Total cost of car ownership

My wife and I went from two cars when we moved in together in 2002, down to one car when we moved closer to our jobs in 2004, down to zero cars when we moved to New York City in 2009. Unfortunately we’re back up to two cars now. This prompted me to go back and dig up an old email in which I detailed the cost of ownership of one of our cars that we owned for over six years. Here’s a slightly revised version of the November 2009 email.

We bought a Chevy Prizm in February 2003 with about 40k miles and sold it in October 2009 with about 103k miles. During the cars first 15 months it was used to commute, but after that, we exclusively biked to work, so it was only used for road trips and errands around town.

In total, over this time period of 6 years and 8 months we spent approximately $25,000 on the car, or roughly $10.50 per day!!! This works out to 40 cents per mile. We recouped $4000 by selling the car, or $1.60 per day.

The individual costs over that period break down like this:

  • $8119.00 original loan
  • $511.15 interest paid on the loan
  • $5124.03 fuel (which is 8.1 cents per mile in fuel alone)
  • $5495.10 insurance (initially quite high, but eventually dropped to only $400 per year even with comprehensive)
  • $5387.78 service (regular fluid changes, tires x2, A/C, MAF, brakes, wipers, etc. )
  • $569.00 airport parking
  • $91.00 campus parking
  • $138.00 title and registration fees

Insurance would vary a lot for different drivers, but I think our average of $68 per month over that period is typical. Our service fee seems quite high, but only includes “incidental” repairs of the AC and MAF that total about $1500 of that. The rest is just the usual maintenance (we made sure we had good (but cheap) tires and brakes, which I’m sure not every one does). Of course, had we used the car to commute to work every day, we’d have spent $800 more dollars in parking costs over that time period, not to mention more on gas, service, etc.

Bottom line is that after selling it, we still spent approximately $9 per day or $.40 per mile to own a car. Cars are expensive!

I should add that I have almost no doubt our cost of ownership is well below average.