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Cheap Gas Drives Cost of Owning Car to Six-Year Low

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CARS.COM — It might perturb motorists to learn that the annual financial burden of owning and operating a car, excluding fuel costs, rose by an estimated $276 this year, according to AAA. Costs are up in six of seven categories tracked by AAA’s annual Your Driving Costs study. It might perturb motorists, that is, if the seventh category — fuel costs — hadn’t dipped by $414, more than making up for all of those other price hikes combined.

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Months of declining gas prices have resulted in a six-year low of $8,558 on average to own and operate a vehicle, assuming annual mileage of 15,000, according to AAA. That comes out to about 57 cents a mile, or roughly $713 a month, to cover both fixed and variable car costs.

“Thanks to lower gas prices, American drivers can expect to save hundreds of dollars in fuel costs in 2016,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair. “Fortunately, this annual savings more than offsets the moderate increases in maintenance, insurance, finance charges and other costs associated with owning and operating a vehicle.”

Broken down by class, small to large sedans’ annual costs ranged from $6,579 to $10,492, or 44 cents to 70 cents a mile; four-wheel-drive SUV costs averaged $10,255 a year, or 68 cents a mile; and minivans $9,262, or 62 cents a mile. While a bargain by modern standards, compare those figures to 1950, the first year AAA conducted the study. Back then, car owners’ per-mile cost was a paltry 9 cents.

Broken down by category, Your Driving Costs for 2016 are as follows:

  • Fuel: $1,268 (8.5 cents a mile), down by $414, or 25 percent, from 2015.
  • Insurance: $1,222, up $107, or 10 percent.
  • Depreciation: $3,759, up $105, or 3 percent
  • Maintenance: $792 (5 cents a mile), up $25, or 3 percent
  • License/registration/taxes: $687, up $22, or 3 percent
  • Finance charges: $683, up $14, or 2 percent
  • Tires: $150 (1 cent a mile), up $3, or 2 percent

Editor’s note: This story was updated April 12 to correct the annual mileage on which AAA’s driving-costs report is based. The correct figure is 15,000 miles.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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