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 $667 in the second quarter of 2022, 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 $10,728 a year, or $894 a month, in 2022, according to AAA. That figure includes depreciation, loan interest, fuel, insurance, maintenance and fees.

*Note: The total car cost calculator is pre-populated with estimates based on data from Experian and AAA. See our methodology below.

How to calculate your total cost of car ownership

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.

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

Average...

New cars

Used cars

Leases (new)

Monthly payment

$667

$515

$540

Loan amount

$40,290

$28,534

N/A

Loan term

69.46 months

68.01 months

35.91 months

Source: State of the Automotive Finance Market, Experian Information Solutions Inc.

Gas

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 FuelEconomy.gov. Multiply that number by the price of a gallon of gas in your area.

Maintenance and repairs

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 $121 a month for a new car, according to AAA. Common maintenance costs include oil changes 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 Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com for cars less than 5 years old.

Registration, fees, taxes and miscellaneous

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.

Depreciation and the cost of owning a car

Although you don’t make a monthly payment for depreciation, cars usually do lose value over time, which affects your total cost of ownership. It's important to note that the current car market is a unique one where depreciation is mostly nonexistent. In a normal market, cars lose around 20% to 30% of their value in their first year. 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 manage car depreciation, 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.

Your Car-Buying Cheat Sheet
Get Nerdy quick tips on how to streamline the car-buying process even before you hit the dealership.

Saving on your biggest car costs

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 your car budget 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, compare car insurance rates or consider refinancing your car loan.

For more cost-cutting tips see these smart ways to save on car expenses.

Methodology

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

  • Estimates for new and used car payments are from Experian’s Q2 2022 State of the Automotive Finance Market report.

  • AAA’s most recent Your Driving Costs study provides annual average costs for a variety of car-related expenses. AAA information is based on a new vehicle owned for five years and driven 15,000 miles a year. We’ve converted these figures to monthly amounts. The total monthly car cost calculator uses AAA data for the following monthly averages:

    - Gas - Insurance - License, registration and fees - Maintenance, repair and tires

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