Whatever you're comfortable spending on a car, the cost of buying it will be dwarfed in the long run by ongoing expenses in depreciation, fuel, insurance, financing, maintenance and repair, and more. Consumer Reports has gone to great lengths to estimate owner costs for nearly every new car that's currently on sale. And we found some surprises:
For example, you could save more than $7,000 over five years by buying a Toyota Highlander SUV instead of a Ford Explorer, even though the Highlander costs $3,000 more up front. The Highlander makes up for its higher sticker price in lower depreciation and maintenance and repair costs over the years.
Depreciation makes up by far the largest cost of owning any car, comprising up 48 percent of the cost over the first five years. Fuel comes in a distant second at 24 percent.
Many consumers are concerned about the cost of maintenance and repairs. But even on the most expensive cars, mechanics' bills don't add up to half the cost of depreciation on the cheapest car in our survey.
Insurance is another cost that can take people by surprise. For example, while other costs on small cars are low, insurance costs are higher than with larger cars. The Chevrolet Cruze can cost almost twice as much as a similarly priced Volkswagen Jetta a year.
Our owner cost comparisons bring these differences to light, and the information is readily available on our model pages. There you can see how much it costs to own a car for 1, 3, 5, and 8 years. We'll be digging deeper into the data here on the blog in the days ahead. In the meantime, here are a few of the most and least expensive cars to own, by category.
|Make, model & type||Cost/yr over 5 years||Make, model & type||Cost/yr over 5 years|
|Sporty cars & convertibles||Small SUVs|
|Best||Mini Cooper Hatchback Base||$5,750||Toyota RAV4 (4-cyl.)||$7,000|
||Jaguar XK||$19,000||Cadillac SRX||$11,750|
|Small cars||Midsized SUVs|
||Toyota Prius C||$5,000||Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain (4-cyl.)||$8,000|
|Worst||Chevrolet Cruze Eco||$7,500||Jeep Grand Cherokee (V8)||$12,750|
|Family sedans||Large & Luxury SUVs|
||Toyota Camry Hybrid||$6,500||Ford Flex V6||$10,500|
|Worst||Volkswagen Passat (V6)||$9,250||Cadillac Escalade (base)||$17,250|
|Upscale cars||Wagons & minivans|
||Buick Verano (2.4)||$7,750||Toyota Prius V||$6,000|
|Worst||Chrysler 300 C||$11,500||Volvo XC70/Chrysler Town & Country||$10,750|
|Luxury cars||Light-duty pickups|
||Hyundai Genesis 4.6||$11,000||Toyota Tacoma (V6)||$8,500|
|Worst||BMW 750Li||$21,500||Chevrolet Avalanche||$13,000|
Learn more about ownership costs, and see how your car, or the one you're thinking of buying, measures up. Simply find the model you want to research from the pull-down search tools atop the main Cars landing pages and go to the "Prices & Costs" tab for that model.