We hear a lot about prices of things going up, but we don't often hear of things getting cheaper. But that's exactly what’s happened, as the average cost of owning a sedan in the U.S. fell 1.64 cents to 59.2 cents a mile, or $8,876 a year — a 2.7 percent dip.
That's according to AAA's annual Your Driving Costs study. The study assumes 15,000 miles of annual driving and considers the variable operating costs of fuel, maintenance and repair, and tires, as well as insurance, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges.
The price break comes despite increases in the costs of maintenance and registration fees. Lower fuel costs during the fourth quarter of 2013 were a big contributor to the decline. Car owners' gas expenses on average fell just over 10 percent to 13 cents a mile as the average cost of regular gasoline went down nearly 6 percent to less than $3.28 a gallon from nearly $3.49. That reduction, naturally, works in tandem with the continually improving fuel economy of cars overall.
As for other factors affecting owners' car costs: Maintenance costs were up 1.81 percent to 5.06 cents a mile for parts, labor and warranty costs; tire costs dipped 3 percent to 0.97 cents a mile after several years of increases due to rising expenses for raw materials, energy and transportation; annual insurance costs for a low-risk driver with a clean record went down $6 to $1,023; and annual vehicle depreciation dropped $61 to $3,510.
Broken out individually by vehicle type, operating costs according to the 2014 study are:
• 46.4 cents per mile and $6,957 per year for a small sedan
• 58.9 cents per mile and $8,839 per year for a medium-size sedan
• 72.2 cents per mile and $10,831 per year for a large sedan
• 73.6 cents per mile and $11,039 per year for a four-wheel-drive SUV
• 65 cents per mile and $9,753 per year for a minivan
This is the 64th year AAA has conducted the Your Driving Costs study. The first study, in 1950, was based on 10,000 miles a year and the cost per mile was 9 cents; gas at that time was 27 cents a gallon, according to AAA.