Here’s Exactly How Much Owning A New Car Can Suck

Hint: It's not cheap

2018 Jeep Wrangler 2.0-liter turbo arriving at dealerships.

That new car smell can be addicting, but you’ll pay the price for it.

Three years ago, I bought a brand new car: my 2016 Mazda CX-5. It felt like a great idea at the time — but I often find myself cursing that decision. Just owning the car continues to suck my bank account dry every year. Never mind the fact that cars are getting more expensive, but AAA published a study showing exactly how much it costs to own a car. Not just every year, either…read this report and see how much your car or truck can cost you every single day.

There are a few factors to take into account here. AAA’s study covers depreciation, finance costs, fuel costs, insurance, licensing fees and maintenance in its average figures. The numbers vary across several segments, ranging from small sedans to SUVs, pickup trucks and electric cars. Assuming you drive the industry average 15,000 miles each year, your new vehicle will cost an average of $9,282 a year to run. That amounts to a record-high $773.50 a month, or $25.43 a day.

Naturally, pickups cost more to run, mainly due to higher fuel costs and registration fees. On the other end, small cars are cheaper to run, setting you back an average of $7,114 each year.

Naturally, pickups aren’t cheap to own either…but you don’t really care when you own a Raptor, do you?

Average running costs by class

The entire AAA report is worth a read to see how they break down ownership costs into specific sections. The overall picture, though, is below. The final numbers show how much it costs on average to run certain types of vehicles 15,000 miles per year:

Vehicle ClassTotal Cost Per YearTotal Cost Per Mile
Small Sedan$7,114$0.47
Medium Sedan$8,643$0.57
Large Sedan$10,403$0.69
Small SUV (FWD)$8,384$0.56
Medium SUV (AWD)$10,265$0.68
1/2-ton Pickup (4WD)$10,839$0.72
Electric Vehicle$8,320$0.55

Digging into the numbers, there are a few surprises here. Let’s start with what isn’t surprising, and that’s the fact that smaller cars are cheaper to run. They’re more fuel efficient, cheaper to insure, and don’t cost as much to register in most areas. However, where the story does change is with electric cars.

Pure EVs are touted as a cheaper investment in the long run, since it costs much less to charge them up, as opposed to fueling up a car or truck. That’s true, going by the AAA numbers. In fact, it costs half as much money per mile to charge an EV against fueling even a small car. However, because EVs depreciate so heavily, they aren’t quite as inexpensive to own as you might think. Of course, the study does not take into account the original purchasing costs of these vehicles, either.

Running a large sedan, medium-sized SUV or a 1/2-ton pickup all cost about the same, all things considered. Remarkably, minivans also turn out expensive to run — nearly as much as a half-ton truck. You’d expect the trucks to be massively more expensive to own, but full-size pickups actually hold their value well against vehicles like minivans.

More expensive than ever

Whatever type of car or truck you buy, there’s no denying its an expensive ordeal. The AAA study took fuel prices for the last 12 months as of May 2019, which averaged out to $2.67 per gallon. As fuel inevitably gets more expensive and prices continue to rise, it’s a situation that’s only going to get pricier as time goes on. Right now, the study assumes electric charging costs 12.6 cents per kilowatt hour.

Check out the entire AAA study here.

Editor’s Note: I do love my Mazda CX-5. It’s a great car I’ve driven over 50,000 miles, and I’ve had relatively few problems. I just wish it would stop running away with my wallet.