• Nov 21st 2009 at 8:41AM
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2011 Chevy Volt - Click above for high-res image gallery

So many things are changing in the new automotive reality, it's hard to know where to start. Everything from the kind of hose we connect to our cars (liquid filled? electric?) to the sounds the vehicles make is different now than it used to be. What else needs to change? How about how we think about how much it costs to own and operate a car.

Naturally, it's always been possible to estimate this cost, but NADAguides.com has just released a "Cost To Own" calculator for new cars, so you can factor in fuel prices in your region into the cost of the car. It's entirely useful. For example, to own a 2010 Prius in Michigan for five years will cost an estimated $33,232. On top of the cost of the car, NADA tells us that the car will depreciation will make up 39 percent of the ownership costs, while fuel equals just 12 percent. A pie chart of the cost breakdown is pictured at right.

On a similar thread, Edmunds is recommending a shift away from MPG and towards a cost-of-energy window sticker on a new car. With all of those electric plugs being added to cars, MPG is becoming less and less valuable to understand how much it costs to get around. Two quick examples: per month, Edmunds estimates it'll cost $53.55 to drive the forthcoming Chevrolet Volt, but $66.78 to operate a Prius. Check out their chart here, and remember that according to a recent study, more efficient vehicles can (and often do) cost less.

[Source: NADAguides.com, Edmunds]


How Much Will That New Car Really Cost You Over Time? NADAguides.com Educates Consumers on Its Easy-to-Use 'Cost to Own' Tool

- Powerful Online Tool Analyzes Eight Key Factors to Estimate Five-Year Ownership Costs -

COSTA MESA, Calif., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- When consumers look to purchase a new vehicle, the price is usually the first thing they research before making the decision to buy. Although the Suggested Retail Price provides the consumer with the total cost for the purchase of the vehicle, one important factor is often overlooked - total cost to own. Depreciation, fees & taxes, financing, insurance, fuel, maintenance, opportunity cost and repairs must also be added in to the cost of ownership. Most often, car shoppers only consider retail price and what their monthly payment will be. While these are, of course, very important car buying decision factors, additional costs are often overlooked.

To help car shoppers, NADAguides.com has built a tool to make this cost to own research easy and provide car shoppers with a quick view of the cost of ownership for a specific car over the course of five years. The NADAguides.com Cost to Own Tool factors in the eight most important costs associated with car ownership - depreciation, fees & taxes, financing, insurance, fuel, maintenance, opportunity cost, and repairs - to give new car shoppers an accurate forecast of how much they can expect to pay and what they can really afford.

"There are many things affecting the actual cost of owning a vehicle that can be overwhelming for consumers to see the true price tag of the car they are considering," said Mike Caudill, NADAguides.com automotive expert and spokesperson. "The NADAguides.com Cost to Own Tool removes all of the guesswork. Shoppers simply select the vehicle and trim level, enter their number of years of driving experience, the number of miles they expect to drive each year and their ZIP code and what results is a detailed report of costs along with visual aids to get a clear picture. These results can even be compared against other vehicles."

After consumers input this basic information, the NADAguides Cost to Own Tool shows the overall five-year cost of ownership in addition to a complete breakdown of the cost associated with each factor for each of the five years.

To access this tool, visit www.NADAguides.com and click 'Cost to Own' on the home page or select '5-Year Ownership Costs' from the left-side menu of any new car vehicle details page.

About NADAguides.com

NADAguides.com (http://www.nadaguides.com/) is the largest publisher of vehicle pricing and information for new and used cars, classic cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, and manufactured homes. NADAguides.com offers in-depth shopping and research tools in addition to the most market-reflective pricing available. The company also produces print guidebooks, software, web services, raw data and web syndicated products

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is a step in the right direction... getting rid of the MPG standard.

      But there is now TOO MUCH diversity in both energy costs by location and in driver habit.

      The new NADAguides MFC (monthly fuel costs) standard still "assumes" 1,250 miles per month. Which means that although the standard can be used for comparison, it still does not give the consumer an accurate metric for purchasing a car. There are just too many assumptions still.

      Plus, with Plug-in Hybrids, there are now cars with two separate energy inputs. That means that "Cost Of Ownership" varies greatly on how many miles people typically drive per day AND whether or not they can recharge at work. Not to mention the existing variable of driving highway or city, level terrain or hilly, and driver aggression (lead foot). And since EVs and PHEVs have different dynamics, they react to theses factors differently. (stop and go traffic isn't as bad for an EV as it is for a IC vehicle).

