The real cost of a running a car

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 10 July 2019

How much it really costs to own and run a vehicle.

The Kia Rio is the most affordable car to own and run in Victoria, according to RACV’s 2019 Driving Your Dollars survey. Kia’s light hatchback recorded the best result out of a field of 141 models in 14 categories, beating smaller cars from the micro segment, including Rio’s stablemate, Picanto.

RACV’s data shows that the Rio S will cost Victorian owners an average of $115.95 per week, taking into account the full range of costs including purchase price, depreciation, on-road costs, loan repayments, registration, insurance and auto-club membership, as well as fuel, tyre costs, servicing and repairs. 

Surprisingly, the most expensive car to run was an electric car, Tesla’s Model X 100D SUV, which will set back owners an average of $514.36 a week – boosted by the $146,000 initial purchase price.

Car running costs


Running for more than 50 years, RACV’s Driving Your Dollars survey reveals the true cost of owning and operating a car by highlighting the hidden expenses. RACV analyses the running costs of the top-selling vehicles in each class. (The base variant is used unless a higher-spec variant is more comparable with other vehicles in that class.) Costs are estimated over a five-year period, for a vehicle that travels 15,000 kilometres per year.

In this year’s results, the most affordable Kia Rio just edged out another popular light hatch, the Suzuki Swift GL, which retained its number two placing from last year with an average weekly cost of $117.77, while the Kia Picanto S micro car held its 2018 third-place ranking on $118.25. Last year’s most affordable car, the Mitsubishi Mirage ES micro car, dropped to fourth place with $119.05 in weekly running costs, followed by Suzuki’s Baleno GL light hatch, which again ranked fifth with a cost of $121.80 per week.

While the two most expensive cars to own and run were both electric vehicles, with Tesla’s Model X just edging out its stablemate Model S 100D sedan ($510.54 a week), the average running costs for electric vehicles overall was lower than expected – about $240 a week – roughly the same as the cost of running a regular people-mover. This is largely due to comparatively lower charging costs for EVs compared with fuel, as well as lower service and maintenance costs.

Unsurprisingly, some of the other most expensive vehicles to own and run were from premium manufacturers. BMW’s X5 xDrive30d SUV was the third-most expensive vehicle at $450.34 a week.

However, some of the dearest models are from Australia’s most popular brand. Toyota’s LandCruiser 200 Series four-wheel-drive diesel wagon was among the most expensive at $375.81 a week, while the ageing LandCruiser 70 Series pick-up was $340.44. 


Hidden costs

While many people assume that fuel represents the largest cost in running a car, a breakdown of this year’s results shows that depreciation has the biggest impact, making up more than 40 per cent of overall costs over a five-year period. 

The second-most significant hit to the hip pocket is on-road costs, including dealer delivery, stamp duty, registration, insurance and club membership, which account for about 23 per cent of the total running costs.

Fuel is the third-most significant cost, accounting for 13.5 per cent of the total, just ahead of loan interest repayments which account for 12 per cent. Servicing makes up 8.5 per cent and tyres just under two per cent.

Small cars

The smaller the car the smaller the cost. Micro cars were easily the cheapest category overall with an average running cost of $123.55 a week across the three cars surveyed. 

The average weekly cost for light cars was $142.03, with the Kia Rio and Suzuki’s Swift and Baleno the cheapest to run. The soon-to-be-replaced Audi A1 Sportback cost $169.99 a week and the Mini Cooper three-door hatch $199.31. 

Small passenger cars have an average weekly cost of $169.31. Kia’s Cerato S was the cheapest to run at $136.64 a week, followed by the Honda Civic VTi and Mitsubishi Lancer ES Sport. BMW’s 118i and the Audi A3 35 TFSI had the highest cost in this class at $212.72 and $227.18 a week respectively. 

The most affordable models in the small SUV category were Hyundai’s Kona Active ($163.69), Honda’s HR-V VTi and Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport, with the Volvo XC40 Momentum and BMW X2 sDrive18i at the more expensive end. The diversity and number of small SUVs meant that the average for the category ($197.40) was higher than for small cars ($169.31).

