Thrifty Tony

Owning a Car Secretly Makes You Poor (many hidden costs)

Cars are expensive

People often overlook the numerous hidden costs of owning a car. It’s much more than the purchase price or your car loan or lease payments.

Over the course of 4 years, I meticulously tracked every single expense associated with owning my car, and I’ll give you a complete average monthly breakdown of these costs, and compare them to what the average American pays.

1) Depreciation

I bought my 2009 Hyundai Accent with 68,000 miles in October 2014 for $8,200. A little over 4 years later, I sold my car for $2,400. This resulted in a net loss of $5,800 which is depreciation and the first hidden cost of owning a car. 

Car depreciation over 4 years
My car’s value dropped $5,800 over 4 years.

You see, as time passed and my 5 year old lightly used car became a 10 year old heavily used car, it lost a lot of value.

On average, my car lost $113 per month in value over time.

2) Gas

Now just like everyone else, I used my car to commute the 42 miles round trip to work everyday and for the occasional longer trip across state lines to visit my parents.

Over the course of 4 years, I drove my car 68,804 miles which is equal to 1,349 miles per month or approximately 44 miles per day.

This ODB adapter for my car logged my mileage and fuel efficiency.

During this time, I had installed a tiny computer in my car that precisely measured every aspect of my driving including the total amount of fuel that I consumed for each trip.

Over the 4 years, I consumed on average $100 per month on gas.

3) Insurance

Next up is the unavoidable insurance. This has potential to vary depending on what car you have and other factors such as your age.

I spent on average $72 per month to insure my car, and this seems to be on par with the national average.

4) Maintenance

One of the most overlooked costs associated with owning a car is maintenance.

As you’ve probably guessed, I kept detailed service records for my car over the entire period of time that I owned it, and in total, I spent over $4,000 on everything from $20 oil changes every few months to a couple repairs that exceeded $1,000 each when I needed new brakes and other critical engine parts.

My car maintenance record over the course of 4 years with 2 services costing over $1,000 each.

The cost of maintenance for my car averaged out to be nearly $80 per month over its lifetime.

5) Other Costs

In addition to depreciation, fuel, insurance, and maintenance, there are numerous other expenses associated with car ownership.

Living in a city, I personally collected my fair share of parking and speeding tickets.

For the sake of simplicity and accuracy, we are not going to even consider these other miscellaneous car expenses which include:

  • Registration
  • Inspections
  • Tolls
  • Car washes
  • Car accessories
  • Parking fees
  • Parking tickets
  • Speeding tickets

Average Monthly Cost of Owning a Car

For me, the average cost of owning my car when we add everything up is $366 per month

To put this in perspective, my $8,000 car ended up costing me over $18,000 over the course of 4 years.

Now your mileage will vary, but when taking into account the national average amount spent on car payments, fuel, insurance, and maintenance, I did a pretty good job considering the average American pays closer to $750 per month for the privilege of owning a car.

How much do you spend each month on your car? Let us know in the comments below.

Thrifty Tony

Thrifty Tony

Tony approaches most things in life with a budget-conscious mindset while at the same time maximizing investments which results in an ideal balance between spending and saving. And of course he enjoys free things and bonuses every now and then.