How much is your car costing you?

It’s no secret that your car can be a major toll on your budget.

That was reinforced in the latest figures released from AAA this week, showing the cost of owning and operating a car rising 1.9 percent in the last year. One big factor in the increase was gas prices (up almost 15 percent!), but insurance, maintenance and tire costs have also gone up.

AAA’s survey found the average cost of a midsize sedan to be $8,780, with more gas-intensive vehicles like SUVs coming in at a whopping $11,360 (click here to check out the average for your car). That includes finance charges and factors in depreciation in the car’s value.

How do I compare? According to an analysis of my spending tracked via Mint.com, which doesn’t include cash purchases, I dropped about $2,100 on my ride (a 2001 Toyota Camry with about 120,000 miles) last year. I’m lucky to have generous parents who gave me the car after I landed my first post-college job, so a car payment isn’t part of the picture.  I also don’t log many miles on a weekly basis — a definite perk to living right outside Sacramento’s midtown grid.

Still, there’s always room to save. Here’s what I’m going to do to try to keep spending in this category down this year:

  1.  Walk or ride my bike more. With work just a few miles away and two grocery stores within six blocks of my house, there’s really no excuse on this one.
  2.  Call my insurance company and try to negotiate for a better rate. If I can’t get it,  (Editor’s note as Darrell notes in the comments, this won’t fly in California. Calling competitors it is!) the calls to compare quotes could be worth the money saved if I switch plans. It never hurts to ask!
  3. Be better about going in for oil changes and other tune ups. This may cost me up front, but routine maintenance helps keep long-term costs down. No one likes a big repair bill!

What do you do to keep your car spending to a minimum?

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One Response to How much is your car costing you?

  1. Darrel Ng says:

    Great tips! Just a couple additional suggestions. For No. 2, the law doesn’t allow auto insurers to negotiate with you. Because of Prop. 103, offering you a lower rate because you asked or threatened to switch is considered discriminatory. But shop around! Mercury and Wawanesa generally have good rates for good drivers. For No. 3, I bring my car to walmart in West Sac to get the oil changed. It’s super cheap and I can get my shopping done at the same time.

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