Does money often feel like it’s in short supply? Is “the latte factor” to blame? You know, that $5 fair trade double-shot skinny soy vanilla mocha espresso daily habit of yours? Yeah, that’s probably not helping. But the bigger factor is likely that hunk of metal on wheels that gets you to and from the coffee shop each day.
According to AAA, you could easily be spending over $9,000 per year on your car. And that’s if you’re driving a mid-size sedan such as a Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion. The auto club’s annual “Your Driving Costs” study says an SUV will cost you closer to $12,000 annually.
According to a MarketWatch article about the study, those costs include depreciation, gas, maintenance, insurance, finance charges, fees, and more. They don’t include car washes, parking, or parking tickets. For those intent on totaling all the costs, they also don’t include the cost of your time spent in traffic (although it seems unfair to blame that one on your car) or the portion of your mortgage devoted to your garage.
How can you drive car costs down? MarketWatch suggested four steps:
Don’t buy more than you need. Driving a small car will cost you about $2,000 less per year than driving a medium size care.
Don’t buy new. The single biggest line item on AAA’s spreadsheet is depreciation. Buy a vehicle that’s one or two years old and much of that pain will already have been borne by the first owner.
Read the manual. While it’s important to keep up with the maintenance of your vehicle, it’s also important not to over-maintain it. See how often the oil really needs to be changed by reading that little book in your glove compartment.
Ask about insurance costs. A low sticker price doesn’t always translate into low insurance costs. Call your agent before you buy.
We have other suggestions in our article Nine Keys to Buying a Car Without Busting Your Budget.
How have you saved on the high cost of cars?
By Matt Bell
Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing’s Associate Editor. He is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, leads workshops at churches and universities throughout the country, and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.