Car Operating Costs in U.S. Jumped in Past Year, AAA Says

Although car costs in the U.S. increased at a slower rate this year compared with previous years, the latest numbers from a recent American Automobile Association study showed that tire, insurance and stubbornly high fuel costs contributed to a 1.9 percent overall hike in a sedan’s operating costs from last year.

Based on a sedan driving 15,000 miles annually, the average cost per mile rose 1.1 cents, making the average annual cost $8,946, or 59.6 cents a mile.

Last year’s figures showed a 3.4 percent average increase in the yearly cost of operating a sedan; the year before showed a 4.8 percent increase.

Insurance Costs Rise After Dropping Last Year

The average yearly insurance cost for a sedan saw an overall increase of 3.4 percent this year, following a 6.1 percent decrease last year. The current average annual cost is estimated to be $1,001; last year it was $968.

In 2010, the average cost of insurance rose 5.7 percent from the year before. The findings from each year were based on full coverage of sedans driven by low-risk motorists with clean records.

As was the case in 2011, larger cars showed bigger increases in insurance costs this year.

Fuel Still Major Cost Driver

Finding very cheap insurance may not be enough to balance out a significant spike in the cost of fuel this year. Fuel was the largest factor in the higher overall operating cost of a sedan in the U.S., jumping an average of 14.8 percent to $3.36 per gallon for regular grade fuel.

Fuel costs have accounted for an increasingly sizable chunk of overall car costs. In AAA’s driving costs study in 2010, fuel cost for sedans was an average of $2.88 per gallon.

Long-term federal efforts to improve fuel standards seem to have yielded results, with the AAA finding this year that several vehicles in the study showed better fuel economy than the previous year.

AAA representatives found a similar situation last year, when they stated that improved fuel economy “was not enough to offset the rise in gas prices which caused fuel costs to increase 8.6 percent.”

Tire Costs See Smaller Jump This Year

The cost of tires increased 4.2 percent this year. AAA attributed the rise to higher prices for natural resources used in tire production like rubber and oil along with “a trend for manufacturers to equip new cars with premium-grade tires rather than midgrade tires.”

The rise in tire costs slowed from last year, when it jumped an average of 15.7 percent. In 2010, tire costs increased an average of 8.7 percent.

Maintenance Costs See Marginal Increase

Overall maintenance costs of a sedan saw a small jump this year, increasing 0.7 percent on average. In 2011, those costs dropped 2.2 percent.

Driving Costs of SUVs, Minivans Also Rose

AAA’s annual “Your Driving Costs” was released late last week and looked into costs associated with 15 of the top-selling sedan models, but the study also included annual operating costs of SUV and minivan models that were not included in the final car cost average.

This year, the average cost, based on driving 15,000 miles a year, was 75.7 cents per mile for SUVs and 63.4 cents per mile for minivans. The cost per year for SUVs was $11,360 and for minivans it was $9,504.

In 2011, it was 74.9 cents per mile for SUVs and 63.3 cents per mile for minivans. The cost per year for was $11,239 for SUVs and $9,489 for minivans.

In 2010, it was 73.9 cents per mile for SUVs and 62 cents per mile for minivans. The cost per year was $11,085 for SUVs and $9,301 for minivans.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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