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Annual Maintenance Costs Up 0.7% In 2012, According To AAA

The yearly costs to own and operate a sedan in the United States has increased 1.9 percent, according to the latest Your Driving Costs study from AAA. The average costs rose 1.1 cents per mile to 59.6 cents per mile, or $8,946 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving. “The average driving cost for 2012 is up due to relatively large increases in fuel and tire costs, and more moderate increases in other areas,” said John Nielsen, AAA director of automotive engineering and repair. “Those increases were offset by a decrease in depreciation resulting in an overall increase of 1.9 percent.”

It should come as no surprise that the cost of fuel had the largest percentage increase from 2011-’12, rising 14.8 percent to 14.2 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. The average cost of regular-grade fuel (used by most of the study vehicles) rose 16.6 percent, from $2.88 to $3.36 per gallon. However, it should be noted that several vehicles included in the study had increases in fuel economy, resulting in the overall average fuel cost increase being slightly less.

The cost of tires ranked second highest among the factors that rose from 2011-’12, increasing 4.2 percent to 1 cent per mile on average for sedan owners. The rise in cost can be attributed to higher costs for natural rubber, and the increased cost of oil used in tire production and transportation from factory to distributors. A collateral factor was a trend for manufactures to equip new cars with premium-grade tires rather than mid-grade tires.

Maintenance costs were slightly higher in the 2012 study with an increase of 0.7 percent to 4.47 cents per mile on average for sedans. Factors contributing to the increase included higher prices for oil and more manufacturers now requiring synthetic or synthetic-blend motor oils. Although the use of these oils often comes with extended service intervals, the higher cost of the oil — combined with increased maintenance operations at each service (which adds to the time required) — can combine to increase overall vehicle maintenance costs.

Depreciation costs were up slightly in 2011, but, for 2012, the trend has reversed with depreciation falling across the board by nearly 5 percent. This change may be a consequence of reduced new car sales over the past few years, which has resulted in a relative shortage of good used cars on the market, driving up their value.

Average insurance costs for sedans rose 3.4 percent, or $33, to $1,001 yearly. Insurance rates vary widely by driver and driving record, issuing company, and geographical region. AAA insurance cost estimates are based on a low-risk driver with a clean driving record. For 2012, this group saw a small increase that offset a decrease experienced in 2011. Quotes from five AAA clubs and insurance companies representing seven states showed across-the-board increases for all sedan sizes, with large cars having the biggest increase.

AAA has published Your Driving Costs since 1950. That year, driving a car 10,000 miles per year cost 9 cents per mile and gasoline sold for 27 cents per gallon.