Looking at Car Maintenance Costs: The Cheapest Cars to Run

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Car owners are oftentimes confronted with the harsh reality that car maintenance ends up adding a lot to the overall cost of a car over its lifetime. Apart from the upfront cost of the car, things like taxes, depreciation, insurance, along with routine car maintenance and service need to be considered when buying. In this article, CARFAX Europe takes a deeper look into car maintenance costs and which are the cheapest cars to run.

infographic low car maintenance costs

What Helps Reduce Car Maintenance Costs?

As counterintuitive as it may sound, sometimes spending money can save you money. What this means is that, in many cases, spending more on a car in the beginning can end up leaving more money in your bank account over the lifetime of a vehicle. Essentially, often you get what you pay for – more reliable cars, cars which are cheaper to insure and cars that hold their value (depreciate less) cost more up front, but can end up costing less over time.

Reliability

One aspect of reducing car maintenance costs is the overall reliability of the vehicle you buy. For example, buying some brands over others will give you a statistically lower risk of having to pay for repairs. A recent survey found Toyota had the lowest percentage of “Check Engine” problems as well as the lowest average costs for repair. Other brands at the top of the list include BMW, Honda, Hyundai, and Volkswagen.

Car Insurance

Another way to reduce lifetime car maintenance costs is by buying a car with lower insurance premiums. Car insurance is one of the most expensive aspects of car ownership and the differences in cost between one car and another can really add up. For more information on what’s involved when calculating your car insurance, check out the article car insurance.

Depreciation

A vehicle’s ability to retain value plays a big role in limiting the car maintenance costs during its lifetime. And unless you’re buying a classic car, depreciation is something most car owners will have to live with. Certain brands also have a tendency to retain a larger percentage of the value at the time of purchase. Additionally, the longer you keep the car, the lower depreciation’s percentage of ownership costs is.

For example, depreciation is 57% of the car maintenance costs when kept for only one year. While still a large factor in total costs, keeping your car for 5 years (48%) or for 8 years (43%) is a significantly lower amount.

Carrying Costs vs. Operating Costs

Finally, apart from the above three, there are other factors involved in car maintenance costs for car owners. Some examples include: fuel, interest (for those who finance their vehicle), sales tax and road tax. It should be noted that carrying costs will diminish significantly with time, while operating costs tend to get higher over the years. The following shows which costs fall into which category.

Carrying Costs

Operating Costs

Depreciation

Maintenance

Interest

Repair

Sales Tax

Road Taxes

The Cheapest Cars to Run

Practical examples are almost always easier when it comes to understanding car maintenance costs. In order to demonstrate just how different certain vehicles can be, CARFAX has put together a sample of some of the cheapest cars to run and a few counter-examples from the other end of the spectrum.

Cheapest Cars to Run Per Vehicle Class

It may not be a big surprise that small, city cars dominate the top of the list of overall low car maintenance costs. Vehicles like the Volkswagen Up (and its mechanically identical cousins from Skoda and Seat), along with the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 all come in at an average of less than €400 per month to run.

Here is a breakdown of the cheapest cars to run per vehicle class, according to independent car valuator, CAP. The following information takes into consideration a lifespan of 3 years, with an average of 20,000km per year.

 

City: Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i – approx. €10,400

Supermini: Dacia Sandero 1.2 Access – approx. €11,175

Family: Skoda Octavia 1.2 TSI S – approx. €18,800

MPV: Skoda Roomster 1.2 TSI Special Edition – approx. €13,300

SUV: Dacia Duster 1.6 Access – approx. €15,000

Executive: Audi A5 2.0 TDI Ultra – approx. €26,150

 

High Overall Car Maintenance Costs

At the other end of spectrum, one can find all sorts of high car maintenance costs. Large-sized and luxury SUVs incur the the highest car maintenance costs by big margin. Pickup trucks of any kinds aren't far behind either. In the luxury car sector, for example, a Mercedes SLS AMG can cost more than €4,750 per month to run. Although, it could be argued that perhaps shoppers looking into that sector of the automotive market may be less distressed by the added high car maintenance costs.

Ultimately, the point still stands: one has a lot more than just purchase price to consider when it comes to the overall cost of owning a car.