      I think we should move to a full electronic survey calculator. A survey that asks about commuting distance, frequency of special (weekend) road trips, terrain, driving style, zip code, (maybe a mapquest feature that even counts the traffic lights and patterns between home and work), fuel options, charging options, electricity rates, etc.

      That way, if you buy a PHEV (or ER-EV) like the Volt, the calculator can figure in your driving profile. Most people will never get close to the 230 mpge that GM claims because they will exceed the 40 mile electric range more often just once a week. But some may rarely exceed that range.

      So in reality the Cost of Ownership for PHEVs varies too greatly depending on daily routine (as well as driving style) to have any standard to define it. A survey calculator is needed.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Cost of ownership? I figure that in every car purchase I have.

        Take an older Suburban, at 15mpg, bought used for $5000. Given the same 1,250 miles driven a month on $3 gas, the Suburban owner is spending $250 a month and $3000 a year. Over 5 years the cost of the Suburban's ownership is less then the cost of a Prius, even if you didn't drive the Prius anywhere.

        How about a used Mini, at 32mpg? $15,000 car, $1,400 a year in gas, at about $22,000 total for 5 years of ownership.

        Or, for a new car, a Hyundai Accent? Between $7000 and $12000 for a new one, 35mpg, $6,400 for gas for 5 years worth of driving for a total bill of $13,500-$1850. Much better then a Prius.

        So, the "which is better Prius/Volt argument" is trumpted by several other car choices. Personally, when my Acura finally wears out (if it can happen...) I am getting a used Suburban. It is cheaper.

        • 8 Months Ago
        That is the "String Theory" of cost analysis... Anything can happen with multiple dimensions.

        You threw in USED cars. Duh!.. cost of ownership is cheap when you aren't the only owner.
        You mixed SUVs, Luxury, economy, and compacts with a hybrid.

        By your math, everyone should drive Tata Nanos or mopeds.

        Like it was said in previous posts, "cost comparisons" MUST compare vehicles in the same class (performance, capacity, comfort, and luxury) and be of the same model year.

        The 2010 Prius and the 2011 Volt will at least be in the same class (I think).
      • 5 Years Ago
      A car that pays for itself?

      Oh, yeah!

      I have been driving a 1939 Ford every day for 16 years.
      If I wanted to sell it, I would get a much higher price than its value 16 years ago.

      I also have a 1946 Harley that cost me $2500 when I started riding it 33 years ago.
      At one point I rode it to work every day for 3 years then calculated the gas savings over the cost of driving my car.
      The savings came to $2500!

      The Harley is worth about $20,000 today.

      Try that with your modern cars which go down in value every year.
        • 8 Months Ago
        The Prius and Volt are both collectibles. Especially the first year Volt. Keep it Pristine and run it, keep it for 20 years and see what the pay-off is. Maybe, Batman, err, Bruce Wayne is right. It might pay for itself.
        • 8 Months Ago
        So lets now start muddying our debate with collectibles. Nobody is talking about that.
      • 8 Months Ago
      "Classic argument against the green car movement. But mindless as usual."

      Hardly. But nice canned comeback.

      Conventional auto manufacturing and waste stream costs are well understood. EV/Hybrid costs are just becoming known. Like wind energy promoters, the PR punches up the positive and ignores the negative in hopes of achieving sufficient interest to SOMEDAY cause a paradigm shift.

      Tell ya what, Sparky - Get back to me in 5-10 years. If EV and Hybrids take off in sales, about that time the enviro-shine ought to be starting to show rust spots even the advocates can't polish away.

      Looking forward to all the battery replacement cost sticker shock, contaminated landfill, and need for more coal-fired powerplant news stories.

      Until that time, keep "believing".... and I'll keep laughing.

        • 8 Months Ago
        Tell you what "sparky", you were just debunked. Take it gracefully.
        We've seen those kind of "stats" many times in this blog. Pay attention to the answer Joe gave so he doesn't have to repeat it again next month.

        The planet is approaching or has reached maximum capacity. We need solutions now. We don't need oil industry astroturf BS. Especially from a show that spends millions of dollars promoting Gas Guzzlers that simply can't be driven safely on over-crowded public roads. [ British Marines land invasion for a Ford commercial, for example. ] Clarkson looks like a paid shill of the oil industry, all we're waiting for is the proof.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I'm already laughing.. because the paradigm shift has already begun.

