AAA study shows total cost of new car ownership goes up again in 2021

The average price of a new car keeps going up, but what does this translate to in yearly out-of-pocket costs? AAA just released a study that aims to answer this question. You may already be familiar with the idea — AAA performs this study (Your Driving Costs) every year and has done so since 1950.

For 2021, the number you’re looking for is $9,666. That’s up from 2020, which came in at $9,561. This makes sense, as the price of a new car has also increased from 2020 to 2021. Broken out further, this puts the average cost of new car ownership at $805.50/month. Per usual, AAA has taken all the potential costs into account. That includes fuel, maintenance/repair/tire costs, insurance, license/registration/taxes, depreciation and finance charges.

AAA cites the changes in buying habits as one reason costs are continuing to rise like they are. It had to make some changes to the study this year to reflect these habits. Nine categories of vehicles are always included, but it swapped out large sedans and minivans to replace them with subcompact SUVs and mid-size pickups this year. The two categories that were cancelled didn’t have enough models to accurately track them, AAA says.

As for the biggest cost of ownership categories, those remain the same year-to-year. Depreciation is still the biggest hit, as that represents a $3,900/year loss in value. Insurance (which AAA will happily sell you) is also a huge cost at about $1,342/year in cost. Fuel cost will vary widely depending on your specific vehicle, but AAA found the average to be 10.72 cents per mile.

And then there are the overall comparison numbers. Predictably, full-size pickups are the most expensive overall to own, coming in at 77.25 cents per mile. The cheapest new car to own for 2021 is a small sedan, which will only cost 48.20 cents per mile. Interestingly, electric cars came in on the middle-to-high side of the spectrum at 61.96 cents per mile, despite having the lowest maintenance, repair and tires cost of the group.

In case you’re interested in calculating your own yearly costs, AAA provides some formulas to do exactly that. You can find this information here.

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