What Is the True Cost of Owning a Car?

What Is the True Cost of Owning a Car?

Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2017

How much will that car cost you?

How much does it really cost to own a car? You may think that knowing your car payment is all you need to know budget-wise, but there are some other expenses you need to consider as well. Here are some of the most common expenses car owners incur above and beyond their car payment.


You cannot take your car off the lot without insurance. The type of insurance you get will change the cost of your car in some unexpected ways. Ideally, your car is insured for what it is worth, but you would be surprised how that can seesaw over time. For example, if your car is light on gas, it may depreciate more slowly thanks to demand compared to a gas-guzzler. Or if you use your car for work, you may need to insure yourself differently. So, one of the first costs you should factor into your budget other than your car payment is how much your insurance is going to cost you monthly.

Registration, Taxes, And Fees

Your car needs to be registered to be allowed on the road, and the excise tax you pay on a car can vary greatly from state to state. Before you buy any car, get a sense of what it is going to cost you when tax time rolls around and how much you will have to pay to make your car street-legal.

Cars are far more than just the sticker price.


Gas is probably the most volatile expense of your car’s cost. Anything from political unrest half a world away to a bunch of your neighbors switching over to electric cars or hybrids can change the cost of gas where you live, and it is only likely to become more volatile as electric cars become more popular, federal emissions standards go up, and more competition arrives for fossil fuels in the overall market.


Sooner or later, your car is going to need to go into the shop. Whether it hits a key milestone and needs certain systems repaired, or whether you look up one day to see your muffler in the rearview mirror, repairs are going to be a fact of life for which you need to budget.


The final factor, and one that can sneak up on your, is depreciation. Your car is technically an asset, but it is an asset that loses value over time. The minute a new car leaves the lot, a chunk of its value is technically gone. Figuring out the depreciation expense for your car is necessary since it determines the market price you may be able to charge for your car should you decide to trade it in or sell it down the road.

As you can see, the real cost of a car is a complex matter. Fortunately, there are several online calculators to help you work it out. Some budget work should tell you just how much car you can really afford, so you are not surprised by costs or other problems. When figuring out how much your new car will cost, not to mention how to finance it and where to buy it, start with the research from CarFoundMe.