With prices on the rise in a number of categories, here’s some good news for consumers: The cost of owning and operating a car is on the decline.
A new study by AAA found that the typical sedan will still take a hefty chunk out of drivers’ budgets, an average $8,876. But that was nonetheless about 2.7 percent less than what ownership and operating costs averaged last year, the “2014 Your Driving Costs” study found.
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“A large decrease in fuel costs, and lower tire, insurance and depreciation expenses are saving owners more than one and a half cents on every mile they drive,” said John Nielsen, AAA managing director of automotive engineering and repair.
Considering the typical American driver logs 15,000 miles annually, that begins to add up. Total costs came to 59.2 cents per mile in the 2014 study, down 1.64 cents compared with the prior year’s findings.
Fuel costs have become one of the single most expensive parts of owning a vehicle, and are expected to come to an average 13 cents per mile. Still, that’s a 10 percent decrease for the typical owner, as fuel prices tumbled to around $3.28 a gallon.
But a number of other factors also contributed to the decline. The study found a 1.71 percent decline in vehicle depreciation, to $3,510 for the average vehicle. Tire costs also are down about 3 percent. Even insurance premiums are down, albeit a modest 0.58 percent.
But beware, stresses the organization, as insurance rates “vary widely by driver and driving record, issuing company and geographical region.”
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Overall driving expenses also vary depending on the type and size of the vehicle, AAA noted.
The “Your Driving Costs” study has been published by AAA since 1950, when the typical motorist clocked 10,000 miles per year at a cost of 9 cents per mile. Gasoline that year sold for 27 cents per gallon, on average, in the U.S.
—By CNBC’s Paul A. Einstein.