The year 2021 has come and gone. For many behind the wheel, the year kept our heads spinning with the uncertainty associated with fluctuating fuel prices and supply chain shortages.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has released its annual interactive report on the cost of driving for the year, and it gets to the bottom of what you have actually been spending this past year. Based on the five most purchased vehicles of 2021 in each category, the report details the cost per year, day and mile for nine main categories: small sedan, medium sedan, subcompact SUV, compact SUV, medium SUV, midsize pickup truck, ½ ton pickup truck, hybrid vehicle and electric vehicles (EVs).
The costs are broken down into the main charges associated with vehicle ownership: fuel, maintenance, depreciation, insurance, license and registration fees and financing costs. AAA bases these values on national averages, but if you know these values for your own vehicle you can use the built-in calculator to calculate your own cost of driving.
- The national average fuel price for 2021 was $2.362 for regular gasoline from 5/21/2020 – 5/21/2021.
- Charging prices for EVs and hybrids was based on 13.1¢/kWh.
- The average American drove just under 15,000 miles.
- Maintenance cost was determined to include an extended warranty, a new set of tires of equal quality to those that came with the car, parts and labor associated with routine maintenance and replacement of parts expected to wear out within five years of use.
- Depreciation cost is based on the loss of value from new purchase to estimated trade-in value after five years.
- Insurance was based on full coverage for a personal vehicle in each category.
- License and registration fees are based on national averages.
- Financing costs were calculated based on a five-year loan with a 10% down payment and the national average interest rate for multiple credit ratings.
The report calculates operating costs and ownership costs to determine the overall cost of the vehicle. For the operating costs, the report first calculates gas cost/charge cost per mile by dividing the cost of fuel/kWh of charge used by the number of miles traveled. This could be done with the cost of a single fill-up and the distance traveled since the previous fill-up or values over a longer span.
Gas/charge cost per mile is then multiplied by the total number of miles driven in the year to get a total fuel cost for the year. This number is added to the cost of maintenance and any additional costs like parking or toll fees. The total is the operating cost for the vehicle.
Ownership costs are the static fees associated with owning any vehicle. The depreciation cost, insurance fees, license and registration fees and financing charges are all added together for the year to get the ownership costs.
To obtain the cost per mile, operating and ownership costs are added together then divided by the total number of miles traveled in the year.
Some of the report’s findings may surprise you!
For example, the report finds that EVs have the lowest operation costs thanks to the affordable nature of charging and maintaining an EV, but they also have the second-highest ownership cost due to depreciation.
SUVs are the cheapest to insure while the medium SUV is the second most expensive to own and operate overall.
Lastly, given a weighted average to this year’s data, Americans spent $26.48 daily on their vehicles.
Without further ado, the 2021 AAA Driving Cost ranking by category:
|9. Half-ton Pickup Truck||77.25¢/mi|
|8. Medium SUV||66.45¢/mi|
|7. Midsize Pickup Truck||62.77¢/mi|
|6. Medium Sedan||62.44¢/mi|
|5. Electric Vehicles||61.96¢/mi|
|4. Hybrid Vehicles||60.06¢/mi|
|3. Compact SUV||56.63¢/mi|
|2. Subcompact SUV||53.45¢/mi|
|1. Small Sedan||48.20¢/mi|
The AAA’s full report details that when the data for each category is weighted appropriately, the average cost per mile for a vehicle traveling 15,000 mi/year is 64¢, but the information is also given for both 10,000 mi/year and 20,000 mi/year for those who drive more or less than average.
To find more information, there is a fact sheet summarizing results from the report and detailing the values used for the costs in the calculations.
Did these numbers match up to your driving experience this past year?