Cost to Own, Operate a Vehicle Up Nearly 2 Percent

Average 2012 driving costs total nearly $9,000, 59.6 cents per mile

When considering the cost to drive, many motorists only think about their monthly payment and fuel budget. Yet, the true cost of ownership extends far beyond these factors. AAA recently released its annual ‘Your Driving Costs’ study, which aims give motorists a realistic idea of the cost to own and operate a vehicle. 

According to this year’s study, the national average cost to own and operate a sedan, based on 15,000 miles of driving is up 1.9 percent from last year. This translates to $8,946 per year, which is an increase of about $170 from last year.

“As a result of higher fuel prices and increased tire costs, as well as moderate increases in other areas, it will cost the majority of motorists more to be a vehicle owner in 2012 compared to last year,” said Don Nunnari, vice president of automotive services for AAA Arizona.

According to AAA’s ‘Your Driving Costs’ study, the following factors, and how they’ve changed over from 2011, play a significant role in the cost of vehicle ownership for 2012:

  • LOWER: Depreciation costs fell five percent from 2011. This reflects the trend of fewer new car sales, which has resulted in a relative market shortage of good used cars. 
  • HIGHER: The cost of fuel had the largest percent increase from 2011 to 2012, with the national fuel average rising 14.8 percent to 14.2 cents per mile
  • HIGHER: The cost of tires increased 4.2 percent to one cent per mile, reflecting the trend for manufacturers to equip new cars with premium-grade versus mid-grade tires. 
  • HIGHER: Average insurance costs for sedans rose 3.4 percent to an average annual cost of $1,000 per driver. However, overall rates for AAA auto insurance in Arizona have remained flat over the past year.
  • HIGHER: Maintenance costs increased 0.7 percent this year to just over four cents per mile. This reflects the trend of manufacturers requiring synthetic or synthetic-based motor oils. While use of these oils extends service intervals, its higher cost and increased maintenance at each interval combines to increase overall maintenance costs.

According to the studymotorists can expect to pay the following for vehicle ownership, based on vehicle type and 15,000 miles of driving per year:

Based on Driving 15,000 miles annually

Small Sedan

Medium Sedan

Large Sedan

Sedan Average



Cost Per Mile

44.9 cents

58.5 cents

75.5 cents

59.6 cents

75.7 cents

63.4 cents

Cost Per Mile Change from 2011







Cost Per Year







Cost Difference from 2011







“Those in the market for a new vehicle should determine projected operational costs before making a decision,” added Nunnari. “If you commute to work by car, figure about $60 in vehicle expenses per 100 miles.”

The 2012 edition of ‘Your Driving Costs’ is available for download, and includes a worksheet to help motorists determine their automotive expenses, based on their personal driving habits.

AAA has published ‘Your Driving Costs’ since 1950, when driving a car 10,000 miles annually cost only nine cents per mile and a gallon of gasoline cost just 27 cents. Ownership costs factored into the study include insurance, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges. Operational costs in the study include fuel, maintenance and tires.

AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and auto travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.