Car running costs on the rise

Moving Well | Liam McPhan | Posted on 23 July 2018

How much does your car cost to run? Find out with RACV's Driving Your Dollars survey.

When it comes to buying a new car there are many factors to consider, some driven by emotion and others by numbers and specifications. For most motorists the deal-breaker is cost, something that extends beyond the purchase price and fuel consumption. The real-world cost of owning a car can be broken down into running costs (the cost of driving and maintaining your vehicle) and standing costs (what it costs to own, register and insure your vehicle). 

For this year’s annual Driving Your Dollars survey we looked at the running and standing costs of 139 vehicles over 14 categories. The results for some of the cheapest models in each category are shown below. 

Costs up

We found that the overall average cost of ownership has gone up by 0.8 per cent to $209.50 per week. The primary reason is higher fuel prices and government fees, slightly dampened by reduced car loan interest rates. The biggest cost increase is in the Large Car category, which now costs on average $11.10 per week more than last year. Only two classes – Light and Small SUVs – saw some dollars shaved from their average running costs. 

The gap between the increasingly popular Small SUV crossovers and traditional Small Cars decreased again this year. The average cost of Small SUVs was $189.27 per week to own and operate, down from $191.04 in 2017, thanks to reduced servicing costs and a better five-year resale value forecast. Mitsubishi’s Mirage takes the crown of outright cheapest car to own and operate in our survey at $108.78 per week, a reduction of just over $8 per week compared to last year.

Commodores compared

With the new imported ZB Commodore line-up now in showrooms we decided to compare the front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre turbo four with the all-wheel-drive 3.6-litre V6. The estimated drive-away price of the 3.6-litre is $3647 more than the 2.0-litre. The higher consumption of the V6 is offset by the smaller four-cylinder engine’s requirement for premium fuel. Spending on fuel is only $2.42 more per week. Overall the V6 will cost $249.02 per week, compared to the four-cylinder at $237.81. By contrast, the previous VF Series II V6 Commodore Evoke was $218.01 per week to own and operate last year.

Fuel wins

Motorists have been feeling the pinch these last few months with increasing fuel prices. But looking back to 2014, when fuel prices were at a similar high, reveals a small win for today’s new car buyers in the form of reduced fuel consumption. Today’s new vehicles use about 9 per cent less fuel on average than in 2014. Looking further back, the 2008 Driving Your Dollars survey found that on average, new cars used 9.3L/100km. This year the average consumption was significantly less, at 7.1L/100km.

Plugged in

There’s a lot of talk about the low running costs of electric vehicles (EVs), and rightly so. We found the yearly cost of electricity to propel an EV was less than half the average fuel bill for a conventional vehicle, with the BMW i3 the outright cheapest at just 3.1 cents/kilometre. But the benefit is not felt by buyers due to a much higher cost of entry into the EV market. The steep purchase price means electricity consumption makes up only 3.2 per cent of the overall weekly cost of ownership. With EVs confined to the premium end of the market, over a five-year ownership period the average weekly cost is nearly double that of traditional combustion vehicles.

Hybrid option

Hybrid vehicles offer a great alternative to a purely electric vehicle, with the latest Toyota Camry Hybrid costing less than its petrol sibling in the Medium Car class. It costs $2000 more to option a Hybrid powertrain package over the four-cylinder petrol-only variant, but in the long run ends up costing $7.08 per week less – thanks to fuel savings of more than $13 per week. Lower fuel expenses will offset the additional purchase price in about three years. 

Despite achieving the lowest fuel cost in its class, the Camry Hybrid can’t quite offset class winner Skoda Octavia 110 TSI’s lower initial purchase price. Weekly expenses for the Camry Hybrid will amount to $201.03, whereas the Octavia is cheapest in class at $192.14 per week.

Car running costs table
Car running costs table

Car Operating Costs

See the full results from our 2018 Runnings Costs survey.

Fuel Prices

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