        4 years ago the automakers were just like you, but then Tesla showed how well you can make an EV if you try. Now all the major companies are jumping on board. Yes this change will take many years, and decades before they begin to out sell gas engines. But we already know that demand of EVs even at current costs is outpacing supply.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Insurance costs as much as fuel and maintenance combined? BS!

      There are simply too many unknowns to make a 'calculator' to do this. Will depreciation be less on hybrids and EVs compared to ICE cars? What is the repair cost difference between a hybrid/EV and an ICE car graphed over 10 years of ownership?

      Seeing as ICE cars are close to be scrap metal after a decade of use and even GM has no idea what condition a Volt will be in a decade down the road, &/or what a replacement battery will cost an owner in 2020... I dare ANYONE to claim they can accurately predict those costs.

      There's no way of tracking and comparing cost of ownership costs on today's cars so on EVs I'd say the results are pure fantasy!

        • 8 Months Ago
        You are right that we can't accurately give the total costs of ownership for new models and technology like the Volt, but we do have a surprising amount of data for situations which are at least analogous.
        We have reliability data for the Prius, and contrary to that which I would have assumed due to their increased complexity over an ICE car, they have been remarkably reliable - but mind you, it is Toyota.
        In addition to this though we have data from various fleet trials there was one from a taxi fleet, if memory serves.
        Again, the hybrids performed very well.

        As for electric vehicles, for some uses they have been about for years, so we have some very good data on many of the components.
        Smith Electric, which is producing a lot of trucks some of which are 'coming to America' ;-) has decades of experience in a variety of electric vehicles.

        GM, for one, has also run the batteries it intends to use for extensive periods of time, and even at the cell level, let alone the module level, has rarely experienced any failures.

        Of course, it is always possible to stuff things up, as GM did with thier NiMH batteries, but individual errors aside we have very good prospects of very fair reliability and low running costs from hybrids and truly exceptional perfromance in these respects from EVs.
      • 8 Months Ago
      The charts don't have the baseline gasoline and electricity costs, so it is quite useless if you are trying to use it for your own specific costs. It's more useful for a consumer to do their own calculations given the efficiency of the electric mode and then the charge sustaining mode.

      And I still don't really get the mentality that green cars/technologies always have to "payback". People pay extra for power, luxury, space, etc. Lower pollution can be another category. And I'm pretty sure the base Volt will have some additional features over the Prius that will come at extra cost if optioned. People are buying up Priuses even though there was all the predictions of failure since "payback" period is long. I think the Volt will do fine.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "And I still don't really get the mentality that green cars/technologies always have to "payback"."

        FINALLY! Someone gets it.

        Just like the few folks who say EVs will never sell because they cannot go 400 miles on a single charge.

        These people have already made up their minds that they will not buy a PHEV or BEV unless it comes with better mileage but without any drawbacks. These are the same folks that want a free ride.

        EV range will increase, costs will decrease....
        But before that happens, they must be introduced to the market. And that means that people who are willing to pay extra, or willing to deal with 40 miles per day, will have to invest in the future of transportation.

        Because if everybody waited for the "Perfect" Car (better, faster, cleaner, and still cheaper), then it will never get here. We have the Good, lets invest to make it better.
        • 8 Months Ago
        At least some people post some sensible comments! A car (and life) is all about compromise. Take for example a common scenario, a two car family. If you wanted to be economical with the second car, that might for example do an average of 20 miles a day and is very rarely used to go further, you might decide to look at current gas prices and buy the cheapest car that fits your needs, or you could be a little more adventurous and think, I could buy a BEV and pay more up front, then you could do some calculations based on your guesses about the cost of gas in real terms over the next ten years. If you base your calculation on real terms gas staying the same you might calculate that you'd lose or maybe break even over the cheap ICE. If you think the cost of gas is going to go down you might reject the BEV, or if you think that 2008 might have been an indication of the future you might take a gamle on a BEV. I'm in the final mindset, I don't know what gas prices will be over the next ten years, but a BEV is attractive because it's more efficient than an ICE, offers the main set of capabilities in my commuter car and *might* end up saving quite a bit of money. I'm also hoping that a BEV will be fun to drive as seems to be indicated over and over again in various places on the internet. Trying to make a decision by comparing apples with oranges or setting current variables (e.g gas prices) in stone is completely pointess, the best you can do is get your priorities straight then make a choice based on those.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Joe, you have a dead soul. Your little toy cars are ugly and mean-spirited. Fortunately, in my country you will never be able to force me to buy what you say, and you cannot take my Studebaker away from me.

