Total Cost of Ownership Comparison for Cars
This calculator will show you a side-by-side comparison of the costs of ownership associated with two different vehicles. Choose “Double Scenario Calculation” and then enter the total cost of both cars, followed by sales tax percentages, annual costs of licensing, and extended warranty costs for both cars.
If you’re financing your purchase, enter down payment amounts, financing rates, and loan terms in months. Then enter annual insurance premiums, the number of miles you expect to drive a year, MPG ratings, and the average local cost for gas. Finally, input the age of both cars, how long you plan to own them, and your estimated monthly maintenance and repair costs. When you press CALCULATE, you’ll see a detailed breakdown of operating costs, covering the gamut from tax, license, and extended warranty costs all the way to the cost per mile to drive your desired purchase.
Understanding The Full Cost
Owning and operating an automobile is not a cheap undertaking, as anyone who has a car can no doubt attest. First of all, there’s the price of purchasing the car to consider, and that, in and of itself, can constitute a significant sum.
Of course, there are ways to save money when buying an automobile. For example, you could opt for a used or certified pre-owned car. Or you could negotiate for better terms.
When buying a car, you have some latitude when it comes to haggling over the sticker price, choosing a lender that will offer the best interest rates, selecting payment terms, and so on. But you can also save money over time by paying more towards the principle on your loan each month or even opting for a schedule of biweekly payments that allow you to pay less in interest (26 in a year is equivalent to thirteen monthly payments).
In addition to the general expenses associated with your car loan, however, you'll also need to consider the ongoing expenditures related to keeping your automobile up and running. And before you choose the car you want to buy, it is imperative that you take the time to calculate the potential impact on your budget.
Every car will entail different expenses in both the short and long term, and if you want to comparison shop accordingly, you must consider all costs, including those that are not part of the purchase agreement. Here are some to keep in mind.
You cannot legally drive your car if you fail to first register it in your state of residence. This is intended to ensure that legal authorities are able to verify the owner of a particular automobile and that the car owner can be taxed accordingly.
If you are caught driving a car without the proper registration, you may face all kinds of penalties, including fines, criminal charges, or having your car impounded. In other words, you stand to lose a lot by foregoing automobile registration.
That said, you can save some dough in this area with the car you select. Your registration fees are based on several factors, but most importantly, the value of your car.
This could include the age, make, model, price, and even the number of cylinders or the weight. Some states also allow automobile owners to register vehicles for several years at a time. And if you transfer your old plates to your new car, it could change the fee.
So if you're trying to decide between a number of cars in order to select one that requires the lowest ongoing expense, consider checking in with your local DMV.
One of the greatest expenses associated with ongoing automobile usage is insurance, particularly if you have to ensure multiple drivers on your policy and some of them are high risk. While there is little you can do to make a teen driver or someone with multiple moving violations more insurable, you should know that the car you select could make a difference where your premiums are concerned.
Obviously, the more your car is worth, the more you're going to have to pay for insurance. This could definitely affect the price you're willing to pay for a car up front.
But you should also know that the make, model, and age of your car, amongst other factors, also play a role. And the type of car you select could be important. Often, sports cars come with higher insurance premiums than cars that are considered safer and lower risk, such as family sedans or minivans.
While a few states don’t require drivers to carry insurance, it's probably something you want in case of an automobile accident. And the type of car you buy could affect this ongoing expense.
It can be difficult to calculate how much you might spend on fuel for your car in a given year. But if you pay attention to approximately how much mileage you put on your car in the average year, you can at least get a ballpark estimate.
From there, you simply need to check the specs for any car you're interested in buying. Those with better gas mileage are obviously going to save you money, and if you have a budget in mind to cover fuel costs, you should definitely compare gas mileage calculations to find a suitable car that you can afford to drive.
Maintenance and Repairs
Every car is going to need maintenance, including regular inspections and fluid changes every three months or 3,000 miles (on average), as well as major inspections every 15,000 miles. And you're going to have to pay for these services, one way or another.
You could save in the long run by purchasing a maintenance plan through your dealership. Even still, you'd better make sure you're going to keep your car long enough to use up your pre-paid services since you can't recoup the cost when you sell or trade-in your car. In some cases, a pay-as-you-go plan is a more flexible and potentially more economical option.
The thing to remember here is that certain cars come with more expensive maintenance. For example, luxury cars are likely to cost more to maintain than economy models. And the same goes for foreign cars that do not have U.S. manufacturing plants. After all, replacement parts will have to be imported from overseas.
This will, of course, impact repair prices, as well. Any time you have an accident or something goes kablooey, prepare to shell out the dough if you have a high-end or foreign car.
Okay, technically this doesn't fall under the category of expenses. But it's a factor you should consider nonetheless, especially if, like most consumers, you one day plan to sell your car or use it for trade-in value.
It's not always easy to predict how the value of certain cars will hold up over time. However, by simply looking at Kelley Blue Book valuations for previous models of the cars you're interested in, you should be able to formulate an informed opinion about which contenders are most likely to retain their value.