What Does It Cost To Own A Car For 4 Years?

Beyond car payments, what will eat up your automotive budget?
By Alison Lakin
A car’s sticker price only says so much about what a vehicle will cost over the first four years of its life. Other factors, which you may not have considered, can also make up a sizable chunk of your budget if you're not careful.

Insurance
Before you can even get behind the wheel of your shiny new car, you’ll need purchase the requisite insurance. The type of car you purchase will directly impact the dollar amount you'll be handing to your insurance company every year. Be prepared to pay much more if you're looking at high-performance cars and two-seaters than if you're eying a practical mid-sized sedan.

Gas
While you're browsing the aisles looking at new cars, take a look-see at the information sticker on the vehicle’s side window. Not only does this have the EPA's gas mileage estimates, but it also prominently displays a rough calculation of how much your car will cost you in gas every year. Depending on the price of oil, yearly fuel costs can range from $1,100 for the most fuel-efficient hybrid to $4,500 for gas gulping SUVs.

If you already have a car and neglected to take note of this useful information, you'll be able to find it easily enough by looking on the EPA's website or in your owner's manual.

Roadside Assistance
Knowing that you'll be protected if a dead battery or flat tire leaves you are stranded is a priceless reassurance. Some manufacturers have roadside assistance covered under warranty. Check whether you have it before looking into a membership through AAA. Certain cars have OnStar as well - enabling you to reach help with just a push of a button. These features can save you money over the course of your car’s tenure.

Accessories
Buying accessories for your car can equate to another kind of comfort, but like most shopping expeditions, buying these frills can result in surprisingly large bills at the end of the year. Everything from steering wheel covers to roof racks all should be included in your monthly and yearly budgets of car ownership to get a reasonable estimate of what you'll be paying in the long run.

Maintenance
While Mel Brooks wasn’t exactly referring to cars when he penned, “Hope for the best, expect the worst”, the saying accurately sums up how you should budget for maintenance. We aren’t soothsayers; no one can predict what might go wrong with a car.

Luckily, new vehicles come with warranties. The term length varies with each car company and vehicle component, so you'll have to read up on them for the specific cars in which you're interested. Usually, they’re around 3-6 years or 36,000-60,000 miles. That's a heck of a lot of tarmac you'll have to travel before paying out of pocket.

Certain auto manufacturers will even cover your first few regular service maintenances. Freebies are hardly a dime a dozen though; and, if like the majority of people you're not covered for regular maintenance, the costs can add up. In your first four years of owning a car, you'll be heading to the shop around 12-16 times for standard services. Follow a maintenance schedule to get an idea of how many things will need to be looked at after just a couple thousand miles.



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