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May/Jun 2011 Issue

Driving costs climb to $8,776 for car owners

Wallets and pocketbooks will be a little lighter this year with AAA estimating that the cost of owning and operating a car is going up again.

With gas prices and some other costs associated with car ownership rising, motorists will pay $8,776 to operate their cars this year, an increase of about $290 compared to last year. The hike in costs comes on the heels of an increase of nearly $400 last year.

According to the estimates in AAA’s new “Your Driving Costs” brochure, motorists will pay $16.75 per day in fixed costs to own and operate their cars (see box), up by nearly 40 cents per day. For each mile driven, motorists will pay 58.5 cents, nearly 2 cents more per mile than last year.

The driving costs are based on 15,000 miles of driving using the average costs for the five top-selling models in three categories: small sedan, medium sedan and large sedan.

AAA’s annual analysis of how much motorists pay to drive is made up of two types of costs. Operating costs, which include such expenses as gas and maintenance, climbed by 10 cents per mile this year compared to last year. And ownership costs–which are comprised of insurance, licensing fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges–increased by $138 per year.

“Your Driving Costs” also includes driving costs for four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles, which will be 74.9 cents per mile in 2011, 1 cent more per mile than last year, for a total of $11,239 for the year. And the driving costs for minivans will be 63.3 cents per mile, which is 1.3 cents more than in 2010. At $9,489 for the year, the driving costs for minivans is going up by $188.

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.

For a free copy of “Your Driving Costs,” send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to: AAA, “Your Driving Costs,” 12901 N. Forty Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63141. See the brochure online.

Driving Costs

 

Adjust how you drive to stretch each tank

When you grab the gas pump, the price you pay is linked to unrest in Africa, the soaring demand for oil in Asia and the vagaries of the stock market.

While you can’t control the price you pay, you can control how and how much you drive, which factor into how much fuel you use each week. With the price of gas rising again–at more than $3 a gallon early this spring–your driving habits are critical to your financial health.

To help conserve fuel and save money, AAA offers a number of tips in its free Gas Watcher’s Guide, which advises motorists on how to stretch each tank of gas.

If you own more than one car–especially if one of your vehicles is a less fuel-efficient truck, sport utility vehicle or van–use the energy-conserving vehicle as often as possible. Also, consolidate trips and errands, and use public transit and carpool when possible.

By focusing on your driving style, you also can conserve fuel. The faster a vehicle travels, the more fuel it burns, so slow down to save gas. Each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is like paying 24 cents more per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Aggressive driving can lower a car’s fuel economy by up to 33 percent, the DOE reports. If there is a red light ahead, ease off the gas and coast to it rather than waiting until the last second to brake. Once the light turns green, gently accelerate rather than making a quick start.

Keep up-to-date on vehicle maintenance to ensure maximum fuel economy. Change the oil at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals, replace dirty air and fuel filters and keep tires properly inflated.

Finally, drivers equipped with the free AAA TripTik Mobile iPhone application can locate stations on a map and see their prices for gasoline to find the lowest price.

For a free copy of the guide, send a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope to AAA, Gas Watcher’s Guide, 12901 N. Forty Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63141. To see the guide online, visit AAA.com and click on the news and safety section.

unleaded

If your vehicle’s engine does not need premium fuel, anything other than regular is a waste of money.


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