AAA: Cost of Car Ownership up 2% This Year

If you're planning on spending some of your tax refund on a new car or car maintenance, plan to put aside a bit more. According to a AAA study, the cost of owning and operating a vehicle has increased by nearly 2% in 2013.

The results of AAA's annual Your Driving Costs study show that U.S. motorists are paying an average of 1.96% more to own and operate a sedan. The study looks at the annual cost of fuel, vehicle repairs, insurance rates, taxes, license fees, rates of depreciation and average finance charges for a new car driven over five years and 75,000 miles.

"Many factors go into the cost calculation of owning and operating a vehicle. This year, changes in maintenance, fuel and insurance costs resulted in the increase to just over 60 cents a mile," John Nielsen, AAA director of automotive engineering and repair, said in a statement. 

Here's how each category of vehicle fared, based on driving 15,000 miles a year:

Here's AAA's breakdown of where the increases are coming from:

  • Maintenance costs are up 11.26%. According to AAA's report, it now costs an average of 4.97 cents per mile to maintain a sedan based on the agency's estimated labor, parts and extended warranty expenses over five years/75,000 miles.
  • Fuel costs are up 1.93%. The study shows it now costs 14.45 cents per mile in fuel costs to drive a sedan. The average cost of a gallon of regular fuel rose from $3.36 to $3.49 during the fourth quarter of 2012. That's a 3.84% increase, but several vehicles in the study became more fuel efficient for 2013, helping to offset the fuel-price increase.
  • Insurance costs up 2.76%. It now costs an average of $1,029 annually to insure a sedan, up $28 from last year. AAA's insurance cost estimates are based on a low-risk driver with a clean driving record; the agency cautions that rates vary greatly based on the driver and where they live. For this study, it used prices from five insurance companies across seven states.

If owning a vehicle in 2013 sounds expensive to you, it is, especially when you consider this: AAA has been conducting this study since 1950, when it cost just 9 cents per mile to own and operate a vehicle. 

Check out the pricing tab on's new-car listings for our five-year cost of ownership feature.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer