I bought a beater of a car back in August 2010. It’s a 1997 Nissan Maxima, so it’s 14 years old now. While it runs fine, for the most part, it has the standard array of old-car problems: it’s loud (for unknown reasons), it doesn’t look very nice, and it’s not exactly a joy to drive. I went with the ultra-cheap option because I thought it would make owning a car cheap. But I think the $1,000 price tag may have fooled me a bit, since I’ve already put in another $1,400 in repairs in. After all the extras I pay for, it made me wonder: how much does it really cost to own my car?
While I’ve only had the car for 10 months, I’m not exactly sure what it has cost me so far and what it costs me in total each month. I don’t think most people are aware, either, so I figured this would be an interesting experiment for all of us to find out. Below I’ve added up all the actual costs I’ve incurred and broken them down into appropriate categories. Here’s what the car has cost me so far:
Purchase = $1,000
Car stereo (was missing when I bought the car) = $118
Sales Tax = $2,000 value (double than what I actually paid, woohoo!) x 6% = $120
Temporary registration fee (I needed this so I could drive it to an inspection) = $20
Title fee (I needed a new title produced for the car) = $25
Licensing (required for registration in CT) = $66
Total one-time fees =$1,424
Repairs and maintenance #1 = $425
Repairs and maintenance #2 = $625
Repairs and maintenance #3 = $350
Total irregular costs = $1,400
Monthly payment = $0 (I paid cash)
Registration = $75 = $3.13/month
Emissions test fee (every 2 years) = $20 = $0.83/month
Insurance = $62/month (I have bare-bones insurance with no collision)
Gasoline (average) = $60/month (I only drive about 500 miles a month)
Parking (average) = $15/month
Other maintenance (light bulbs, oil, washes, etc – average) = $15/month
Taxes (variable, yearly) = $84 for 2010 = $7/month
Monthly price of regularly-recurring costs (ongoing) = $162.96
Total paid (through 10 months of ownership) = $4,454 or $445 per month
Assuming yearly repairs of $1,000 (it’s an oldddd car) = $83.33/month
Realistic ongoing costs (including estimated repairs) = $247.21/month
For ongoing monthly costs, $243 seems manageable, but it’s nothing to scoff at, either. It’s about what I expected, too, so no surprises here.
I’ve estimated yearly repairs at $1,000, although I’m not sure I’d put that much money into this car at this point.
$243 is probably about what I what spend a month if I was going to ditch the car and rely on Zipcar, Amtrak trains, and buses to get aroind. I enjoy relaxing while someone else drives my bus or train, but it’s still more convenient in a lot of cases to own a car.
While I know it’s all sunk costs at this point, it sucks to think that I’ve paid $445 a month so far to drive my crappy car. If I could take that back and forgo buying a car altogether, I probably would.
I’m also a bit alarmed that it still costs this much, and I don’t make monthly car payments (I don’t have to pay Wells Fargo auto loans anymore). Anyone that has an auto loan can expect to see their monthly costs increase by several hundred dollars. That’s before insurance, which I’m sure will be higher than my $62 monthly payment. If I were to finance a new car, my monthly costs could easily triple.
I’ve also merely estimated the yearly repairs cost for a car. Repair costs have the potential to be a lot higher, which is alarming to think about. I don’t like this uncertainty when owning a car, and that’s another reason I’d consider living without one.
Car Ownership Calculator
I calculated all of this manually, but you can also try my car ownership calculator that I created in Google Docs. To calculate your car ownership costs, make a copy of the spreadsheet and fill in the yellow cells with costs for your car. The spreadsheet will calculate your total and monthly costs (on average) that you’ve paid so far for your current car, as well as your monthly costs going forward.
What does your car cost you? Have you considered giving up a car altogether?
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photo by: mindfrieze