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The Cost of Purchasing, Maintaining and Driving my Car

I added my car’s most recent oil change and tire rotation into my records and realized I have kept a record of everything I’ve had done to the car since it was brand new. I keep track of the date, the mileage, the service and the cost. 

I thought figuring out how much money I have spent on my 12 year-old car throughout the years would be fun–yes keeping track of this sort of thing is fun for me. If examining the costs of driving sounds fun to you, well, buckle-up and let me introduce you to the story of the costs of the vehicle affectionately known as the Cameleon Car.*

I bought my 2009 Honda Civic for 18,424 including tax and a “documentation preparation charge.” I put down 7K and borrowed 11,592. I don’t know why I didn’t borrow 11,424 since it plus 7K = 18,424, but that’s what the contract says. There was likely an additional fee; ah yes, I see a registration and title fee for 168. 

I took out a 3 year loan at 2.9%, so I would have paid 540 in interest. I paid the car off in 2 years and 2 months, though, so I am going to estimate that I paid 450 in interest.

OK so, 18,424 + 168 + 450 = 19,092 just for the car and financing–no maintenance. I’m guessing the sticker price was about 16K, so it might be smart to remember how “quickly” the cost rises when I need a new car.

The first 6 months I had the car (the rest of 2009), I didn’t have any maintenance done.

In 2010, I got 3 oil changes, patched a tire, got some car washes and paid my state’s registration fee ($99). That came to 287.39. The next year, I paid a deductible for a hit and run accident for 600. I didn’t have rental insurance, so I rented a car for 55 during the repairs. (My husband and I do a better job of sharing one car for short periods of time now than we did in the past, so in the future, I may not choose to rent.) I had more oil changes, car washes, and miscellaneous other small repairs. It added up to 828.47. 

I think it’ll be easiest to understand the yearly costs if I create a table. Here’s a table with the original cost of the car and yearly maintenance.

Year Purchase, Repairs and Services Cost 
2009  Down Payment 7000
2009-2011 Amount Financed 11,592 (11,424+168)
2009-2011 Interest  450
                                                                                     Total for purchase and financing 19,042 
2010 3 oil changes, tire patch, a rental car, and some car washes, registration 287.39
2011 accident deductible, oil change, IPass (tolls), registration 788.47
2012 new tires and alignment, oil change, car washes, registration 724.71
2013 I have nothing written down for 2013. it was either a good year for saving money or a bad year for record keeping. I can add in my registration and assume I had an oil change.  146
2014 oil change and car registration 131.20
2015 2 oil changes and car registration 170.57
2016 fix wiring, 2 oil changes and registration  413.85
2017 front break pads, front rotor, registration  396.55
2018 new battery, oil change, tire repair and registration 269.72
2019 rack assembly, tie rods, oil change, alignment and registration 1433.40
2020 new tires, alignment, breaks, oil change and alignment 1395.50
Jan to May 2021  pressure sensor, alignment, lightbulbs 287.30
     
                                                                                                                                    Total: 25,487

Ok, so about 25,500 for 12 years of owning and maintaining a car. That doesn’t seem bad at all. Some 2021 Civics’ sticker prices are that much, and the price of many other vehicles is double that. (I should also acknowledge that a dollar 12 years ago is different than a dollar now. For instance, according to the US inflation calculator, 19,042 in 2009 is the equivalent to 23,703 now. So 25,500 [purchase price and maintenance cost] over the course of a decade would be more in today’s dollars.)

What would 25.5K look like spread over the 12 years I’ve owned the car? Dividing 25.5K by 12 years is 2,125 per year. 


Now, it’d be great if 2,125 a year was the total cost of car ownership and driving, but it doesn’t include tolls, insurance, or gas. I keep track of those things too, but some of the info is old enough that I don’t know where I’ve stored it, so I’m going to estimate. 

  • I refill my IPass (for tolls) for 40 about every year or so.
  • Insurance costs have changed over the years depending on the age of the car, and whether I bundle the car and home insurance. My husband and I pay about 85 per month for both cars, so let’s go with 45 a month for insurance for just my car. That’s 540 a year. 
  • Finally, fuel. According to Statista.com, the lowest retail gas price in the US since 2009 was 2.14 (in 2016) and the highest price was 3.62 in 2012. (I am assuming this is average price throughout the year and/or average price based on location in the US.) I’m simply going to average these to get the number 2.88 a gallon. I think my car usually takes around 10 gallons to fill up. I can get anywhere from 250 to 300+ miles per tank. I’ll average that too–let’s say 275 miles per tank. If I pay 2.88 a gallon at 10 gallons, that’s 28.80 per fill up. 

My car currently has about 100,000 miles on it. Let’s divide that by 275 miles per tank, so we can figure out how many fill-ups I have had. The number comes to 363.63; let’s round up to 364. So I’ve filled my tank 364 times at 28.80 a fill up. Ok this is going to be scary–10,483.20. Ok, so I have likely spent about 10,500 on gas over the years. Divided by 12 years is 875 per year. 

If tolls are 40, insurance is 540 and gas is 875 per year, that adds 1,455 a year to our total cost of the car and maintenance and registration. Multiply by 12 years and it’s 17,460. 

The purchase and maintenance cost of 25,487 plus tolls, insurance and gas, which is 17,460 equals 42,947. 

That’s 3,579 per year total, for everything. Since 3,579 a year includes the original cost of the car, whose price is largest at the purchase date, the longer I keep the car, the lower the average of what I pay for the car, maintenance and driving each year. 


 

I hope the Cameleon Car keeps running for many years because along with having to come up with funds to purchase a new car, having to shop for a car is not something I particularly enjoy. And in terms of the big picture, I’d like to put my money towards optional early retirement before a new car.

*The origin of the name of the car? Sometimes the car appears tan and other times it appears grey, depending on its surroundings (or how the light shines on it). The color change stood out to me, so the car got its moniker.

Peace Out (and In),

Julie

PS. Does this analysis make you think about your car costs? Are yours likely higher or lower than mine? How long do you like to keep a car? Reply in the comments below!

 

 

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