True cost to own
July 10, 2007 8:25 AM   Subscribe

True Cost to Own. The Edmunds Inc. True Cost to Own pricing system calculates the additional costs you may not have included when considering your next vehicle purchase. These extra costs include: depreciation, interest on your loan, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance, and repairs. Search below to view the TCO of any vehicle.
posted by srboisvert (35 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Based on 15,000 miles per year, for five years. Maybe that's based on my zipcode, but really they should let you enter in whatever options you want. My car is 10 years old with just 6,000 miles a year on it, for example. Assuming $1.75/gal for gas on average, I've probably spent only $3,500 on gas.
posted by delmoi at 8:37 AM on July 10, 2007

Hmm... The stats for 5 years for a 2007 Toyota Yaris is pretty close to the stats for my 10 years with a Toyota Tercell.
posted by delmoi at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2007

If depreciation is added to the full price of the car, why isn't resale value subtracted?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:45 AM on July 10, 2007

anotherpanacea: If depreciation is added to the full price of the car, why isn't resale value subtracted?

That's a very good point, actually. If you don't actually sell the car, the depreciation is absolutely meaningless.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:56 AM on July 10, 2007

Here's the about page for the calculations
posted by acro at 8:56 AM on July 10, 2007

I'd love to see the opportunity cost of having your car broken down on the side of the road factored in.
posted by Skorgu at 8:57 AM on July 10, 2007

Hell...someone should do the TCO calculations for everything else in life...owning a home...having kids...Or, how about a TCO table for simply life in general? I have a bad feeling I'm upside-down on that life calculation right now.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:03 AM on July 10, 2007

The calculator is just wrong.

For example, try a 2007 Audi A4. Note that over 5 years they calculate around $5,000 for maintenance. Even if you believe those numbers, they forget one very important point: Audi gives you 4 years or 50,000 miles warranty that includes all maintenance from oil changes to windsheild whipers. Even if you drive the 15,000 miles in years 1-3, you shouldn't have any maintenance costs in those years. I suspect this is just one of the many errors.
posted by Muddler at 9:11 AM on July 10, 2007

That Audi program ended with the 2006 models, IIRC. [I'm in the market for an A3].
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:28 AM on July 10, 2007

If you don't actually sell the car, the depreciation is absolutely meaningless

not to mention impossible to calculate (accurately) without a salvage value. Edmunds uses:

The purchase price employed for used cars is the vehicle's Private Party True Market Value® price in your state. The resale value assumes the vehicle will be in "clean" condition, will be driven an average of 15,000 miles per year, and will be sold to a private party
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:34 AM on July 10, 2007

In my experience, people ignore depreciation at their peril. You never know what financial situation you will find yourself in where you have to sell your vehicle, or you never know (strong willed people aside) when the desire to buy that next great car is going to strike you. It can literally mean thousands of dollars difference. That aside, most people at least EVENTUALLY sell their cars... right?
posted by fusinski at 10:31 AM on July 10, 2007

fusinski, most of the people I know are about as likely to pass their cars on to friends and family as hand me downs as they are to sell the car. If a car is old and cheap enough, it's worth more to a poorer relation or friend as a vehicle than it is to you as a trade in.
posted by oddman at 11:16 AM on July 10, 2007

Similar: Fleet Central's "Lifecycle Cost Analyzer"
I stumbled on that site after a friend and I started commenting about how certain cars acquire the reputation of being "rental" cars - the most obvious example is the Taurus - and wanted to know how many of these cars dealers really sell at retail.
posted by milkrate at 11:18 AM on July 10, 2007

Depreciation isn't added to the price - the price of the car doesn't appear anywhere in the table. So if you wanted, you could take depreciation out, but then you'd have to actually include the initial price. If you're never going to sell your car, think of depreciation as the money you paid for the car, spread out over the years you own it; that's what it is.

I think this is more realistic for most people: lumping the price of the car into the first year would make it look like a $15,000 car costs $18,000 in the first year and $2,000 in all the other years, which isn't really true; the reason you can drive it for $2,000 in the second year is because you came into the year with a car worth $12,000 (or whatever). Most people don't pay for their cars in cash anyway; they finance it out over a few years.

Anyway, I think this would be a lot cooler if, rather than being a way to compare buying one car to another, it compared buying a car to other ways of getting around. Not that anyone would want to look at it then.
posted by pinespree at 11:30 AM on July 10, 2007

Mine came out at a $1.80 a mile. I think it might be cheaper to take a taxi everywhere.
posted by ill3 at 11:43 AM on July 10, 2007

You can certainly pick on the details, but I still think this is one damn cool tool and pretty useful (if not perfect). At the minimum, it lets you do some comparative work. I also thought depreciation was a no-deal, but as the maintainance on my 1999 slowly gets more and more costly (much more so then my previous 1985 Toyota; this is partly due to being able to let the Toyota slide a lot more then you can with a more "modern" car), I now consider selling it. I also have a much longer commute to work then previously. So I look at things like the Smart Car or some used Jetta and wonder what the true cost of ownership is and try to weight it against what I have; this is difficult and any tool like this at least gives another good input, if not a definitive one.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:03 PM on July 10, 2007

This is great for evaluating specific vehicles -- and maybe I'm missing something -- but is there a way to show an overall chart of all vehicles (or grouped by category), along with their TCOs, for quick comparison?

