There is more that goes into the cost of car ownership than the monthly payments, the insurance, and the gas. But there are many tasks that go into vehicle ownership. Make sure you understand how to take care of your vehicle so you can make it last as long as possible.
Whether you buy your new vehicle online, through a private party, or through a local dealership, the cost of car ownership is just beginning when you sign on the dotted line of your auto loan. From there, you have weekly and monthly tasks, plus a few things you need to do throughout the year. Once you get the keys, the true cost of car ownership begins.
Car Ownership Overview
Whether you buy a new car or a used car, you need to perform some tasks regularly to keep that vehicle running. Maintaining your vehicle is essential to keep it running properly and help maintain its value. After all, as they say, depreciation begins the moment you drive off the car lot. Regular maintenance helps prevent expensive repairs down the road and can also help improve your gas mileage.
Here are a few maintenance tips:
- Check your engine oil level every time you gas up. If it’s low, add more.
- Get regular oil changes. How often depends on your car, but most manufacturers recommend every 5,000 miles or so.
- Check your tire pressure monthly and inflate them to the proper level. This will help improve your gas mileage and prevent flats.
- Inspect your tires for wear and tear, and replace them when they start to show signs of balding or other damage.
- Have your brakes checked regularly. If they start to squeal or feel “soft,” it’s time for new pads or shoes.
- Check all fluid levels (brake, power steering, transmission, etc.) monthly and top off as needed. Leaks should be fixed promptly.
- Inspect your hoses and belts for cracks or wear. Replace as necessary.
- Keep your car clean, inside and out. A clean car will last longer and look better when it comes time to sell.
- Always be careful about the grade of gasoline you use if you do not drive an electric vehicle. If your car runs best on premium, adding in standard gasoline can decrease the performance and longevity you get out of your vehicle.
Following these simple tips will help keep your car running smoothly for years to come.
It’s essential to think through large purchases as there are many costs you might not consider in the whirlwind excitement of buying a car. Let’s review the most significant expenses to car ownership before you sign on the dotted line.
Monthly PaymentsMonthly payment amounts will vary wildly depending on what kind of car you’re buying and its condition. Experian’s stats in 2023 show that new and used vehicles have average monthly payments of $729 and $528, respectively.
FuelConsumer Reports estimates that powering an electric vehicle is cheaper than refueling a traditional gasoline tank. However, according to Bankrate, annual fuel costs with either vehicle type can cost upwards of $2,000.
Maintenance FeesMaintenance fees include buying tires, changing oil, and replacing washer fluid. These small and medium-sized costs stack up over a vehicle’s lifetime and are vital to preventing bigger problems. AAA reports that 1 in 3 drivers can’t afford unexpected repairs.
Insurance Aside from New Hampshire and Virginia, every state demands drivers have active car insurance. This will run car owners approximately $1,765 annually but will vary based on driver information, vehicle type, location, etc.
Miscellaneous Fees Licensing, registration, and taxes must be settled before taking your car on the road. In 2023, these processes cost $762 on average but depend on state and local laws. Wherever you are, have the budget ready to pay these costs before getting your car.
Car Ownership Stats
The US boasts some of the highest car ownership statistics across the board. An overwhelming majority of American households have access to at least one vehicle, and some states have more registered cars than residents.
There are also many households without access to a car. However, this isn’t always due to financial hardship, as some would assume. Car ownership is a complex social indicator, and many factors, such as location and available public services, contribute to it.
National Vehicle Ownership Numbers
|Most Popular Vehicle Type:||Truck|
|Most Popular Model:||Ford F-Series|
|Households without Vehicles:||8.3 percent|
|Most Vehicles:||California (30,398,249)|
|Least Vehicles:||Vermont (607,890)|
Car ownership in the US is on an upward trend, with the number of vehicles rising by nearly 5 percent between 2015 and 2020. Additionally, over 90 percent of households own at least one vehicle, and 37.1 percent have access to two cars.
These numbers change from state to state, with the most significant deviation occurring in the northeastern region of the US.
Vehicles Per State
When looking at the number of registered vehicles in each state, it’s important to remember the contributing factors. Things like the availability of public transport, likely occupations, population density, and poverty can drastically affect this statistic.
For example, New York and Washington DC (although not a state) sit at the bottom of the list for registered vehicles per resident. Both instances host the most accessible public transportation options, reducing the need for personal vehicles.
The numbers for states like Montana and South Dakota may also be inflated. Those states have low to no motor vehicle excise taxes. Pair that with looser inspection requirements, and it’s no wonder why many people purchase vehicles there.
Three states house 27 percent of all US vehicles: Texas, California, and Florida. However, surprisingly, none of those states are in the top 20 for number of vehicles per household. They owe their high numbers to controlling over a quarter of the US population.
Electric Vehicle Ownership
Statista expects electric vehicle revenue to grow by 18 percent each year. EV sales have spiked from 0.66 to 1.08 EVs sold per million vehicles in the last two years.
In 2021, there were approximately 2.13 million registered EVs, according to the US Energy Information Administration. This figure more than doubled from the 1.02 million registered EVs at the end of 2020.
The lion’s share of EVs is found in California, which has 425,300 electric vehicles on its roads. North Dakota is the slowest adopter of the technology, with only 220 registered EVs. These stats hold when considering the percentage of EVs to non-EVs in each state.
