Earlier this month, I bought a car for the very first time. I found a 2007 Toyota RAV4 on Craigslist for $7,849. But, as I've now learned firsthand, the true cost of owning a car is much more than the sticker price.
Former car salesman Matt Jones warned me that there would be hidden costs. In fact, not anticipating the true cost is "the absolute biggest mistake first-time buyers make," he said.
Still, I've been surprised with how quickly expenses really do add up. Here are five I've had to deal with:
1. Title and registration fees: $323
When you buy a used car from a private seller, you have to go to your state's DMV to transfer the title and register the vehicle in your name. To do so, you'll need to bring proof of insurance, your license and a form of payment.
In total, I owed $322.89 at the DMV. Here's the breakdown of the fees:
- Registration fee: $36
- Certificate of Title: $52
- Highway-use tax (HUT): $142.5
- Property tax: $67.39
- Vehicle fee: $20
- Notary fee: $5 (I had to pay this in cash)
2. Car insurance: $60 a month
This seems like an obvious expense now, but having lived in New York City, where you don't need a car, for the past five years, I'd never had to deal with car insurance as an adult (I was on my parents' plan in high school).
I got a few quotes from different providers and settled on one that met my needs for $60 a month.
3. Gas: $90 a month
Again, this cost seems obvious, but gas adds up quickly. It costs me about $45 to fill up a tank, and I expect to do that twice monthly, meaning I'll spend close to $100 a month on gas.
4. Maintenance: $310 a year, minimum
I already got my first oil change, which set me back $70. I'll do this every four months, which will add up to $210 over the course of a year. I'll also get my car inspected once a year, which costs about $100.
Besides these recurring expenses, other maintenance costs may arise, like tire rotation or fluid changes, which could tack on an extra couple hundred dollars.
5. Parking: $64 per ticket, plus parking meters
Currently, I'm parking on the street overnight for free, but there are times throughout the day when I have to pay a meter or an hourly rate to leave my car in a parking deck. The rates aren't egregious, but will add up over time.
Plus, there are parking tickets. I already overlooked "street cleaning," an established time on a specific day when you can't park in a certain area. It ended up being a $64 blunder.
Between one-time costs like registration fees and monthly expenses like insurance and gas, I'll spend close to $2,500 on my car this year — and that's if I don't rack up any more parking violations.
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