Car running costs 2021: Victoria's cheapest and most expensive cars

Blue MG3 driving along road

Tim Nicholson

Posted September 08, 2021

RACV’s Vehicle Operating Costs survey reveals the cheapest and most costly cars to own and run in 2021.

Buying a new car is one of the most significant purchases you’ll make, and there’s a lot to consider when making your decision. Are you happy with the price? Does it have a strong safety rating? Does it have the features you want? What’s it like to drive?

But one key consideration that’s often overlooked is how much it will cost to operate during the time that you own it. There could be ongoing costs you haven’t considered.  

RACV’s annual Vehicle Operating Costs survey helps uncover some of the hidden costs of buying and owning a new car. 

Running for more than 50 years, the Vehicle Operating Costs survey highlights the overall cost of ownership of more than 80 of Australia’s best-selling and emerging models. The survey factors in the initial purchase price and loan repayments, registration charges, insurance, auto club membership, fuel or electric vehicle charging costs, tyres, servicing and repairs, all averaged over five years.

RACV’s calculations are based on a private vehicle with a mileage of 15,000 kilometres per year, roughly the average distance travelled by Victorian drivers. 

The biggest cost related to a new car is, unsurprisingly, the up-front purchase price. Depreciation can wipe off about 40 to 50 per cent of the value of your new vehicle over the five-year period of the survey. Registration, insurance, and club membership make up about 15 to 20 per cent, while fuel takes a 10 and 15 per cent slice. Servicing costs consume between three and seven per cent of the overall costs and tyres just one to three per cent.  

Blue MG3 hatch driving

The MG3 Core light hatchback (Excite variant pictured) is Victoria's most affordable car to own and run for 2021.

According to the 2021 Vehicle Operating Costs survey, Victoria’s most affordable new car to own and run is the MG3 light hatchback, which pipped a pair of Kias, including the tiny Picanto microcar, which landed in second place and the Rio light hatch in third.

Once again, light passenger cars proved to be the most affordable vehicle segment overall. If you buy a light hatch, you’re up for an average monthly cost of $738.43. Small cars are the second most affordable category with a monthly spend of $903.44, closely followed by small SUVs on $917.60.

The top-ranked MG3 Core will cost owners $626.50 a month, edging out the tiny Kia Picanto S on $662.93 and the Kia Rio S on $705.71. 

According to the survey, all-terrain 4x4 SUVs are the priciest vehicles to own and run, costing owners an average of $1634.29 per month, while popular 4x4 dual-cab utes were the next most expensive on $1533.62. Large family SUVs were the third priciest on $1404.53.

Victoria’s most expensive car to own and run is Nissan’s hulking Patrol Ti upper-large SUV, which costs $2337.33 a month to keep on the road. The Patrol is powered by a big V8 petrol engine and is priced from $85,738 before on-road costs.

Electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) require an average monthly spend of $1280.83, which is about $100 less than last year’s survey. 

For the 2021 Vehicle Operating Costs survey, 81 new models were included from 11 vehicle segments. Premium brands were excluded again this year, with the survey instead focusing on volume models from mainstream brands. The entry-level variant of each model is used where possible unless a higher-spec variant is more comparable with other vehicles in that class. Once again, several hybrids, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles were included in the survey.  

Car Running Costs

See the full results from our 2021 Vehicle Operating Costs survey