AAA: Annual cost of car ownership now over $9,100 per year

By Mary Ebeling
AAA’s recently released report on the cost of owning and operating a car estimates a mid-sized sedan carries an average operating cost of 60.8 cents per mile, or $9,122 a year. These costs include overall maintenance, insurance, and gas, and are based on expected annual mileage of 15,000 per year.  When broken down, maintenance costs rose by 11.26 percent, the price of fuel rose by almost 2 percent, and insurance costs rose by nearly 3 percent. These increased costs are encouraging people to begin using other modes of transportation. The economic incentive to reduce auto use is likely combining with other national trends showing a downward trend in per-capita vehicle miles traveled.

While auto use continues to increase in cost and trend downward, bicycling, walking, and transit modes are all on the rise. In 2012, transit ridership climbed to its second highest level since the pre-interstate era. This cost increase in auto use also forces lower-income households to find cost saving opportunities. The record number of passengers riding public transit–both bus and train–illustrates this change, as does the increase in bicycling and walking for transportation.

Costs for taking transit vary, but APTA points out that it is a fraction of the almost $10,000 per year cost of car ownership. Even in large cities like Philadelphia the cost of a monthly transit pass is $2,292 per year at the most expensive fare. The cost of owning and operating a bicycle for a year typically runs less than $300, and the cost of walking shoes is even lower. As the cost of automobile ownership continues to rise, riding transit, biking, or walking can save individuals and households many thousands of dollars.
Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.