.2 percent to one cent per mile on average for sedan owners. The rise in cost can be attributed to higher costs for natural rubber, and the increased cost of oil used in tire production and transportation from factory to distributors across the country. A collateral factor is a trend for manufacturers to equip new cars with premium-grade tires rather than mid-grade tires.
Depreciation Drops 4.9 Percent
Depreciation costs were up slightly in 2011, but for 2012 the trend has reversed with depreciation falling across the board by nearly 5 percent. This change may be a consequence of reduced new car sales over the past few years, which has resulted in a relative shortage of good used cars on the market, driving up their value. This is good news for those in the resale market as their vehicles will retain a greater portion of their purchase cost.
Maintenance Costs Up 0.7 Percent
Maintenance costs are slightly higher in the 2012 “Your Driving Costs” study with an increase of 0.7 percent to 4.47 cents per mile on average for sedans. Factors contributing to the increase include higher prices for oil and more manufacturers now requiring synthetic or synthetic-blend motor oils. Although the use of these oils often comes with extended service intervals, the higher cost of the oil combined with increased maintenance operations at each service (which adds to the time required) can combine to increase overall vehicle maintenance costs.
Insurance Costs Up 3.4 Percent
Average insurance costs for sedans rose 3.4 percent (or $33) to $1,001 yearly. Insurance rates vary widely by driver and driving record, issuing company and geographical region. AAA insurance cost estimates are based on a low-risk driver with a clean driving record. For 2012, this group saw a small increase that offset a decrease experienced in 2011. Quotes from five AAA clubs and insurance companies representing seven states showed across the board increases for all sedan sizes, with large cars having the biggest increase.