Australia’s cheapest family cars, SUVs for 2020 revealed

Family car driving up a hill with misty background.

Tim Nicholson

Posted November 16, 2020

Driving Your Dollars survey reveals how much it really costs to run a family car in 2020.

Most people contemplating a new family car want something with loads of space, a comfortable ride and decent safety gear, but affordability remains the main consideration for many. The initial purchase price should always be taken into account, but after leaving the showroom, how much is a family hauler actually going to cost to run?

Australia’s most affordable medium-sized passenger cars

According to RACV’s Driving Your Dollars survey, which analysed the cost of owning and running 79 of Australia’s top-selling cars, the most affordable family car is a hybrid. 

The survey, which takes into account the initial puchase price, loan repayments, fuel costs, servicing, tyres and on road costs such as registration, insurance and auto-club membership, averaged over five years, found that the Toyota Camry Ascent is the cheapest of the best-selling medium and large passenger cars and SUVs in this year’s survey. The Camry Hybrid has the lowest fuel, servicing and tyre costs of the family-friendly offerings surveyed, resulting in an average monthly cost of $1001.42.

Toyota’s petrol-powered Camry Ascent, which is priced $2000 less than the hybrid, is the next cheapest family car to own and run, costing $1015.76 per month. The soon-to-be-replaced Skoda Octavia 110TSI Sport wagon is third with a monthly spend of $1138.49. The priciest medium passenger car surveyed is Honda’s petrol-powered Accord VTi-LX at $1485.20 a month, but that’s largely due to a higher purchase price than others in the category.

Medium passenger cars are the most affordable category of family-friendly car on the market, with an average of $1157.02 per month, cheaper than medium SUVs, with an average monthly cost of $1232.62, people-movers ($1364.58) and large SUVs ($1432.98).

Australia’s most affordable medium SUVs

Medium SUVs are the biggest single market segment in Australia in 2020. They’re large enough to appeal to younger families, but not so big that they put off older folk, couples or singles. 

The Mitsubishi Outlander has been around in current third-generation guise since late 2012, but it still represents excellent value for money. It is the cheapest medium SUV to own and run this year at $1166.73 a month for the all-wheel-drive (AWD) ES.  

However, it holds that position by a whisker. The Toyota RAV4 petrol all-wheel-drive GXL is just 40 cents behind it on $1167.12. Mazda’s 2-5-litre petrol AWD CX-5 Maxx comes third at $1178.74, just ahead of another RAV4 – the hybrid 2WD GXL on $1190.03.

Subaru’s Forester petrol and the recently introduced hybrid sit in the middle of the pack, but the title of priciest medium SUV surveyed belongs to the Hyundai Tucson Elite AWD turbo at $1345.97 per month.


Black car parked on city street with building in background.

The Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid sedan is the cheapest of the family-friendly offerings.

Australia’s most affordable eight-seater people movers

Australia’s top-selling eight-seater people-movers are the Kia Carnival followed by the Honda Odyssey, but the four-cylinder Honda is cheaper to own and run at $1292.60 per month, compared with the V6-powered Kia’s $1436.57 per month. 

People-movers have gone off the boil in recent years because of their practical but unexciting reputation. These days, buyers needing space for multiple passengers tend to opt for large seven-seat SUVs. While they lack the space of a people mover across all three seating rows, they win when it comes to school drop-off cred.

Australia’s most affordable large SUVs

Of the large SUVs included in this year’s survey, the Subaru Outback is the most affordable large SUV at $1253.35 per month in AWD 2.5i petrol guise. The 2.0d diesel Outback is about $18 a month more expensive to run at $1271.78. The two Subarus are the only models in the category with five rather than seven seats. The Kia Sorento Si diesel AWD – which was replaced by a new model in September – is the third-most-affordable at $1418.77. Sister company Hyundai’s mechanically related Santa Fe Active diesel is about $3 dearer a month on $1421.94.

At the pricier end of the large SUV category are a pair of sizeable petrol-powered offerings. The turbo-charged Mazda CX-9 Sport AWD will set you back $1558.26 a month, but the V6-powered Toyota Kluger GX AWD has the steepest monthly cost of surveyed SUVs at $1563.23. An all-new Kluger is expected in the first half of next year and for the first time it will be offered with an optional hybrid powertrain.