Inflation Sends Car Ownership Costs Soaring Above $10,000 a Year: AAA

Inflation Sends Car Ownership Costs Soaring Above $10,000 a Year: AAA
Gas stations serve customers at peak prices in Irvine, Calif., on Feb. 23, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Katabella Roberts
Owning and operating a new vehicle has become increasingly more expensive over the past year, driven predominantly by inflation and rising fuel prices, according to AAA’s annual “Your Driving Costs” report. The average cost of owning and operating a new vehicle has risen to $9,065 annually, up $245 from last year. This is the highest figure reported since AAA began tracking this data in 1950.

Cost to Operate a New Automobile in 2022

The overall average cost to own and operate a new automobile in 2022 is $10,728 on an annual basis or $894 per month; that’s a considerable increase from 2021, when owning a new car cost $9,666 annually, or $805.50 per month, according to AAA.
The increase in costs is largely due to inflation and rising fuel prices, which have increased by more than 20 percent since the beginning of 2019. Drivers are also paying more for their cars as new models with advanced technology hit the market, including self-driving and electric vehicles.

That marks a nearly 11 percent increase from last year

AAA’s report (pdf) looked at 45 models in nine vehicle categories to come up with the average annual cost of owning and operating a new vehicle.

The average driver in the United States pays about $3,400 a year for car ownership and operation. That’s not including the purchase price of the vehicle, which is typically around $32,000 for an average new car. Here are some other highlights from AAA’s report: - Fuel costs are at their highest level since 2014, averaging $2.84 per gallon nationwide (up from $2.73 last year). If gas prices continue to rise as expected this summer, it could add up to another $250 per year in fuel expenses for drivers. - Vehicle maintenance costs remain steady with very minor increases or decreases in most categories compared to last year’s report.

AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, selects top-selling, mid-priced models and compares them across six categories: fuel; maintenance, repair, and tire costs; insurance; license/registration/taxes; depreciation; and finance charges.

The study, which doesn’t account for used car prices, assumes a five-year ownership period, with the vehicle being driven 15,000 miles annually, or a total of 75,000 miles.

The data determined that it would cost drivers of gas-powered vehicles about $2,700 a year to fuel up, while owners of electric vehicles that charge at home would need around $600 a year to charge that vehicle to cover the same distance, marking a difference of $2,100 annually.

Electric Vehicle Costs

Electric vehicles do cost more money upfront than gas-powered cars, and the majority of drivers don’t have access to free or discounted charging at home. The study assumes that drivers will pay $1 per kilowatt hour at home and $3 per kilowatt hour while on the road.
Fuel costs in the study were projected based on a weighted average of the first five months of this year, during which time they cost drivers about 17.99 cents per mile or $3.999 per gallon.

Purchase Price ‘Not the Whole Story’

However, gas prices have drastically increased since early March, in part because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing supply chain crisis, meaning Americans are now having to spend more if they want to own a vehicle. AAA noted that the cost of vehicle ownership has increased accordingly since its Your Driving Costs evaluation was completed.

It’s also worth noting that the study used a base model vehicle, not one of the most popular models on the market. Additionally, AAA said it didn’t account for any maintenance costs such as oil changes or tire rotations.

As of Aug. 18, the national average price for gasoline was about $3.93 per gallon, up more than $1 per gallon compared with August 2019 and 2020, albeit much lower than the $5 per gallon prices seen in June.

“You’re usually focused on the purchase price and that is not the whole story. Not even close,” Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering for AAA, told USA Today. “I think [$10,000 is] a number that will surprise a lot of people.”

“We’re all feeling that at the pump,” he said. “That is driving a big piece of [the annual price increase], and particularly with Americans’ desire to drive things like pickup trucks that don’t get good fuel economy.”

AAA’s study noted that with the cost of gas-powered vehicles climbing, more and more Americans hoping to purchase a new car are turning instead to electric vehicles, which have lower maintenance, repair, and tire costs.

A separate AAA consumer survey found that saving money on fuel costs was the biggest factor behind Americans’ desire to buy an electric car, however, 60 percent of those surveyed said the higher purchase price for an electric vehicle was holding them back.

A similar survey from Consumer Reports in July found that 52 percent of the 8,000 American respondents said that the costs of buying and maintaining an electric vehicle are too expensive.

As gas prices have risen since the start of the year, the Biden administration has regularly touted electric vehicles for Americans who want to save on fuel costs.

However, the average price of a new electric vehicle in July 2022 was more than $66,000, according to automotive research company Kelley Blue Book, while the average price of a new gasoline vehicle was $48,182.

The Biden administration has been promoting electric vehicles as a means of reducing pollution, but research from the Energy Information Administration shows that electric vehicles currently account for just over 1 percent of new vehicle sales in the United States.