My Lifetime Costs of Car Ownership
Have you ever thought about how much it costs to own and operate a vehicle? Sure, we budget for insurance, gas and maintenance, but have you ever really crunched the numbers and added up the total amount you’ve paid for it all in your lifetime? My post about Vancouver’s gas prices this weekend inspired me to do just that… and the numbers aren’t pretty.
When I first started driving in 2001, I think gas was around $0.75/litre. At 16, I bombed around Victoria in my mom’s 1991 Hyundai Excel. Her name was Roxy and I loved her. With a small tank, it usually only cost me $30 to fill her up, and the insurance was less than $110/month (this was considered expensive but I was a new driver with no insurance discounts). I obviously didn’t track my spending back then, but let’s assume it cost me $200/month to drive that car around in 2001.
I drove Roxy for 6 years. If we assume my gas costs went up but my insurance costs went down, let’s just “guesstimate” that it cost me an average of $225/month to drive her. Multiply that by 72 months and the number nearly tenfolds: it cost me $15,840 just to drive around Victoria for 6 years. Add the $1,700 repair shop bill I was hit with at age 17, plus a few other small repairs, tows and oil changes, as well as parking fares, tickets and the one speeding ticket under my belt, and there’s no doubt this is closer to $20,000.
And that only takes me to the age of 22.
Roxy “died” in 2007. I went without a car for two years, until 2009, when I apparently felt I’d been given a license to spend. In the span of just a few months, I moved into my own place (with no boyfriend or roommate), put $2,000 of new furniture on my credit card and, big surprise, decided I could afford to finance a brand new vehicle. I was sold on the “low” bi-weekly payment amounts: $117.42 felt like pennies. But the final price including all interest and taxes was $17,764.60.
By the age of 24, it had already cost me $37,764.60 to own two cars.
For the first 3.5 years I owned my new car, Bandit, I was still living in Victoria. By the end of it, my car insurance was dirt cheap – I’m talking $78/month, but let’s use $85 as the median for that time period. I drove a lot when I lived in that city and have done the math before: I spent an average of $150/month on gas in Victoria. Together, that’s $235/month x approx. 42 months = $9,870. Add a few oil changes + regular maintenance at the dealership and let’s round it up $10,500.
By the age of 27, it had cost me $48,264.60 to own two cars.
I didn’t drive Bandit for 8 months or so, while I was living in Toronto. When I moved to Greater Vancouver, however, I had sticker shock at the cost of insuring a vehicle in the “big” city. My monthly car insurance went from $78/month in Victoria to $148/month in Port Moody. Yikes. However, I drive less here and spend an average of $125/month on gas. In the 14 months I’ve lived over here, that adds up to $3,822. But I’ve also spent at least $1,000 on parking fees and oil changes, so let’s make it an even $4,000.
In the 13 years I’ve been driving, it has cost me more than $52,000 to own two cars.
That’s a freaking down payment.
Of course, that averages out to $4,000/year or $333/month, which doesn’t sound quite as big or scary. But no matter how you look at it, the numbers don’t lie: owning and operating a vehicle is not cheap.
Looking back, though, I don’t know that I’d change any of my decisions around this (not even the fact that I bought brand new, because my plan has always been to keep Bandit for 15-20 years). When I was young, having a car gave me a responsibility. “If you want to drive, you have to work,” my dad would always say, whenever I ranted about hating my part-time job. A car also gives you a lot of freedom. But the decision to continue to pay for a vehicle may need to result in a decision to cut back more elsewhere… because I’d love to start setting aside $4,000/year for a down payment, and not owning a car isn’t in the cards for me.
Are you ready to estimate your lifetime costs of car ownership?