Aaron Widmar
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Advice for Calculating the Operating Costs of a Car

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Photo: The News Wheel

The true cost of owning a car extends beyond merely the price you pay when you initially purchase the vehicle from a seller. Even after you submit your last payment, you’re still paying for your car.

When you’re budgeting for how much your next car will cost you, consider this extensive list of operating costs of a car.


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A comprehensive list of all ongoing costs of a car

Insurance: By law, you’re required to have car insurance, even if it’s only the barest of coverage. Get a quote from an insurance agent to see how much it would cost you to change the car on your policy. Keep in mind that replacing your old car with a newer, nicer one will increase your premium.

Registration/license fees: The government doesn’t let you drive your car on public roads for free — you have to pay for that. Don’t forget the annual cost of registering your car with the DMV and the cost of renewing your driver’s license every couple of years.

Gas: Every car needs fuel to run, and you need to calculate how much you’ll spend on gas — which, if you drive a vehicle with low MPG rates, could be often. Even if your car is an electric-only vehicle, charging it through an electrical outlet in your garage on a daily basis will still cost you money via an increased home electric bill.


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Maintenance needs: As the seasons change and time passes, your car will deteriorate and suffer wear from frequent usage. Set aside money for recurring maintenance, including new engine oil, air filters, wiper blades and tire air.

Repairs: The older your car is, the more repairs will arise — and the less likely they’ll be covered by a warranty. Be prepared for sudden expenses like punctured tires, broken lights, cracked windows, and body damage from collisions.

Car washes: Rain is free, but it won’t do a sufficient job of washing your car. Make it a habit to take your car in for a thorough wash and wax every season, especially if you live in an area with sweltering summers, snowy winters, or corrosive coastal winds.

Travel and storage expenses: Having a car is a valuable resource for travelling, but it will cost you to drive on certain roads or park certain places. If you live in an area with an abundance of toll roads, you’ll need to purchase an annual pass. You may also need to pay to park your car in a parking garage if you work in an urban area or pay your apartment complex for port parking.