How Much a Month to Own Your Car?

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
The subject of maintenance and repair costs comes up a lot in this Board, and so does New vs. Used, or Repair or Not Repair, and so I thought it might be useful to post some actual expenses, especially for cars out of warranty.

I realize not everyone is as attracted to keeping track of costs as I might be, but I keep pretty good records and I figure it's running me about $120 a month for my 1988 Alfa Romeo.

Here's what I included in the total per month cost

1. All repairs
2. All maintenance
3. All gas
4. All insurance

I didn't include depreciation (price I'm likely to get for the car now as opposed to what I paid for it) since this would reflect so differently with different ages and makes, and kind of "skew" the results.

I'm looking for an average cost for an average type of car, and probably only cars out of warranty, just to be fair.

I'm at about $120/month and if I factored in depreciation, it would be about $140/month.


  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,489
    ...of what the Intrepid has been costing me. Not counting gasoline and insurance, it's been running about $477 a month. The way I figured that is I've added up the $2000 down I put on it, the $347 monthly payment, plus everything I've had to put into the car so, oil changes, filters, tranny service, the $250 deductible on my insurance when some knuckleheads tried to break into it, the resulting car alarm/remote entry I bought, the front brake pads, even the tire plugs, and then divided the grand total by the 22 months I've owned the car (actually, it'll be 22 months on Sept 6).

    I just hit 50,000 miles today, but, for the most part, I'm not driving nearly as much as I used to, when I delivered pizzas part time. I figure I'm using about $100 a month in fuel, and insurance is about $560 a year (say $47 a month). Sooo, the grand total...about $623 a month.

    On a per-mile basis, which is the way I prefer to calculate things, it's come out to around 21 cents a mile, + gas&insurance. In comparison, my '89 Gran Fury has come out to around 16 cents a mile, + gas&insurance, and my '68 Dart came out to around 10.5 cents per mile, + gas&insurance. I figure it's not really accurate to reflect those two on a monthly basis, because I haven't relied on the Dart for daily transportation since early '97, and the Gran Fury became an emergency/backup car when I bought the Intrepid. Plus, I get a multi-car discount, so insurance on those two cars is laughably low...$244 a year for the Gran Fury, $252 a year for the Dart. See how much value the insurance company puts on a driver's side airbag? A whopping $8.00 a year!!

    Thanx alot that I saw how much that damn Intrepid is really costing me, I'm kinda depressed! And let's not even talk about depreciation ;-)
  • julusjulus Member Posts: 26
    If you are still making payments on a car, you do not own it. My interpretation of the question, "How much does it cost to own your car", means, how much does it cost per month to maintain a car after it has been paid off verses buying a new one. Ignoring gas, oil, routein maintenance and insurance, which all cars have, I spend about $100.00 per month to keep a luxury car for a 12 year period. That is $1,200.00 per year to keep a good used luxury car verses about $5,000.00 per year to keep a new one all the time. I have observed this over a 31 year period and firmly believe that keeping a car for an extended period of time is the smart way to go. In addition, I always buy program or late model used cars with 30,000 miles or less at about 1/2 new price. I do not worry about warranty and have never had a bad experience.
  • ryanbabryanbab Member Posts: 7,240

    $100 a month insurance
    $120 (appx) for gas
    oil changes (3000K which is about every 2-3 months) $30-35 (so about $10 a month)

    about $250 a month

    (no payments already paid off)
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    For the 7 months ended 7/31/2001

    $476 gas
    $106 oil/filters misc
    $ 53 personal property tax
    $ 93 repairs and maint
    $ 216 ins
    $944 total for 7 months or 135/month.

    Note, major 120,000 mile r&m (plugs, belts, filters) last year so this year is very light so far.

    Of course, gas is a true variable, depends on miles driven whether premium or not (mine is premium) etc. So, somewhat misleading, I ave 14,000 miles/year now. Oil is synthetic every 7,500 miles.
  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
    I buy new because I've never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch or luggage rack.
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    You need to spend about $1200 a year in maintenence and repairs. I have it directly deducted from our paychecks into a separate bank account.