I have such burning questions as: What's the overall TCO leader? Overall loser? What's the best pickup? How does the TCO for a given car change from model year to model year? (Am I really much better off buying an older model?) How does a new S2000 compare to an '03 Protege5?* And so forth.

Don't make me build a spreadsheet on yer ass...

* (okay, this one is $0.56 vs. $0.36)
posted by LordSludge at 12:45 PM on July 10, 2007

$0.67 a mile.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 PM on July 10, 2007

fusinski, most of the people I know are about as likely to pass their cars on to friends and family as hand me downs as they are to sell the car. If a car is old and cheap enough, it's worth more to a poorer relation or friend as a vehicle than it is to you as a trade in.
posted by oddman at 2:16 PM on July 10 [+] [!]

I want to be oddman's friend.
posted by notreally at 1:50 PM on July 10, 2007

Highest I've found so far: Mercedes SL65 AMG: $2.60/mile -- depreciates nearly $70k the first year!

Sadly, not a Ferrari or Lambo to be found... ::sniff::
posted by LordSludge at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2007

While I'm annoyed at my current MPG, I'm more annoyed at how I got here. I had just paid off my car. It "was" running "fine". Usually got around 28-29 MPG. Great little car.

And there it was, 7 months after it was paid off, totally shitting itself. I had a hunch the transmission was getting a little quirky earlier in the warranty, but nothing major happened. Then one morning, just, shit.

Now I'm back in car payment land, with less mileage! Awesome!

(Thanks for the link. I think. Grrrrrr)
posted by cavalier at 3:11 PM on July 10, 2007

If you pay what Kelly Blue Book says you should pay for a car, you are getting seriously ripped off. In my personal opinion.

Disclosure: I am a former employee, worked there for 5 years, and was involved in producing the (now discontinued, sob!) various printed guide and advice books. (If anyone from E is reading this: HIYA Everybody! :D )

LordSludge: you might enjoy this Long Term Road Test...
posted by zoogleplex at 10:41 PM on July 10, 2007

@LordSludge: Currently, no, there isn't a TCO comparison. But that's a great idea; I'll take it to my product owner tomorrow (with a hat-tip to you, of course*).

The closest you can come to a TCO comparison is throwing together a set of vehicles (either from a specific vehicle, or on your own [add/remove vehicles]) and checking out the TCO detail for each one. Which is not... ideal.

(*I currently work @ (: Hi Z!)
posted by sarajflemming at 10:49 PM on July 10, 2007

oddman writes "If a car is old and cheap enough, it's worth more to a poorer relation or friend as a vehicle than it is to you as a trade in"

In which case it depreciates fully over the period of time you own it.
posted by Mitheral at 10:59 PM on July 10, 2007

IndigoJones: That article about the VW diesels gaining in value doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me. It's not like they're not being manufactured ... why would it go up in value when you can go to any dealership and just buy a brand new one? (I know you're not the one claiming it, but I feel like I'm in automotive bizarro world.)

I can understand why a few limited-production cars would increase in value; I've heard the VW R32 did (4WD version of the V6 GTI), but a run-of-the-mill diesel Jetta? Something's fishy there.

A few years back I had a diesel New Beetle. It was a nice car, and I probably got back the money I spent on the diesel motor when I sold it, but it certainly didn't turn into a collector's item.

Only thing I can think of is that pre-2006 diesel cars may be 'hot items' for the moment, because the '06 ones have the new engines and require the ultra-low-sulfur fuel, which I've never seen for sale anywhere. (Every diesel pump I've seen around, and I make a point of looking as a former diesel driver, has a big warning sticker on it, "Not for use in model 2006 or later cars" because it's the 500ppm 'Low Sulfur' stuff.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:39 PM on July 10, 2007

It's not like they're not being manufactured

could be VW "50-stated" in 2007 what was a 45-state model in 2006.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:28 AM on July 11, 2007

I threw a huge spreadsheet together last year for my sister in law based on Edmunds TCO calcuator, and's safety ratings. I think she ignored it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:50 AM on July 11, 2007

sarajflemming: Hey, great to have an insider!

