What a Car Really Costs

Owning a car is kind of like owning a portable house: there’s more involved than just the cost of the initial purchase and monthly payment. Cars require care and have some very specific and, often, expensive needs. Even during an ordinary year—one in which you take no major road trips or do any significant amounts of driving (other than to and from work and errands around town), the cost of owning a car can be surprising.


You have to have car insurance. It’s the law. There is no law, however, that says that car insurance has to be expensive. Insurance can really add up with unnecessary or unwanted coverage charges, so looking into a place like acceptance Car Insurancecar insurance for some good options for your particular budget. Let’s assume that you wind up with an insurance policy that costs you $125 a month. That works out to $1500 for the year assuming that you remain accident free and that your rate doesn’t go up.

Basic Maintenance Costs

Every car needs to have periodic maintenance done on it. You have to take it in for “checkups” every ten thousand miles or so. You need to get the oil changed regularly. You’re going to need tune ups. You’ll need to have your tires rotated (or even put on new tires). The cost of these things is going to depend on the type of car you have, how old it is, how many miles are already on it, etc.

Oil Changes can typically be done for $35 or so, or even as low as $15 if you find the right place. If you do two of those during the year that’s anywhere from $30 to upwards of $70.  A basic inspection with tire rotation for a newer sedan with 40K miles on it costs around $50.  That’s already $120 for the year and that’s without any major work or repairs being done. And the more miles there are on your car, the higher those inspections and “checkups” are going to be.


Everybody loves to complain about gas prices and talk about getting a bicycle to avoid having to pay the exorbitant gas prices that they see at the pump each day. Obviously doing that isn’t always practical (you live in the US, not the Netherlands). Let’s say you have a 15 gallon tank. At the time of this writing gas is around $3 a gallon. That means it costs $45 to fill up your tank. If you have to fill up your tank twice a month, that’s $90 a month or $1080 for the year.

So where are we? If absolutely nothing goes wrong, no repairs are needed and you don’t do any driving outside of what you do to and from a very close workplace and some nearby errands, you are still going to be paying at least $2700 a year—and that’s if only if you live somewhere with cheap gas!

What Can You Do?

There are plenty of ways to save money on car ownership. Make sure you get a car that has good gas mileage (hybrids are awesome if you can afford them). Shop around to make sure that you get the best rate on your insurance—which is helped by keeping your driving record clean of tickets and accidents. Actually take your car in for routine maintenance checks because skipping them will just result in more costly problems later on. Learning how to do basic things like oil changes yourself can also save you a healthy amount of money.

If you do these things there’s no reason that owning a car should hurt your bank account.