What Is the Total Cost of Owning a Car?

Use the cost of ownership calculator to determine monthly auto expenses beyond making a car payment.
What Is the Total Cost of Owning a Car?

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Calculating the total cost of owning your car — or one you might buy soon — is the best way to make sure your auto budget is in line.

The average monthly payment on a new car was $575 in the second quarter of 2021, according to credit reporting agency Experian. But that’s far from the true cost to own a car.

For vehicles driven 15,000 miles a year, average car ownership costs were $9,561 a year, or $797 a month, in 2020, according to AAA. That figure includes depreciation, loan interest, fuel, insurance, maintenance and fees.

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*Note: The total car cost calculator is pre-populated with estimates based on data from Experian, AAA, GasBuddy.com and the National Conference of State Legislatures. See our methodology below.

The calculator is pre-populated with estimates based on 15,000 miles of driving per year, so we strongly urge you to enter your exact expenses to see your total car costs.

 and insurance premiums are self-explanatory, but here’s more information on estimating other costs of car ownership.

If you know how much you usually spend on fuel, enter that amount in the calculator. Otherwise, divide the number of miles you drive each month by your car’s fuel economy rating, available on . Multiply that number by the price of a gallon of gas in your area.

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You won’t have repair costs if your car is still under the included factory warranty — typically three years/36,000 miles — or if you bought an extended warranty.

However, the average cost of repairs, maintenance and tires is $112.50 a month for a new car, according to AAA. Common maintenance costs include  and tire rotations, which are usually done at 5,000-mile intervals or, in this scenario, three times each year.

If your car isn’t under warranty, set aside some money for repairs, whether they’re needed each month or not. If you want to dig deeper into these expenses, look at estimates on  or  for cars less than 5 years old.

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This part is easy: Just put in your annual motor vehicle registration renewal amount, divided by 12. Add any other recurring expenses such as parking costs.

Although you don’t make a monthly payment for depreciation, cars do lose value over time, which affects your total cost of ownership. In their first year, cars lose around 20% to 30% of their value. Over each of the next five years, depreciation is between 15% and 18%, according to Black Book, which tracks used-car pricing.

To get an idea of how much your car has depreciated, find your car’s resale value through a service such as Kelley Blue Book (or get a cash offer from a local dealer or CarMax, or an online buyer such as Carvana or Vroom) and compare it to how much you paid.

While there are ways to , you generally have less control over this expense once you own your vehicle. Buying cars that hold their value will save you money in the long run.

By reviewing the total cost of ownership, you can see the portion of income that goes toward your car each month. It’s best to spend less than 15% to 20% of your take-home pay on vehicle costs.

If you find you’re over  or if you want to reduce spending, look at your big-ticket items first: your car payment and insurance premiums. To find the biggest savings, rates or consider 

For more cost-cutting tips see these .

Methodology

The averages and estimates used to pre-populate this calculator come from several sources.

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