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Maintenance, Insurance Raise Cost of Owning a Car

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The average owner of a sedan has to shell out nearly $10,000 a year to own and operate that car, according to auto club AAA.

A new AAA reports shows, on average, the cost of driving 15,000 miles a year rose 1.17 cents to 60.8 cents per mile, or $9,122 per year. Overall, that's a roughly two percent increase on the cost of operating a car last year.

Auto club AAA studies five cost categories—maintenance, fuel, tires, insurance and depreciation—for its annual "Your Driving Costs" study.

The biggest percentage increase this year was in maintenance costs, which grew by 11.26 percent to 4.97 cents per mile, on average, for sedan owners. Average costs in all categories are lower for smaller vehicles and higher for bigger ones.

The maintenance cost estimates are based on the cost to maintain a vehicle and perform needed repairs for five years and 75,000 miles, including labor expenses, replacement part prices and the purchase of an extended warranty.

"As a vehicle gets older you tend to encounter more significant repair costs," says Michael Calkins, AAA's manager of technical services.

Since last year's study, there were substantial increases in labor and parts costs for some models, and a significant rise in the price of extended warranties. "People are keeping cars longer," Calkins says. "Extended warranties are seeing a bit of an increase in claims. That's where the costs have gone up."

The second biggest increase: Insurance costs, which rose 2.76 percent, or $28, to an annual average of $1,029. AAA's insurance cost estimates are based on a low-risk driver with a clean driving record.

Fuel costs rose 1.93 percent to 14.45 cents per mile for the average sedan owner. The actual average cost of regular gas went up 3.84 percent to $3.49 per gallon; but several of the vehicles in the AAA study had small improvements in fuel efficiency, which partially offset the fuel cost increase.

Depreciation costs, which had dropped in last year's study, ticked upward slightly, by .78 percent to $3,571 a year. That might be because, as new vehicle sales recover, more used cars are available, which has softened the resale value of clean older models, Calkins says.

"The length of time people keep cars has been going up for the past several years, since the real estate crash," he says. "The average age of the vehicle on the road now is 11.1 years. It's not just for financial reasons that people are keeping cars long. The quality of the cars is also improving."

Tire costs did not change from last year, remaining at about one cent per mile, on average, for sedan owners.

AAA has published "Your Driving Costs" since 1950. That year, gas cost 27 cents a gallon, and it cost about 9 cents a mile to drive 10,000 miles a year.

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