Family cars

Medium-sized passenger cars still represent good value, with an average weekly cost of $221.38, less than the equivalent SUV category ($232.26). Toyota’s Camry Hybrid Ascent Sport was the most affordable at $190.01, followed by the petrol-powered Camry Ascent Sport, then the Mazda6 Sport, while Audi’s A4 35 TFSI and the BMW 320i were the priciest. 

Holden’s imported Commodore RS 2.0 was the most affordable large passenger car at $232.88 per week, while the Honda Odyssey VTi represented the best-value people-mover at $217.68.

More Australians buy medium SUVs than any other body style in Australia. Of the 19 models in the category, the Ford Escape Ambiente represented the best value on $198.38, closely followed by the Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.0 petrol and the RAV4 GXL Hybrid.

Subaru’s Outback 2.5i was the best-value large SUV ($212.99), followed by the diesel Outback and the Kia Sorento Si. 

The average cost of large SUVs was about $20 less than the equivalent for large passenger cars, thanks to the better depreciation of SUVs.

Pick-ups

Mitsubishi’s Triton was most affordable in both the 4x2 ($218.73) and 4x4 ($237.79) categories. The Isuzu D-Max, Holden Colorado and Ford Ranger all performed well, although there was little variance in weekly running costs between most of the pick-ups.


Hidden costs

While many people assume that fuel represents the largest cost in running a car, a breakdown of this year’s results shows that depreciation has the biggest impact, making up more than 40 per cent of overall costs over a five-year period. 

The second-most significant hit to the hip pocket is on-road costs, including dealer delivery, stamp duty, registration, insurance and club membership, which account for about 23 per cent of the total running costs.

Fuel is the third-most significant cost, accounting for 13.5 per cent of the total, just ahead of loan interest repayments which account for 12 per cent. Servicing makes up 8.5 per cent and tyres just under two per cent.

Small cars

The smaller the car the smaller the cost. Micro cars were easily the cheapest category overall with an average running cost of $123.55 a week across the three cars surveyed. 

The average weekly cost for light cars was $142.03, with the Kia Rio and Suzuki’s Swift and Baleno the cheapest to run. The soon-to-be-replaced Audi A1 Sportback cost $169.99 a week and the Mini Cooper three-door hatch $199.31. 

Small passenger cars have an average weekly cost of $169.31. Kia’s Cerato S was the cheapest to run at $136.64 a week, followed by the Honda Civic VTi and Mitsubishi Lancer ES Sport. BMW’s 118i and the Audi A3 35 TFSI had the highest cost in this class at $212.72 and $227.18 a week respectively. 

The most affordable models in the small SUV category were Hyundai’s Kona Active ($163.69), Honda’s HR-V VTi and Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport, with the Volvo XC40 Momentum and BMW X2 sDrive18i at the more expensive end. The diversity and number of small SUVs meant that the average for the category ($197.40) was higher than for small cars ($169.31).

Family cars

Medium-sized passenger cars still represent good value, with an average weekly cost of $221.38, less than the equivalent SUV category ($232.26). Toyota’s Camry Hybrid Ascent Sport was the most affordable at $190.01, followed by the petrol-powered Camry Ascent Sport, then the Mazda6 Sport, while Audi’s A4 35 TFSI and the BMW 320i were the priciest. 

Holden’s imported Commodore RS 2.0 was the most affordable large passenger car at $232.88 per week, while the Honda Odyssey VTi represented the best-value people-mover at $217.68.

More Australians buy medium SUVs than any other body style in Australia. Of the 19 models in the category, the Ford Escape Ambiente represented the best value on $198.38, closely followed by the Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.0 petrol and the RAV4 GXL Hybrid.

Subaru’s Outback 2.5i was the best-value large SUV ($212.99), followed by the diesel Outback and the Kia Sorento Si. 

The average cost of large SUVs was about $20 less than the equivalent for large passenger cars, thanks to the better depreciation of SUVs.

Pick-ups

Mitsubishi’s Triton was most affordable in both the 4x2 ($218.73) and 4x4 ($237.79) categories. The Isuzu D-Max, Holden Colorado and Ford Ranger all performed well, although there was little variance in weekly running costs between most of the pick-ups.


Car Operating Costs

See the full results from our 2019 Runnings Costs survey.

Fuel Prices

Check out current fuel prices and maintenance tips to help you save on fuel here.