Compare your car’s standing and running costs

How does the Mazda CX-5 stack up?
How does the Mazda CX-5 stack up?

When it comes time to buy a new car the options seem endless. Vehicles are becoming ever more competitive and the decision becomes harder and harder as you try to compare things such as features, safety rating, ride and handling, purchase price and how often you’ll find yourself at the pump.

Many of these factors come down to personal preference, but with RACV’s Driving Your Dollars survey we take the guesswork out of the cost of owning a new car. Today we are looking at the difference between standing costs and running costs. Why should these affect your purchase decision? Ultimately the answer lies in how you will use your vehicle.

Before getting down to how these costs should influence your decisions it is important to understand what they represent.

What are standing costs?

Standing costs are incurred whether the car is moving or not, and are represented in dollars per week. These are the expenses that will continue to roll on, even when the car does not. Included within standing costs is depreciation, on-roads, loan interest, registration, insurance, RACV membership and VicRoads licence fees – all of which are payable when the car is parked in the garage. Our 2017 Car Running Costs survey showed that on average standing costs made up 77 per cent of the cost of owning a new vehicle.

What are running costs?

Running costs relate to the cost of driving the vehicle, and are represented in cents per kilometre. Included within running costs is fuel, scheduled maintenance, tyres, and some additional parts we typically see replaced during normal use.

Why do they matter?

The ABS Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (12 months ending 30 June 2016) estimates that the average Victorian motorist drives 14,500 kilometres per year – a slight increase from previous years and for comparison purposes we assume a usage of 15,000 kilometres a year in determining car running costs. 

Two close first-place contenders in the Medium SUV category, the Mazda CX-5 Maxx and Haval H6 Premium, highlight the benefits of understanding your standing and running costs. The table below indicates their costs assuming usage of 15,000 kilometres a year. 



On-road price (estimated)



Total standing costs ($/week)



Total running costs (cents/km)



Total costs ($/week)



The Haval H6 Premium.
The Haval H6 Premium.

The Haval H6 Premium is priced at $29,990 drive away, a sizeable $6,676 less than our estimated on-road price of $36,666 for the Mazda CX-5 Maxx. With all factors considered the H6 costs $20.65 per week less than the CX-5 when sitting in the garage.

But with a higher running cost, the H6 ultimately concedes the title of cheapest Medium SUV to own and operate to the CX-5 – provided you drive 15,000 kilometres a year. Based on ADR-tested extra urban fuel consumption figures the H6 consumes over 30 per cent more petrol than the CX-5, and it needs a premium unleaded. Lastly, more expensive tyres and higher servicing costs will have you spending more to keep your H6 running on a per-kilometre basis.

So what can be said about this? Or what can be said about your driving? Travelling 20,000 kilometres each year increases the gap between the H6 and CX-5 to approximately $7.10 per week. Conversely, should you drive only 10,000 kilometres per year the roles are reversed – the H6 will end up costing approximately $6.80 less than the CX-5 each week. It goes to show you should look beyond the purchase price to the real-world running costs of the vehicle and how it plays into the way you will use it.

Want to compare some other models? For a full list of results of the 137 vehicles studied, visit

Written by Liam McPhan, engineer, RACV public policy department
September 19, 2017