Car running costs 2021: Victoria's cheapest family cars

Blue Toyota Camry driving

Tim Nicholson

Posted September 08, 2021

Sedans still more affordable to own and run compared with SUVs. 

Much like families themselves, family cars come in various shapes and sizes these days, from a traditional sedan to a big SUV and even a dual-cab ute. You can check out our other story to get the skinny on the cheapest utes in Australia but read on to find out which models are the most cost-effective for families according to RACV’s 2021 Vehicle Operating Costs survey.

While SUVs have taken over as the family hauler of choice in Australia, the most affordable category here is medium sedans and wagons, with an average monthly cost of $1189.84. Medium SUVs are next, just $10 a month more on $1200.01, followed by people movers ($1363.42) and rounded out by large SUVs ($1404.53).

These categories are made up of trusted nameplates that have been around for decades, like the Toyota Camry and Honda CR-V and newer fare like the Hyundai Palisade. Whatever your preference, there’s no shortage of options. 

Toyota Camry Ascent.
Honda Odyssey VTi-L7

Most affordable medium passenger cars 

Sales in this category have plummeted over the years, and they now make up just three per cent of all sales in Australia. A long way from their heyday in the 1980s and 90s.

The most affordable medium sedan to own and run is the petrol-powered Toyota Camry Ascent on $1003.74 a month. For just over $16 a month more, you can opt for the Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid sedan ($1020.00).

Bucking the trend of European cars being pricier to own and run is Czech brand Skoda’s Octavia 110TSI Ambition in third on $1060.67, with the Mazda6 Sport on its tail at $1097.64.

A pair of Hondas round out the list, with the Accord VTi-LX petrol ($1467.31) pipping the hybrid version of the same model grade ($1489.65) by a touch over $22.00. 

See the full results of the medium passenger car category from this year's Vehicle Operating Costs survey.


Most affordable people movers 

There are very few people movers on the market these days, with most buyers preferring the aesthetic of a seven-seat SUV instead. But those who do favour an MPV will be rewarded with acres of space and the sort of interior flexibility you just can’t match in an SUV.

Just two people movers made the cut this year, with the recently refreshed Honda Odyssey VTi-L7 repeating last year’s win on $1335.28 per month. But Kia’s wildly impressive new Carnival S has closed the gap and is just $56 dearer on $1391.56. 

See the full results of the people mover category from this year's Vehicle Operating Costs survey.


Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx.

Most affordable medium SUVs 

Medium SUVs are the second-largest market segment by sales in Australia, and competition is stiff. Many of the models are high quality, represented in the five nameplates that made the cut in this year’s survey.

The monthly cost of ownership per model is the closest in this segment out of all the categories, except people movers. Just $140 separates the most affordable and the most expensive medium SUV.

Starting at the affordable end, the Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid leads on $1117.64 per month. Unlike the Corolla and Camry, the hybrid is cheaper to own and run than the petrol RAV4 GXL ($1123.78), by just $6.00.

Mazda’s 2.5-litre petrol CX-5 Maxx is third on $1140.84, followed by the petrol Subaru Forester 2.5iL on $1171.42. The hybrid Forester is $60 dearer a month to own and run compared with the petrol variant.

The priciest model here is the turbo-diesel version of Mazda’s CX-5 Maxx Sport on $1272.82, but this segment is tight again. Honda’s underrated CR-V VTi-L is next on $1261.29, while Hyundai’s new Tucson in turbo-diesel Elite guise is $1243.19. 

See the full results of the medium SUV category from this year's Vehicle Operating Costs survey.


Subaru Outback.
Hyundai Santa Fe.
Kia Sorento.

Most affordable large SUVs

If you have a growing family and you’re charged with ferrying your own and other people’s children around, chances are you’re looking for a large SUV. All but one of the models in this category have at least seven seats, each of them have all-wheel drive, and there’s a mix of petrol and diesel variants. 

Even with the launch of the new-generation version earlier this year, the Subaru Outback has retained its title as the most affordable large SUV to own and run, with a monthly cost of $1224.78. The Outback is the only model here without a third seating row, but as our recent road test revealed, it has a spacious and family-friendly cabin. 

The diesel base version of Hyundai’s Santa Fe is second with $1301.69, while the mechanically related Kia Sorento base diesel slides into third on $1325.54. Volkswagen’s Tiguan Allspace 132TSI Comfortline proved more affordable than some rivals on $1341.94, but a lower entry price helped it.

The eight-seat Palisade sits above the seven-seat Santa Fe in Hyundai’s line-up, and it’s the newest nameplate in this category. It’s also the priciest with a monthly spend of $1664.39, about $360 more a month than the Santa Fe. 

Toyota’s all-new Kluger that landed in June is the next priciest at $1525.26 for the V6 petrol GX, followed by Mazda’s highly regarded CX-9 Sport on $1488.13.  

See the full results of the large SUV category from this year's Vehicle Operating Costs survey.