Driver's Seat
May/June 2008 Issue
Fueled by rising gas prices, driving costs will climb nearly $300 during 2008, AAA finds

Motorists will need nearly $300 more this year to operate their cars compared to last year due to a rise in operating costs of nearly 2 cents per mile, bringing the total to 54.1 cents per mile, according to new figures released by AAA.

Fueled in part by an increase in gasoline prices, driving costs will climb to $8,121 for the year, an increase of $298 compared to 2007. AAA’s annual estimate of how much motorists pay to drive is composed of all the ownership, maintenance and operating costs associated with driving. The results are published each year in a free brochure called “Your Driving Costs.”

Vehicle operating costs– gasoline, tires and maintenance–rose by 2.5 cents to 17 cents per mile compared to last year. While the cost of maintenance dropped slightly, that decrease was offset by increases in gas and tire prices. Ownership costs– insurance, registration, taxes, finance charges and depreciation–declined by 19 cents per day to $15.28 per day.

Combined, the total cost per mile will be 54.1 cents for motorists who drive 15,000 miles. The driving costs are based on the average costs for the five top-selling models in three categories: small sedan, medium sedan and large sedan.

The brochure also includes ownership and operating costs for minivans and sport utility vehicles. According to the study, the driving costs for four-wheel-drive SUVs will be 69.7 cents per mile, 3.1 cents more per mile than last year. And the driving costs for minivans will be 57.6 cents per mile, which is the same amount as in 2007.

AAA’s cost estimates are different for business-related use of a personal vehicle. Such payments usually cover operating costs for actual mileage and only a portion of the fixed ownership costs.

To find out what you spend annually on your car, the brochure contains a work sheet as well as cost estimates for lodging and meals to assist in vacation planning. To find the least expensive gas prices near you or to calculate fuel costs for a trip, visit and click on the “more fuel tools” link.

For a free copy of the brochure, send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to: AAA, “Your Driving Costs,” 12901 N. Forty Drive, St. Louis, MO 63141. You can also determine your vehicle ownership costs online at

Traffic crashes cost American motorists $164 billion yearly

When Americans talk about transportation problems, they generally key in on traffic, but a AAA report has found the societal cost of crashes is a staggering $164.2 billion annually, nearly 2.5 times greater than the $67.6 billion price tag for congestion.

The report, “Crashes vs. Congestion: What’s the Cost to Society?,” demonstrates that traffic safety issues warrant increased attention from policymakers, particularly as Congress prepares to reauthorize transportation programs in 2009 (see page 11). The $164.2 billion cost for crashes equates to an annual per person cost of $1,051, compared to $430 per person for congestion. These safety costs include medical, emergency and police services, property damage, lost productivity and quality of life.

In all, 73 cities were studied, including St. Louis, where the cost of crashes is $1,207 per person and the cost of congestion is $338, and Kansas City, where the costs are $1,087 and $171 respectively.

“Nearly 43,000 people die on the nation’s roadways each year,” said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet. “Yet, the annual tally of motor vehicle-related fatalities barely registers as a blip in most people’s minds. If there were two jumbo jets crashing every week, the government would ground all planes until we fixed the problem. Yet, we’ve come to accept this sort of death toll with car crashes.”

The report includes several recommendations to improve safety, including support for a national goal of cutting surface transportation fatalities in half by 2025, as recommended by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

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