Car ownership costs depend on more than gas prices

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DETROIT — When figuring out the cost of car ownership, consider where you live along with how much you drive.

Georgia's gas prices ran about 10 percent above the national average in 2012, and repair costs were about 9 percent higher.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
SARA CALDWELL/FILE
Georgia's gas prices ran about 10 percent above the national average in 2012, and repair costs were about 9 percent higher.

A new study by the online service Bankrate.com found that Georgia is the most costly state in the country for car owners, followed by California. Oregon and Alaska are the cheapest.

In Georgia, the average driver spends $4,233 per year to operate a car or truck, more than $1,000 above the national average. The Peach state was tops for two reasons: High taxes and fees charged on vehicles, and the sprawling Atlanta metro area with long commutes that use up a lot of gas, according to the study.

To do the study, Bankrate calculated state taxes and fees, average repair costs, gasoline costs including commuting distance, and insurance cost per vehicle.

Drivers can’t do much about taxes and fees. But there are ways to cut down on gasoline and insurance costs, and to avoid costly auto repairs.

Consumer Reports magazine said last week that drivers can follow their cars’ maintenance schedule to hold off repairs down the road. To save on gas, consumers can buy more efficient vehicles, accelerate slowly from stop lights, combine trips so they drive less, and keep tires fully inflated so they roll better.

Saving on insurance is a bit more complex. Before you buy a car or truck, check to see what its loss rates are. Vehicles with high loss rates inflict a lot of damage on other cars, are costly to repair, and have higher injury rates in crashes than other vehicles, said Jeff Blyskal, a senior writer at Consumer Reports. Large SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid generally have lower loss rates than expensive sports cars such ­­as the Ferrari California convertible.
You also can save on insurance by making sure you’re getting all available discounts, especially if you don’t drive a lot. Most companies offer discounts to consumers who buy both a car and homeowners policy from them. Also, you can comparison shop, and reduce deductibles, especially if you’re a good driver, Blyskal said.

The Bankrate study suggests drivers in Georgia need to employ whatever cost-saving tactics they can come up with.

Taxes and fees on cars in Georgia average $1,952 per year, nearly double the national average, said
Chris Kahn, Bankrate’s research editor.

In addition, Georgia’s gas prices ran about 10 percent above the national average last year, repair costs were about 9 percent higher, and insurance was around the national average.

California, the second-most- expensive state at $3,966 per year, also had high state taxes and fees, and its repair and insurance costs were higher than Georgia, according to the study. While gas prices generally are the highest in the Lower 48 states, Californians as a whole don’t drive as much per capita as Georgians, Kahn said. As a result, annual gasoline costs were $980 in California, below the national average of $1,028.

Drivers in states with lower ownership costs benefit from low taxes and fees on cars, as well as no sales tax. Oregon’s annual cost of driving was only $2,204, about $1,000 below the national average. Taxes and fees on cars total just $157 per year, the study showed. Car ownership costs $2,227 in Alaska, which has no sales tax and car taxes and fees that total $202.

CAR OWNERSHIP

Nationally, car ownership averages $3,201 per year, according to a new study by Bankrate.com.

MOST EXPENSIVE STATES

Georgia $4,233

California $3,966

Wyoming $3,938

Rhode Island $3,913

Nevada $3,886

LEAST EXPENSIVE STATES

Oregon $2,204

Alaska $2,227

South Dakota $2,343

Montana $2,660

Indiana $2,698


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