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How Much to Fill Your Tank?

Study Shows Driving Costs Average 52.2 Cents Per Mile

Savvy consumers determined to know how much they are paying to drive their vehicle can look to AAA for assistance. The 2006 edition of Your Driving Costs study shows the overall average cost of owning and operating a passenger vehicle is 52.2 cents per mile, which equals $7,834 per year based on 15,000 miles of driving.

AAA's estimate of driving costs for 2006 is not directly comparable to data for previous years due to a revision to the survey methodology that better reflects the costs associated with a wider range of vehicle choices.

AAA's study continues to calculate the average costs of all expenses associated with owning and operating vehicles over five years and 75,000 miles of driving. However, AAA now calculates those costs based on averages for five top-selling passengers cars (including imports) in each of three vehicle size categories, rather than on one representative vehicle in each category as in the past.

AAA reports that from the end of 2004 to the end of 2005, the average price of fuel increased to $2.405 per gallon; a 15.8 percent increase that raised the average driver's fuel costs from 8.2 to 9.5 cents per mile. The fuel price information is based on data from AAA's Fuel Gauge Report.

AAA's study reports the retail price of tires is 0.7 cents per mile. Driving costs related to licensing, registration and taxes are $535 when "hidden" costs such as personal property and ad valorem taxes that are levied in many states are also factored in. AAA estimates the average new car will depreciate $3,392 per year of ownership. Full insurance coverage will average $926 per year. Routine maintenance — including the manufacturer's recommended normal service operations — is estimated to cost 4.9 cents per mile, or $552. Annual finance charges, computed on a national average basis, are estimated at $716 this year. The finance numbers are based on a five-year loan at six percent interest with a 10 percent down payment.

The purpose of AAA's annual study is to show consumers how to understand and calculate the full costs of owning and operating their vehicles. Only by factoring in all of the related costs of driving can consumers accurately budget for their future expenses. AAA's driving cost figures are not intended for use by businesses in the reimbursement of employee driving expenses.

"AAA's research shows that driving a new vehicle that retains a high resale value and has moderate insurance costs, can help offset other costs such as fuel and tires," said John Nielsen, director of AAA Approved Auto Repair and Car Buying Services. "Selecting a model that is more fuel efficient than others in its size-class, also will help consumers contain their driving expenses."

To conduct its study, AAA used detailed driving costs for small, medium, and large sedans. Driving costs in each category are based on the average costs for five top-selling models selected by AAA. By size category, they are:

Small Sedan
- Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla.
Medium Sedan - Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
Large Sedan - Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300, Ford Five Hundred, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon.

Though not part of the AAA composite average, SUV and minivan information is also included in Your Driving Costs to help buyers estimate operating costs for these types of vehicles.
Selected models include:
SUVs - Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner.
Minivans - Chevrolet Uplander, Dodge Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

Consumers can obtain copies of AAA's Your Driving Costs from many AAA club offices and on the Internet at

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides its more than 49 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully-tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at: . National and state by state, daily retail fuel prices are available at

(Source: AAA)