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How much that new car will really cost

Consumer Reports News: August 21, 2012 01:08 PM

Whatever you're comfortable spending on a car, the cost of buying it will be dwarfed in the long run by ongoing expenses in depreciation, fuel, insurance, financing, maintenance and repair, and more. Consumer Reports has gone to great lengths to estimate owner costs for nearly every new car that's currently on sale. And we found some surprises:

For example, you could save more than $7,000 over five years by buying a Toyota Highlander SUV instead of a Ford Explorer, even though the Highlander costs $3,000 more up front. The Highlander makes up for its higher sticker price in lower depreciation and maintenance and repair costs over the years.

Depreciation makes up by far the largest cost of owning any car, comprising up 48 percent of the cost over the first five years. Fuel comes in a distant second at 24 percent.

Many consumers are concerned about the cost of maintenance and repairs. But even on the most expensive cars, mechanics' bills don't add up to half the cost of depreciation on the cheapest car in our survey.

Insurance is another cost that can take people by surprise. For example, while other costs on small cars are low, insurance costs are higher than with larger cars. The Chevrolet Cruze can cost almost twice as much as a similarly priced Volkswagen Jetta a year. covo_cost_over_time_chart.png

Our owner cost comparisons bring these differences to light, and the information is readily available on our model pages. There you can see how much it costs to own a car for 1, 3, 5, and 8 years. We'll be digging deeper into the data here on the blog in the days ahead. In the meantime, here are a few of the most and least expensive cars to own, by category.

Make, model & type Cost/yr over 5 years Make, model & type Cost/yr over 5 years
Sporty cars & convertibles Small SUVs
Best Mini Cooper Hatchback Base $5,750 Toyota RAV4 (4-cyl.) $7,000
Jaguar XK $19,000 Cadillac SRX $11,750
Small cars Midsized SUVs
Toyota Prius C $5,000 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain (4-cyl.) $8,000
Worst Chevrolet Cruze Eco $7,500 Jeep Grand Cherokee (V8) $12,750
Family sedans Large & Luxury SUVs
Toyota Camry Hybrid $6,500 Ford Flex V6 $10,500
Worst Volkswagen Passat (V6) $9,250 Cadillac Escalade (base) $17,250
Upscale cars Wagons & minivans
Buick Verano (2.4) $7,750 Toyota Prius V $6,000
Worst Chrysler 300 C $11,500 Volvo XC70/Chrysler Town & Country $10,750
Luxury cars Light-duty pickups
Hyundai Genesis 4.6 $11,000 Toyota Tacoma (V6) $8,500
Worst BMW 750Li $21,500 Chevrolet Avalanche $13,000

Learn more about ownership costs, and see how your car, or the one you're thinking of buying, measures up. Simply find the model you want to research from the pull-down search tools atop the main Cars landing pages and go to the "Prices & Costs" tab for that model.

Eric Evarts

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