AAA: How Much Does it Cost to Drive?

Following are average per-mile costs as determined by AAA and the composite average cost for three size categories of sedans.

Driving costs in each category are based on average costs for five top-selling 2015 models selected by AAA. By size category, they are:

  • Small sedan: Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla.
  • Medium sedan: Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
  • Large sedan: Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon.

*Detailed driving costs are available in the full brochure.

Though not part of the composite AAA average, SUV and minivan information is included to help buyers estimate operating costs for those types of vehicles.

  • SUV: Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner
  • Minivans: Minivans include Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna.

What’s Covered

AAA’s analysis covers vehicles equipped with standard features and optional equipment including automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, antilock brakes and cruise control, to name a few.

Fuel: Fuel costs were based on $2.139 per gallon, the late-2015 U.S. price from AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, Fuel mileage is based on Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings weighted 60 percent city and 40 percent highway driving.

Maintenance: Costs include retail parts and labor for normal, routine maintenance as specified by the vehicle manufacturer. They also include the price of a comprehensive extended warranty with one warranty claim deductible of $100 and other wear-and-tear items that can be expected to require service during five years of operating the vehicle. Sales tax is included on a national average basis.

Tires: Costs are based on the price of one set of replacement tires of the same quality, size and rating as those that came with the vehicle. Mounting, balancing and sales tax also are included.

Insurance: AAA based its insurance costs on a full-coverage policy for a married 47-year-old male with a good driving record, living in a small city and commuting three to 10 miles daily to work. The policy includes $100,000/$300,000 coverage with a $500 deductible for collision and a $100 deductible for comprehensive coverage.

License, Registration and Taxes: Costs include all governmental taxes and fees payable at time of purchase, as well as fees due each year to keep the vehicle licensed and registered. Costs are computed on a national average basis.

Depreciation: Depreciation is based on the difference between new-vehicle purchase price and estimated trade-in value at the end of five years.

Finance: Costs are based on a five-year loan, with 10 percent down, at the national average interest rate for five credit rating categories weighted by market share. The loan amount includes taxes and the first year’s license fees, both computed on a national average basis.

Figuring Your Costs

To figure your fuel cost, begin with a full tank of fuel and write down the odometer reading. Each time you fill up, note the number of gallons, how much you pay and the odometer reading. These figures can then be used to calculate average miles per gallon and cost of fuel per mile. For example


To determine your driving costs accurately, keep personal records on all the costs listed below. Use this worksheet to figure your total cost to drive.

Vehicle Maintenance

Driving costs also are affected by how well your vehicle runs. Performing regular maintenance can ensure more efficient vehicle operation and help prevent costly repairs down the road. Below are general checks to make sure your vehicle stays in tip-top shape. Read your owner’s manual for more detailed information on your vehicle’s specific requirements. When performing any do-it-yourself maintenance, always be sure to take proper safety precautions.


  • Engine oil: Lubricates and cools the engine while cleaning internal parts. Running your car when it’s low on oil can cause serious engine damage. Check the oil level at least once a month.
  • Coolant:Prevents engine freeze-up in winter and boil-over in summer while protecting the cooling system from rust and corrosion. Check the coolant level at each oil change.
  • Brake fluid:Critical to proper performance of the vehicle’s braking system. Check at each oil change
  • Transmission fluid:Helps transfer engine power to the wheels, lubricates internal parts, maintains seals and acts as a coolant. Check the level at each oil change.
  • Power steering fluid:Transfers hydraulic pressure to reduce driver steering effort. Check at each oil change.
  • Gasoline:Follow vehicle manufacturer octane rating recommendations to ensure maximum fuel efficiency and prevent damaging engine knock.

Air Filter:Your vehicle’s air filter captures dirt particles and ensures proper airflow to the engine. Inspect the filter at every oil change and replace as needed.

Belts: Most vehicles today use a single serpentine belt to operate under-hood accessories such as the alternator. However, V-belts still are used in some applications. Inspect all belts at every oil change and replace when you spot signs of wear such as glazing or cracking.

Hoses:Hoses circulate vital liquids such as engine coolant, transmission fluid and power steering fluid. Inspect hoses at every oil change and repair or replace any that show signs of wear or leakage.

Battery:The battery supplies power to the starter motor, acts as a voltage stabilizer and makes up for any shortfall when the alternator can’t meet the vehicle’s electrical needs. Inspect battery cable connections at every oil change and clean as needed. When servicing a battery, always wear eye protection and gloves.

Tires:As the only part of your vehicle in contact with the road, tires are integral to safety and ride comfort. For optimum performance, tires must have adequate tread depth and be properly inflated. Inspect tires and check inflation pressures at least once a month.


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