      You're smug, shallow, and trying to start a civil war that you cannot win. Give it a rest.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Where do these ideas about people being forced to buy things they don't want come from? In your lifetime you're likely to be able to buy a pure ICE, you might have to accept greater fuel economy than you'd like, but you'll be able to cope I'm sure. Of course if the worst comes to the worst there's always eBay, there's all sorts of old sh*t available on there ;-)

        Also you can probably stop worrying about a civil war.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Two plus years ago I wanted a new, reliable economy car in the stable. I looked and priced all available and due to the relative proportion of initial acquisition costs to total Life Cycle Costs, I estimated with $3/gal average gas prices (it is now $2.3X/gal where I live) I would have to drive a Prius 10 years before I reached a break-even point with the Ford Focus (advantage: X-Plan pricing and year-end rebates),

      Jeremy Clarkson wrote a cogent piece in THE Times concerning electric and hybrid vehicles that I highly recommend. From the article concerning hybrid buyers in Britain:

      "The nickel for the battery has to come from somewhere. Canada, usually. It has to be shipped to Japan, not on a sailing boat, I presume. And then it must be converted, not in a tree house, into a battery, and then that battery must be transported, not on an ox cart, to the Insight production plant in Suzuka. And when the finished car has to be shipped, not by Thor Heyerdahl, to Britain, where it can be transported, not by wind, to the home of a man with a beard who thinks he’s doing the world a favour."

      Hybrid and electric cars have a pile of hidden 'costs' related to them and those bills have not yet come due. Until those costs get recognized and incorporated, the 'men with a beard' are engaged in rent-seeking economic behaviors.

      The South Park 'Smug' episode captured all the nuance of the hybrid/electric movement.

      Oh, and when they pass me in my sports car at 80mph, hybrids are NOT getting 'better mileage' either...and don't get me started on the self-important 'types' who like to 'hypermile' in traffic.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Classic argument against the green car movement. But mindless as usual.

        But since we have had 100 years of internal combustion engines, has anybody asked:

        The Iron, aluminum, and magnesium for the engine has to come from somewhere.
        They have to smelt the metals into an engine block, and not in an Easy Bake Oven.
        Then there is the fuel system, oh and the radiator system, oh and the emission system. Oh and then there is the Transmission. Oh and I almost forgot the fluids, there is a whole nasty and separate manufacturing process for that too.

        Then they have to assemble it too. And not in done in someones garage. But long assembly lines filled with machines and workers.
        They have to transport it too. The engine and transmission is just as heavy as a battery.

        "Hybrid and electric cars have a pile of hidden 'costs' related to them and those bills have not yet come due."

        ***The only thing that is hidden is the fact that automotive manufacturing done in HIGH VOLUME is cheaper and cleaner than LOW VOLUME. Period.
        You cannot say PHEVs and EVs are worse to manufacture because they have batteries. They are only worse (at the moment) because they have never been produced at high volume.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Quoting Clarkson.... hilarious!!!

        Why does he suddenly give a rats where the nickle in the small Prius battery comes from? Is he suddenly going to start singling out copper mines due to the extra wire in EVs?

        Absolutely disregard that fact he's talking about DURABLE products that are all 100% recyclable! Only focus on how they are shipped around the world...

        As he's a sensationalist journo and not an engineer, I doubt he's even aware of the fact that 85% of the content of every talk of gasoline sold in the world is wasted as heat...

        That 85% has to be drilled for, extracted, refined, transported so it can be converted into waste heat by an ICE and released into the atmosphere. Good analogy!!

        Clarkson is a total moron!
      • 5 Years Ago
      It seems a lot of green technology calls for paying more now, in order to save down the road. Solar panels? Yeah.

      I'd like to see this longer-term thinking take hold, but it runs against the culture here in America of recent decades. The trend has all been towards getting off cheap right now, and letting tomorrow look out for itself. Also, our economy is burdened with so much debt now, both public and private, it works against this kind of investment.