    Repairs quite often come in bunches. Especially at 60,000 and 120,000 miles. Allocating funds monthly saves a lot of tension in the future. Need a repair, just transfer funds. No debt incurred.

    If not used, a downpayment can be made with the money.
  • julusjulus Member Posts: 26
    That is a good one, kinley ... I think. But by the time I need a hearse I will no longer be concerned about the monthly cost of operation. I am still struggling with the image of a lumpy bundle on the luggage rack of a hearse.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, for those of you still with monthly payments, you could calculate how much your car might be worth at the end of your loan, and subtract that from what you paid (total of all payments) and then that remaining balance could be factored in with all your gas, maintenance, repairs, etc.

    This would give you a more accurate cost per mile, that is, pretending you sold the car just after the last payment (and then you can start!)

    the Camry info was useful, as it kind of zeroes in on the type of car I was thinking about. Post warranty, post payments.
  • acuraowneracuraowner Member Posts: 57
    1991 Toyota Truck

    Gas: $60 a month
    Insurance: $36 a month
    Maintenance: less then $20 a month

    1997 Acura Integra

    Gas: $80 a month
    Insurance: $63 a month
    Maintenance: $24 a month

    Luckily you caught me when I didnt have major maintenance. Ask next month and my maintenace for my teggie will probably be somewhere in the range of $400+ due to timing belt, water pump and brakes.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    For the full twelve months of 2000 for my 92 Camry, 136,000 current miles

    $ 45.50 for fees, registration, county tax etc.
    $ 791.85 gas
    $ 366.00 insurance (collision, $300,000 liability, $500 ded)
    $ 115.50 oil, filters, wiper blades, misc. parts
    $ 108.00 Virginia personal property tax
    $ $823.00 Repairs (drive belts, timing belt, paltinum plugs, water pump, fuel filter)

    $2249.85 or $187.50/month or 16 cents per mile (14,000 miles). No tires in 2000 but the 120,000 mile maint. was large, about $750 of the $823.

    So far this year, as noted in earlier post it is closer to $135/month
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    I have kept detailed records from 100k to 222k, the last 122,000 miles cost about $19,000 or 15.6 cents per mile for all maintenance and repairs.
    Since buying the car new in 1990 the total expenditures were $107,000 or about $9725 per year or about $810 per month of course the 1990 dollars were worth more than the 2001 dollars.
    Recently the per mile cost has dropped to around 35 cents since no more depreciation as the car is worth $4,000 at best!
    Eating $34,000 worth of depreciation and $11,000 worth of interest amounted to almost half [42%] of the cost.

    Today buying a luxury car [$55-60k] can easily end up costing you $1200 per month [MBS500 will be closer to $1400] vs a plain jane domestic model which will run half
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,457
    Oh, I love these kinds of topics. I drove an '82 Tercel for 17 years. Its monthly cost (including depreciation of ~$6,150) was $105 a month.

    We also had an '89 Caravan for 10 years that ran ~$239 a month. (depreciation was ~$11,100).

    My '99 Quest is nearing the end of its 60k warranty. It was running ~$252 a month (.17 a mile) last time I updated my spreadsheet. If you figure depreciation at ~$8,500 to date (ouch!), it pops up to $456 a month.

    Usual disclaimers - math isn't my strong suit (that's why I can't quite follow the formula here) and I include everthing - taxes, IM, etc.

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  • dhanleydhanley Member Posts: 1,531
    Scheduled upkeep per month $25-30.
    Insurance : $75 a month ( ow )
    gas : $87 a month at today's prices ( 1600 miles / 27.5mpg yearlong average, 1.50 a gal )
    unscheduled work : hard to estimate. $800 Clutches every 70-80K or so, $450 in tires every 40K, $300 in brakes every 50K. Broken down, basially $50 a month.
    Repairs? I'm covered to 100K. After that i think i'll be covered if i set aside $50-$70 a month, as I'll nitpick before my warranty expires. I'm including that cost here, just for completeness, though i don't have this expense yet. Maybe i'll start setting it aside now, just to be secure. :)

    So, $312 a month at the high end, $293 low. As i average 1,600 a month that's $.19 to .18 a month for non-payment ownership. Let's say .20 just to be secure.

