Vehicle running costs on the rise

RACV RoyalAuto Magazine

RACV’s annual running costs survey looks beyond the cost of driving a car to the real-world cost of owning one. While you’re very aware of your running costs – what it takes to regularly drive and service a vehicle – the ‘standing costs’, including the purchase price and what you pay to keep it registered and insured – are also vital in knowing how much your car really costs.

Last year, stagnant interest rates and low fuel prices saw average weekly costs drop. This year, interest rates have risen slightly, joined by rises in on-road taxes and fuel prices, meaning the overall cost of owning and running a car has gone up on average by 1.6 per cent to $207.84 a week. The loss of Ford Falcon was a factor in the increased cost of the Large and 2WD Ute segments where they had been competitively priced.

Of the models studied, fuel consumption has dropped by 3.7 per cent, nullifying the effect of higher fuel prices for petrol cars; diesel vehicles suffered with a big increase of 5.5 cents per litre.

This year we surveyed 137 vehicles. Results for the top models in each class appear below. For the full list, click on the 'See full results' button at the end of this article.

Drive away

Little hatches are usually the cheapest to own, thanks in part to healthy price competitiveness. The leaders in the Micro, Light and Small classes all benefitted from ongoing drive-away offers.

For the third consecutive year Suzuki Celerio is the outright cheapest car to own and operate. Last year it managed to slip under $100 a week, and while running costs have remained almost the same, increased standing costs have pushed it to $100.78 per week. Second is Kia Picanto after reducing costs by $5.09 a week to $107.30. This is due to lower service costs, reduced insurance, and a drive-away offer of $14,990, allowing it to dodge rising on-road costs.

Light cars also had a drop in drive-away price, with Suzuki Baleno remaining cheapest with a $17,990 drive-away offer and a weekly cost of $126.42.


Low-emission and electric vehicles tend to be more expensive to own. But Toyota Camry’s hybrid variant is only 81 cents a week more to run than the petrol variant, and it emits 62 fewer grams of CO2 per kilometre, with a total of 121 grams.

Electric cars often have poor resale value, which doesn’t help when depreciation is, on average, 41 per cent of weekly running costs. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, for instance, holds only 29 per cent of its value at trade-in after five years, compared with the Mitsubishi average of 37.5.

SUV drive is on

SUVs’ popularity continues to increase, especially with the loss of Ford Falcon and Holden’s planned move to imported models. Reduced competition has meant a 7 per cent increase in costs for Large cars, while the SUV market is on average 1 per cent cheaper. People movers are 1.4 per cent more expensive because of high depreciation, possibly due to the popularity of a more versatile alternative, the seven-seater SUV. The decreasing costs of SUVs mean they’re becoming more competitive with car-based vehicle types.

Which fuel?

Diesel and petrol engines have different performance characteristics. Many models come in both fuel types so it can be hard to know which is more affordable. Diesels typically cost more to buy and can have higher maintenance costs. In the year of the survey, diesel was an average 0.4 cents a litre more than standard petrol, but lower fuel consumption helped keep their fuel costs down.

Be a sport

Despite a two-star ANCAP safety rating, Ford Mustang is posting significant sales numbers and many people use one for their daily commute. Of the models studied, Mustang was the most expensive sports car under $80,000 to own and operate. The four-cylinder variant was the cheaper of the two at $271.69 a week; the eight-cylinder model cost an extra $43.14. The cheapest sports car to drive daily was Subaru BRZ at $204.14 per week, beating Toyota 86 by just $1.14.

Ute advantage

As the third-highest-selling category behind Small cars and Medium SUVs, 4WD utes are continuing to find their way into the homes of Australian motorists, and on average they are just $22.36 more expensive than their 2WD siblings.

Large and sport car Running Cost graph

Fuel savings

In determining costs, the Running Costs study assumes the profile of an average driver, but the average driver doesn’t typically employ efficient driving techniques, and stop-start traffic can be a killer for fuel consumption.

Written by Liam McPhan
June 26, 2017