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Typical driver spends almost 60 cents a mile on car expenses

April 11, 2011 |  9:59 am

Drivers pay an average of 58.5 cents a mile to drive a sedan, according to an annual vehicle operating cost study by the American Automobile Assn.

That’s up 1.9 cents from a year ago and amounts to $8,776 a year, based on 15,000 miles of annual driving.

The cost for driving a typical passenger car ranges from 45.1 cents a mile for a small car to 57.3 cents for a mid-size sedan to 73.2 cents for a large sedan.

The most expensive vehicle to drive is a four-wheel-drive SUV, at 74.9 cents a mile or $11,239 a year.  A minivan sets the driver back 63.3 cents a mile, or $9,489 for the year.

“The 2011 rise in costs is due to relatively large increases in fuel, tire and depreciation costs as well as more moderate increases in other areas,” said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Repair, Buying and Consumer Programs.

While most people are thinking about soaring gas prices, the rising cost of tires was also an important reason behind higher vehicle operating expenses. Tire prices rose 15.7% to 0.96 cents a mile on average for sedan owners. Rising costs for raw materials, energy and transportation have led to notable tire price increases in recent years. Also contributing to higher average tire costs is a trend by automakers to equip their sedans with premium-grade tires as original equipment.

While several vehicles included in the organization's cost study had increases in fuel economy, it was not enough to offset the rise in gas prices. which caused average fuel costs to increase 8.6% to 12.34 cents a mile for sedans.

The timing of the study underplays the current role of gasoline prices in vehicle operating expenses. AAA said its study began in December 2010 and calculated fuel costs when the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline was $2.88 a gallon. It is now $3.77, according to AAA, a 31% increase.

 “The study is meant to provide an overview of the yearly costs involved in owning and operating a vehicle. Some of those costs can fluctuate greatly at different points during the year, however these figures can still be used to compare categories of vehicles,” Nielsen said.

Read the full study: Your Driving Costs

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-- Jerry Hirsch
LATimesJerry/Twitter

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