    Of course that's not payments & depreciation. Payments are $490 a month. I'd estimate i could recoup 1/2 of that through resale. So tack on $245 a month in depreciation loss. That bumps it up to .35 per mile. No fantastic, but lots of people are paying more in the end, so i'm zen about it. After payments are over, and depreciation reduces, maybe .24 per mile, to round up conservatively. And I suppose my insurance will drop as the car and i age.

    I think my saturn was .19->.20 per mile, depreciation included. We had a much older passat that did about that. It was cheaper in depreciation and insurance, but it needed a few expensive repairs, and that made it only middling expense-wise.

    That makes me think about the 120 mile a day commute i used to have. I was essentially paying $24 a day in the saturn! And i get annoyed at paying $2 a day to park downtown!

  • s_threes_three Member Posts: 9
    Bought in Aug 99 with 51K miles. Paid Cash. Driven another 30K miles until now.
    Depreciation ~~ 2500.
    Gas ~~ 2400.
    Insurance ~~ 1500.
    60K and 75K Maintenance ~~ 900.
    Other oil changes ~~ 200.
    Registration (2 years) ~~ 110. (Don't ask how)

    Total Cost ~~ 7610.
    So, for 30K miles, net cost comes out to 25.36 cents / mile.
    I don't think the people who quote 20 cents/mile or less are considering all costs. It's very easy to miss fixed costs.
    I am sure I have missed something here as well.
  • s_threes_three Member Posts: 9
    Mr Shiftwright, I am curious to know, how many miles/month do you average in your Alfa.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,457
    s_three, maybe I should email you my just-updated spreadsheet for cross-checking :-). '99 Quest w/ 55k.

    My expenses to date total $8,972 or .19 per mile.
    Depreciation to date is $9,861 or .21 per mile.
    TCO, assuming I sold tomorrow is .40 per mile or $571 a month (w/o depreciation, $280 a month).

    Expenses include all your costs above except depreciation, plus 6 tires, a wheel, hubcaps, repair manual, battery, canoe rack, etc. Depreciation is TMV for pvt. sale, "clean".

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  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    Even when paying cash you have to add in the foregone interest you would have earned on the cash and the depreciation of the dollar [in terms of the trade in value].
    Also when doing repairs prorate them over the expected life of 60,000 miles.....sure it cost you cash but they will enable the car life to be extended [a $3k tranny won't fail in the same year it was replaced hopefully, starter, ac, engine work, tires, brakes all have a greater than 1 year life, etc.
  • pflaupflau Member Posts: 4
    98 Celica Convertible, 19,000 miles

    insurance: $300/mo.
    gas: $40/mo.
    maintance/repair: $6/mo. (change oil every 4mos, nothing ever breaks)

    I live in NYC and I drive my car only a few times a month.

    way too much.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Let's see...I'd say my Alfa Spider miles are about 8,000 a year. And I do keep the car tip-top. It's always 100% ready to go.
  • black01coupev6black01coupev6 Member Posts: 195
    93 Honda Civic 130k

    Insurance: $40 month
    Gas: $50
    Maintenance: We've had the car 4 months...paid $400 when we first bought it for the timing belt and new tires. So I guess the average so far has been $190 per month. But as times goes on that will get lower.

    Other 2 cars aren't paid for yet but the 94 LS400 has required only a transmission flush and a new antenna in the last year and my Mazda only has 2,000 miles on it so no maintenance costs yet.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    When you say a car hasn't costs anything in maintenance you are forgetting the prorate. Tires, brakes, rotors, shocks, bushings, all rotating or moving parts last X miles or X years so every mile you drive you are building up a debt you owe the car.
    Average maintenance/repair cost run between 0.05 and 0.15 cents per mile depending on the new price, reliability of systems, where, and how you drive.
    Saving 10 cents per mile driven always means you may have most of the money in the bank to pay for service when required unless you purchase a high mileage lux car.
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