      It's like buying a fountain pen. You can get a decent one for $30 as opposed to common $1 gel-ink rollerballs. However, bottled ink is so cheap you'll save money in the long run with the fountain pen. (And there is now waterproof and tamper-proof fountain pen ink available.) I'd like to see fountain pens make a comeback, but I'm not holding my breath for it to happen. The throw-away culture is pretty deeply ingrained in our society now.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It might beat the prius in number of sales in u.s.a and in cost of ownership with the subsidies but gm will not make as much money out of it as toyota with the prius because of cost to construct and research and developments costs.

      Many smart folks will do like the one modifying the prius, they will do some modifications to the volt like changing the weighty 1.2 liters 4 cyls engine + weighthy generator set + weighthy battery to a high rev small gasoline or kerosene turbine electrical genset plus smaller battery. Or a bigger battery plus no ice, etc.

      Developing the volt cost 5x the money then developping the prius. The prius just have a small battery plus a small electric motor and some small power electronics devises. The volt is completelly new inside out, battery-only operation, big charging system, big electric drive, big regenerative breaking system, big political problems, big administrative problems, big chassis design problems, few area to get efficient like carying a complete engine-generator combo for nothing 80% of the time, etc, etc.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Sorry folks,

        ( It might beat the prius in number of sales in u.s.a and in cost of ownership with the subsidies but gm will not make as much money out of it as toyota with the prius because of cost to construct and research and developments costs.

        Many smart folks will do like the one modifying the prius, they will do some modifications to the volt like changing the weighty 1.2 liters 4 cyls engine + weighthy generator set + weighthy battery to a high rev small gasoline or kerosene turbine electrical genset plus smaller battery. Or a bigger battery plus no ice, etc.

        Developing the volt cost 5x the money then developping the prius. The prius just have a small battery plus a small electric motor and some small power electronics devises. The volt is completelly new inside out, battery-only operation, big charging system, big electric drive, big regenerative breaking system, big political problems, big administrative problems, big chassis design problems, few area to get efficient like carying a complete engine-generator combo for nothing 80% of the time, etc, etc )
        • 8 Months Ago
        According to CNN, the Prius cost about $1 billion to develop. That's a bit more than the Volt's $750 million.

        And, yes, I currently drive a Prius and wish I had a Volt. The Prius is an excellent vehicle, but we have to put gas in it about once a month, and that's a pain.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The last time I mentioned total cost of ownership regarding the Volt, I compared it to a Prius or a Corolla. It's not pretty. These are very reasonable comparisons, as both vehicles are quite fuel efficient. I did this on Digg. I was immediately called an effing-SUV-driving-republican.

      The important consideration is that few of us have unlimited money (individually or as a country). TCO MUST be considered.

      List price....: 40k
      Govt rebate: 8k (borrow from the Chinese. How are we going to pay it back?)
      Cost to you: 32k That's an expensive car, even if gas/electricity to run it was free.

      Can we afford it?
        • 8 Months Ago
        Can we afford it? Good question. I think a lot of people can, but none of them will actually do the math, and none of them will "save" money (unless gas prices go up a lot).

        But... consider this. Will the Prius get us off foreign oil? No. Does the Volt have the potential? Yes. Without "borrowing from the Chinese", would the Volt happen? Yes, but slooooowly. When is the next oil crisis going to happen? Who knows, but I sure hope I own a Volt when it does.

        Check out these numbers:

        Scary, huh?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why are they only comparing the Volt to the Prius (one of the most efficient cars out)? Why not compare it to other less efficient top sellers to get a more realistic view (Prius's fuel savings are way above fleet average)? I would like to see the difference between the Volt or Leaf or Imev and say a Maxima, or Accord, or Impala.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Or better yet, i'd like to see peoples jaws drop when they see what their F-150 costs them...
      • 8 Months Ago
      I can't compare a Volt to a Pruis. It's an apples and oranges comparison. The thing that makes a Volt or a Leaf (or other pure EV) worth it for me is that drive past the gas station every day. As long as I can afford the monthly payments I couldn't put a price on that.

      The Prius is a great car but I could never avoid using gasoline if I had one due to the low speed needed to stay in electric mode.

      With a Volt/Leaf I would almost never use gasoline because my commute and shopping are all well within the 40 mile range of the Volt. Bye-bye opec, Shell and Exxon.
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