Driving costs for N.C. climb over $10,000

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The owner of an average sedan in North Carolina can expect to pay $10,558 in 2012 to drive, based on current prices, compared to $9,971 last year, according to AAA Carolinas.
The total costs include insurance, maintenance, gasoline, tires, taxes, registration, depreciation and finance charges, based on driving 15,000 miles a year.
Prices at the pump are slightly less than last year. The current price of a gallon of regular unleaded is at $3.774 in North Carolina, versus $3.834 at the same time in 2011.
Costs for a new vehicle rose in 2012, with the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the average sedan set at $25,067, versus $23,099 in 2011.
Motorists can expect to pay an average of 70 cents per mile in 2012, a 5-cent increase over 2011, if gasoline prices remain steady.
“Higher vehicle costs are impacting drivers in North Carolina, because that translates into higher finance charges and depreciation costs,” said Dave Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “At a time when many Carolinians are still struggling financially, the cost of driving is at its highest level in more than a decade.”
One bright spot for motorists is the cost of insurance premiums for sedans, which fell from $705 annually in 2011 to $646 this year.
Drivers of minivans will also see their costs rise in 2012, up a penny from 2011 to 76 cents in 2012. Total costs for drivers of SUVs remained flat at 86 cents per mile in 2012, unchanged from 2011.
Behind depreciation, the next most expensive category is operating costs, which include gas, maintenance and tires.
AAA compared the cost of vehicles in five separate categories: small, medium and large sedans, as well as SUVs and minivans. The cumulative final estimate in this release is based on an average of the three sedan categories.
AAA’s analysis uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised fuel-economy estimates intended to better reflect “real world” conditions as opposed to laboratory tests.
Annual driving costs calculations use standardized criteria designed to model the average use of a vehicle for personal transportation over five years and 75,000 miles of ownership. Actual driving costs will vary based on individual driving habits, location, operating costs and other factors.
A national pamphlet, “Your Driving Costs,” is available through AAA Carolinas by calling 1-866-741-6668. The pamphlet provides detailed information on the costs associated with owning and operating a vehicle nationally.
To get the best gasoline mileage, AAA recommends:
• Cool the pedal. Your gas mileage is cut by 10 percent for every 5 miles per hour over 65; drive a safer 65 mph rather than 75 mph and save money.
• Let your car breathe. A clogged air filter can cut mileage by 10 percent, a faulty oxygen sensor by up to 40 percent.
• Take the junk out of the trunk. Having an extra 100 pounds in the trunk can cut fuel economy by about 1 percent.
• Check the pressure. For every three pounds below your tires’ recommended pressure, fuel economy drops about 1 percent.
• Consolidate trips, such as grocery shopping, medical appointment and picking kids up from school.
• Search out the cheapest gas prices along your daily commute route. Off-brands often have lower prices than major brands.
• Use cruise control whenever possible for highway trips to maintain steady speed and achieve the best fuel economy.