The costs of owning and operating a vehicle in the U.S. has dropped to a six-year low, according to a new study released by AAA.
Lower gasoline prices and technological advances that have improved fuel economy are major factors, according to experts. While fuel costs have been on the rise recently, they remain significantly lower than in previous years. The study estimates that the average driver spends $8,558 annually when all fixed and operating costs are tallied. The typical motorist spends about 57 cents for each mile driven.
Elizabeth Carey, public affairs director at the AAA of Western & Central New York, said lower fuel prices are having an impact on the type of vehicles people are purchasing.
“A lot of people are turning back to those SUVs because they feel that they can afford it, because they can fill up the tank once again,” said Carey. “Gas prices are half of what they were a few years back. We’re definitively seeing an increase in people taking road trips, maybe packing up those SUVs, taking the family out on a trip.”
One fifth of Americans plan to purchase or lease a new vehicle this upcoming year.
While gasoline costs are down, insurance premiums have been rising in recent years. Vehicle maintenance costs are also up slightly on a national level. Carey noted that vehicle repairs and maintenance varies by region.
"With the weather we have, we do see a lot of road damage," she said. "We need a lot of road repairs. There are a lot of potholes out there and if you hit a pothole with your car that could lead to some very expensive costs as far as repairing the vehicle.”
According to AAA, 35% of Americans skip or delay service or repairs that were recommended by a mechanic or a factory maintenance schedule. Those consumers often end up paying more for repair costs down the road.
Families who travel might be surprised to learn that minivans are often cheaper to operate than large sedans. The study estimates that minivans typically cost about 8 cents per mile less than large sedans when all costs are tallied.