The three states with the highest percentage of EVs are:
The three states with the lowest percentage of EVs are:
|State||Households with access to at least one vehicle (%)||Average number of vehicles per household||Registered Vehicles (2020)|
Proper car servicing is key to keeping your vehicle running smoothly and efficiently. By following some simple servicing basics and keeping accurate documentation, you can help ensure your car runs well and gets good gas mileage. Additionally, regular vehicle inspections can help identify potential problems early on.
Servicing BasicsIn order to keep your car running properly, it is important to follow some basic servicing guidelines. These include regularly checking and changing your oil, checking your tire pressure, and maintaining a clean engine. Additionally, it is important to keep your car's fluids topped off and to have regular tune-ups.
DocumentationIn addition to following proper servicing procedures, it is also important to keep accurate documentation of your car's maintenance. This can help you keep track of when certain services were performed and can be helpful if you ever need to refer back to previous records.
Get Good Gas MileageOne of the benefits of properly servicing your car is that it can help improve your gas mileage. By keeping your car's engine clean and well-maintained, you can help ensure that it runs more efficiently and uses less fuel. Additionally, proper tire inflation can also help improve gas mileage. With gas prices all over the place, the more you can do to keep your gas mileage high, the farther you can go on a single tank of gas.
Regular Vehicle Inspections The amount you have for a down payment affects your monthly payments and the total cost of the car. A bigger down payment will lower your monthly payments, but it will also increase the total cost of the car.
As a car owner, it's important to be aware of the different types of maintenance that your car will need throughout its lifetime. Normal wear and tear is to be expected with any vehicle, but there are ways to prolong the life of your car with regular maintenance. Following a maintenance schedule is key to keeping your car in good shape and can help you avoid costly repairs down the road.
Oil ChangesOil changes are one of the most important types of maintenance for your car. The frequency of oil changes will vary depending on the make and model of your car and the type of oil you choose, but it's generally recommended that you have an oil change every 3-5,000 miles or so. Standard motor oil typically needs changes sooner than synthetic oil. Not only does this keep your engine running smoothly, but it also helps to prevent build-up of sludge and other contaminants that can damage your engine over time.
Engine MaintenanceIn addition to regularly changing your oil, it's also important to have your engine serviced periodically. This may include replacing spark plugs, checking fluid levels, and inspecting belts and hoses for wear and tear. These simple maintenance tasks can help keep your engine running efficiently and can prevent more serious issues from developing down the road.
TransmissionYour car's transmission is another crucial component that needs regular care and attention. Transmission fluid and filters should be changed at least every 30,000 miles, and the entire system should be inspected for leaks or other potential problems on a yearly basis. By taking care of your transmission, you can help avoid expensive repairs or even complete replacement down the road.
Vehicle’s Exterior Finally, it's important to keep an eye on your car's exterior as well. Check your windshield wipers and lights regularly to ensure they are in good working order, and have your car's tires rotated and inflated as needed. These simple steps can help you avoid accidents and keep your car looking its best.
Vehicle Documentation A side note about car maintenance also includes the documentation you need to keep for your vehicle. Each year, you must visit the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and update your license plate sticker and your vehicle registration. You will typically need to show your proof of insurance and driver’s license, along with the new registration paperwork. You should keep your car insurance paperwork in the vehicle with you at all times, too.
Warranties are an important part of car ownership, and there are a few different types to be aware of. Traditional warranties typically cover the vehicle for a certain period of time or mileage and extend to repairs or replacements if something goes wrong.
An extended warranty is an additional layer of protection that can be purchased for an additional cost. This type of warranty typically covers more repairs or extends the coverage period beyond what a traditional warranty would.
Car insurance is a necessary expense for all drivers who have a car loan from either buying or leasing a vehicle. There are several different types of car insurance, and it's important to understand the difference between them.
The most common type of auto insurance is comprehensive insurance. This covers damage to your car from events like accidents, theft, or weather. It does not cover damage from wear and tear or mechanical problems.
Collision insurance covers damage to your car from collisions with other objects. This includes damage from accidents, but also things like hitting a pothole or scraping your bumper on a parking garage wall. Deductibles are the amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premiums will be.
Costs vary depending on the type and amount of coverage you choose, but there are ways to save on car insurance. One way is to raise your deductible. This will lower your monthly insurance premiums, but you'll have to pay more if you do have an accident. Another way to save is to buy a new vehicle that is less expensive to insure because it’s rated by the FHA (Federal Highway Administration) as one of the safer vehicles on the road. SUVs and luxury cars tend to be more expensive than sedans or economy cars.
Finally, remember that the best way to save on car insurance is to be a safe driver. Drivers who have no accidents or traffic violations typically pay less for their car insurance than those who do have accidents or violations on their record.
Learn Tips and Tricks to Car Ownership from the Experts Here at GoodCar
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to car ownership. From the initial cost of the vehicle to the ongoing maintenance and repairs, it's important to do your research and make sure you're prepared for everything that comes with owning a car. The last thing you want is for your vehicle to break down, leaving you to rely on Uber, Lyft, or public transportation. However, ultimately, if you want the freedom and flexibility that comes with having your own set of wheels, then car ownership is definitely worth considering.