Tips for Estimating the Annual Cost of Your Car Ownership

One of the biggest challenges facing Virginia drivers that want to create a budget is trying to estimate the annual costs of owning a vehicle. There are unfortunately many different costs that go into owning a vehicle. Some of the costs are easy to calculate, such as the monthly payments that the driver has to make on the vehicle, as well as how much he or she wants to put down for an initial down payment. In addition to those payments, drivers must also take into account how much they pay every month for car insurance.

All of these costs are easy to calculate because they are based around fixed numbers. What becomes much harder to calculate is the cost of car maintenance. There are many variables to consider when it comes to car maintenance. There are the basic costs to calculate, such as oil or tire changes, but there may also be additional costs depending on the condition of the car. The type of car and where the driver uses the vehicle also has a huge impact on estimating maintenance costs. Understanding all of these factors help drivers estimate the yearly cost of owning a vehicle.

General Service Costs

Drivers are encouraged to service their car roughly every 10,000 miles. This refers to small changes, such as changing the oil or replacing fuel and air filters in the vehicle. Drivers should check their cars owner’s manual for specific details, and pay attention to any warning lights on their vehicle. Many drivers make the mistake of pushing their vehicle too hard, and cutting corners with basic maintenance costs. Ignoring these costs or even just trying to put them off is very dangerous, as it increases the chance of causing serious long-lasting damage to the vehicle. Repairing this kind of damage is significantly more expensive than changing oil or replacing a fuel or air filter.

Overlooked General Costs

Calculating the cost of oil changes and replacing filters is fairly easy, especially for drivers that have had a vehicle for multiple years, and are able to predict how many miles they drive over the course of a year. Something that drivers should pay attention to is their tire pressure. Even if the tires work perfectly, they may be losing pressure, which has an impact on fuel economy. Low tire pressure can also affect other parts of a vehicle, such as steering and suspension. Staying up on tire pressure may end up preventing damage to other parts of the car, and it will also help to cut down on fuel costs as well. Drivers who ignore tire pressure are also much more likely to replace their tires over the course of the year, which can be very expensive depending on the vehicle.

Another common mistake that Virginia drivers make is forgetting about the other fluids outside of oil. Checking coolant, brake and transmission fluid are just as important as checking the oil. All of these fluids have an important purpose for the car and neglecting any one of them may lead to serious vehicular damage. Drivers should consult their owner’s manual to get a general idea of when to check these fluids and how often they need to be serviced.

Buying New Versus Used

One of the biggest contributing factors to estimating yearly car ownership is whether the driver is purchasing a new vehicle, or if he or she owns a used vehicle. Typically, new vehicles have significantly less maintenance costs, since the car is in top condition. Aside from basic maintenance costs, the driver should not have to invest too much money into the vehicle. For most drivers, it is safe to estimate that yearly maintenance costs will only be around two hundred dollars.

Calculating the costs of a used vehicle is much harder to predict, since it depends entirely on the condition of the vehicle. Cars that already have many accumulated miles are likely going to need more repairs. Drivers should always try to get as much information as possible when purchasing a used vehicle. Whenever possible, drivers should bring along a mechanic or someone with a deep understanding of vehicles, to help assess what sort of initial costs the driver may have to put into his or her vehicle to get it up and running.

Unfortunately, as a car gets older, drivers are expected to pay more in repair and maintenance costs. This can be difficult for many drivers, since the majority of vehicle owners keeptheir car for longer periods of time before upgrading their vehicles.

Different Brands

Another big factor when estimating the annual costs of owning a vehicle is the type of car. Luxury vehicles typically have much higher costs. However, some of these costs are mitigated in the first few years thanks to warranty and free maintenance periods, which help incentivize those brands. Many brands with these types of benefits ultimately end up being very expensive after the first few years, when drivers are no longer able to rely on those benefits to cover their expenses. In addition, new vehicles are going to experience much more wear and tear after that time. Not only are drivers losing their free maintenance coverage, but they will be hitting the point where maintenance costs are going to become more common for their vehicle.

Where to Shop

Another factor drivers should take into consideration when estimating the yearly annual costs of their vehicle is where they shop. Maintenance costs can greatly vary from mechanic to mechanic. Drivers are encouraged to shop around until they find a mechanic that they not only can afford, but can trust. Drivers should apply this same logic when searching for dealerships to initially purchase their vehicle.