comment 0

Real Costs of owning a car, or is it really a good idea to buy a car?

I currently own a Toyota Prius III since 2009. I am also really interesting in knowing as much accurate as possible where are my expenses and see how I can rationalize them. Thus, I would like to know the real costs of owning my car, but including every normal expenses: buying cost, normal maintenance costs, insurance, gas, tires, etc. Fines costs and car body repairs are excluded since they are out of “normality” and can be avoided by a more careful driving.

Annual Costs of owning a Toyota Prius III 2009

I bought the car end of 2009, we now are in 2007.

Depreciation Costs

The car was more than 1 year old. Let’s say I own this car for 7 full years. The cost of acquisition will then be amortized on 7 years. I bought this Prius on second hand market at 21 000€ (with already 40 000 km on the counter). We can see it as if I had given 3000€ per year on these 7 latest years.

A (normal) car is not an “asset”, it looses value over time. Let’s say I would resell this car today. The reference price for this very car in France on the second hand market can be easily found on the Argus: 9 003€. I will take a rather conservative view, mine got a few scratches. Let’s say I can sell it for 8500€.

This means 12 500€, over 7 year, is the real cost of just owning my car, without insuring it, without even using it or touching it. That is 1785€ per year, or 148€ per month.

The depreciation is exceptionally high on the first year.

The depreciation is exceptionally high on the first year, more than 30 % of your car’s value evaporate as soon as you go out of your car dealership. After that, expect a 10% depreciation each year. One should not buy a new car except if he get a good deal, can pay all in cash, and want to live this quite amusing experience: choosing the color, the options, …

Generally Japanese brands have a good reputation on the second hand market, and the depreciation is not as violent as other car makers.

Luckily, Toyota and more generally Japanese brands have a good reputation on the second hand market, and the depreciation is not as violent as other car makers. This has nothing to do with exotic features or marketing power. Japanese manufacturer put a huge emphasis on building quality, with misconceptions that can be spotted by the very worker, identified and fixed as soon as possible, and Toyota developed a big cultural expertise on this quality process. Quality inspectors are respected and the management knows the cost on the reputation on bad quality. Better see the flaw to fix them with minor cost early, rather than hiding it to avoid unexpected expenses but taking the risk of huge, really huge expenses later.

Depreciation curves looks like this:

So, I bough this car on its second year, so after the huge first year depreciation. It is still an extremely high among of money to take into account in our cost analysis!

Regular Monthly Costs

Insurance: 700€ per year, that is 58€/month for full insurance1)I got a car crash once, and lost it completely. I am glad I have a good insurance to reimburse it almost completely. For cars paid over 10 000 €, take the max insurance plan.

I usually fill my tank twice a month. Let’s round that to 100€ of gas per month.

This adds to 158 € / month for normal, monthly expenses. This is usually what most people see, and this is what I used to see as the “normal” cost of my Prius per month. We can see that, even without having done any repair or maintenance, just owning and normally using the car, the expenses adds to 306 € / month.

Irregular Maintenance Costs

Tires needs to be changed each 40 000 km. I changed them twice. At 90 € the 17″ tire, that is a cost of 720 € on 7 years, 102 € per year, so 9 € per month for tire.

I do the maintenance by the official Toyota garage. I did the following revisions: 30 000 km (with filters replacement, 324 €), 60 000 km (standard: 296 €), 90 000 km (175 €), 115 000 km (175€). I am about to do the 160 000 km revision with all filters replacements, and so I will count this revision as well. I expect it to be around 300 € only for revision. That is 1270 € only for regular maintenance. Against, put in regular spending: 182 € / year, or 15 €/month for maintenance.

I have also changed once the brake pad (180 €) and now I will have to replace the brake pad and the disc as well (480 €). That is 660 €, let’s round to 700 €, so it’s 100 € / year for this kind of normal replacements. So 8 € per month for brake.

So, in short, I see that the maintenance costs, that appears big each time I go to the garage, put in euros per month, is quite low actually, compared to the previous figures: 32 € month for maintenance.

Exceptional Costs

Let’s imagine I have a 1500 € of exceptional repair to perform each 4 years. It’s rather conservative assertion, however, this seems realistic for me. For example, I had to replace one bumper, change the hubcaps, …). We can round that to a big number, such as 7000 € on 7 years. That means 1000 € / year, or 83 € / month, for repairs.

Conclusion

Let’s summarize all these costs:

Name Cost per Year Cost per Month
Depreciation 1785 € 145 €
Insurance 700 € 58 €
Gas 1200 €  100 €
Tires 102 € 9 €
Normal Maintenance 182 € 15 €
Brakes pads and discs 100€ 8 €
Exceptional Repair Costs (estimatatio) 1000 € 83 €

Total cost per month of my car over the last 7 years: 418 € / month, or 5016 € / year.

References

If I compare to other online reference, it’s half the figure found on this article ($725 a month). I also found this graph on another website.

The major monthly costs come from the depreciation of the car.

This shows that, even if the maintenance costs increase over time, the major monthly costs come from the depreciation of the car. Only after 6-7 year, the depreciation cost becomes lower than the increasing operating cost. Said otherwise: for new cars, you loose a lot more of money on the first year even if you have very low maintenance.

Funnily, I found several articles on french magazines and newspapers, that give a lower number of the “real cost” of a car, such as on the very famous “Figaro“: 3 300€ / year, so 275 € / month. This is quite similar to the value I have if you completely ignore the depreciation.

I found another article, on Caradisiac, that ends with an almost similar figure than mine: 4821 € for a Prius that is driven 15 000 km / year. But this also ignore the depreciation, but integrates trafic fees, parking fees, … I am not convince these number are relevant, but we can clearly see that it is a figure around 5000€ each year spent on the car.

References   [ + ]

1. I got a car crash once, and lost it completely. I am glad I have a good insurance to reimburse it almost completely. For cars paid over 10 000 €, take the max insurance plan