Originally created 03/15/97

Sticker shock



DETROIT - A car's sticker price doesn't tell the whole story.

A research firm says the average cost over five years of owning a 1997 car is $37,516 when insurance, financing, maintenance, repairs, fuel and depreciation are included.

"Most new car and truck buyers are focused on purchase price," said Peter Levy, president of IntelliChoice Inc. "But the buying equation entails much more. The bottom line is a lot higher than people anticipate."

The California-based company each year calculates the total cost of owning a new car over five years and publishes car and truck guides with detailed cost breakdowns for each model.

"Our calculations show the real cost of owning a 1997 car is nearly $9,000 more than the average sticker price, and for trucks it's more than $7,000," Mr. Levy said.

The company estimates the average cost of owning a 1997 light truck - a category that includes pickups, sport utility vehicles and vans - is $31,873.

IntelliChoice said the largest single cost of a 1997 car is depreciation, which represents 35 percent of the total. That is followed by insurance, 25 percent; financing, 15 percent; maintenance, 10 percent; fuel, 10 percent; fees, 3 percent, and repairs, 2 percent.

For 1997, IntelliChoice named the Saturn SL sedan the best car value under $20,000, and the Mercedes-Benz E320 sedan the best car value over $20,000. That represents the best relationship between cost to own and price.