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This Simple App Reveals the True Cost of Car Ownership

By AMA Staff

A vehicle, new or used, is a major investment. But there’s more to that investment than the sticker price. Knowing the real costs of owning and operating a vehicle can help you budget better, and make smart decisions the next time you buy a car.

CAA’s Driving Costs Calculator breaks down the true expense of hundreds of makes and models by showing their average costs for maintenance, gas, insurance and depreciation. The tool also allows you to compare between vehicles. Recent upgrades include hybrid and electric vehicle listings, plus more frequent cost updates.

“Many Canadians underestimate the cost of owning a vehicle,” says Jeff Walker, chief strategy officer at CAA National. A recent CAA poll shows that two-thirds of Canadians think they spend more on groceries than they do on their cars. In reality, the average cost to own and operate a car for a year is $9,500—while the average Canadian spends about $5,400 on groceries. “Your car is roughly double the cost of your grocery bill,” Walker says.

What you need to know before test driving a new vehicle

Depreciation costs are often the biggest surprise. Most Canadians are blindsided by how much value their vehicle loses in a year. The impact is felt most on new vehicles, which can depreciate by 20 percent or more in their first year.

CAA’s Driving Costs Calculator helps you build a unique profile for your driving lifestyle. Choose your province, car make and model, and how much you expect to drive in a year to get an annual cost. Then add fuel costs, depreciation, maintenance, insurance and other fees. The calculator also provides the environmental cost in greenhouse gas emissions and compares it with the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the same category—a great feature for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

“The calculator makes your cost as accurate and as personal as possible,” Walker says. “For example, you can change your percentage of highway versus city driving or tweak gas prices and insurance costs to see how they impact your annual cost to operate.”