My main gripe is that the way Edmunds's website lets you present and compare the TCO data is waaaay too restrictive. Here's how I would want to use the data if I were shopping around:

Is it cheaper to drive a brand new Honda S2000 (yay, brand new!) or a 4 year old Boxster (say I luuve Porsches)? Is it cheaper to drive a brand new 2WD F150 pickup (yay, it's brand new!) or a 3 year old 4WD model (ooo, I want 4WD though)? Or say I have a child on the way: Just how much cheaper is it to just drive our current '03 Protege5 (4-doors + hatch) than to buy a nice, big minivan/SUV?

And, as others have said, there really needs to be a way to change the assumptions -- miles/year, insurance costs, financing, etc.

Thanks for the comparison suggestion, but why on earth doesn't it at least show the overall TCO ("$0.62/mile" or whatever) for the vehicle right in the chart? Instead it has a link for "View True Cost To Own Detail", and you have to drill down into each vehicle to see even that overall TCO number. Yuk!

Car & Driver or Motortrend or Consumer Reports did an article a while back that actually had a huge chart of most every vehicle with its TCO. (For example the Toyota 4Runner was reasonably cheap to drive for 5 years, because it held its value very well.) For me, that's really what I want -- just a big, honkin' chart. It'd make a great online article for ya, too, just checking out the data, highlighting various cost leaders/losers, showing how much more it costs to drive a typical SUV than a sedan or wagon, etc., etc.

Oh yeah, I'm just full of suggestions...
posted by LordSludge at 8:46 AM on July 11, 2007

zoogleplex: Thanks for the pointer to that 308 blog; I enjoyed the read. It's amazing to me how the cars I so lusted after as a teenager really aren't that objectively fast, in a modern context. But, at the same time, they're just as aesthetically wonderful as they ever were!
posted by LordSludge at 8:53 AM on July 11, 2007

I use Edmunds all the time, but I've never bought a new car (or even a slightly used car). Every time I look at something I want on there I end up not buying it. ;)

I keep coming back to no car payment and the cost of gas plus a few hundred dollars a year in maintenance vs. the cost of a car payment, increased insurance (I'd have to get full coverage..I'm not out much if I crash my '91 accord, but I would be if I crashed a new car!) and all that.

Not counting fuel, but including the price of the car (and a clutch replacement and major service, plus the minor services) I've paid about $400 a year for my current car, and there's not any particular reason I can't drive it for another few years, despite having 230k on it. And if the motor blows, I can get a newer one put in for less than a thousand bucks.

The A/C still works, and far better than a new car's would. R-134 is shit compared to R-12. Even brand new cars I've test driven don't get as cold as fast. Not only that, but it gets better than 30mpg average. (About 36mpg at 80mph on the highway, around 32 in town)

I don't get the obsession with new cars. To be fair, I have thought about a Honda Fit, since it's got so more cargo room. I'll probably get a used one in 5 or 10 years. ;)

If I was like one of my friends who drives an old truck that gets around 12mpg, I might think about buying a brand new car, since you could pay the loan on a Fit or Yaris just out of the fuel savings.
posted by wierdo at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2007

I don't get the obsession with new cars.

A big part, esp. for guys, is simply that it's a status symbol -- evidence to prospective mates that you must have X sort of job/money, otherwise you couldn't afford the new car. (This gets sketchy/stupid as more and more people --Americans, esp. -- over-extend themselves to essentially represent themselves as more than they really are.)

But there are a lot of advances with newer cars that appeal to Joe Public: more comfort & convenience (audio, GPS/NAV), better safety (active air bags, better ABS algorithms, traction control, active handling aids), more power for the same MPG, etc.

But, yeah, I think back to my dad's '88 CRX HF that got a solid 55 mpg, nearly TWENTY YEARS AGO, and I think: why can't we do better??
posted by LordSludge at 11:24 AM on July 11, 2007

Basically, you're saying that other than being status symbols, new cars just have more (mostly) useless shit built into them than older ones. ;)
posted by wierdo at 1:20 PM on July 11, 2007

I'll tell you this much: after working at Edmunds, I will never, ever, not ever buy a brand-new car.* It's a waste of good money, you're essentially setting fire to about a quarter of the cash you pay, on average - and if you borrow the money, you're really screwing yourself, as you're paying interest on evaporated cash. Guh.

Closest I'd ever get would be a car that's just come off a 2-year lease (starting from new, of course) - because the worst depreciation has already been taken off - and I'd bargain mercilessly even for that.

You can get some screamingly great deals on very nice cars that way if you're sharp.

*unless, of course, I somehow win many millions in the Super Lotto. That would probably allow me to relax my miserly ways...
posted by zoogleplex at 2:56 PM on July 11, 2007

Safety is the big winner for new or near-new cars. I've thought about selling my no-frills 2001 Accord in favor of an older Miata or RX-7 or something, but looking at the crash test ratings (and knowing first-hand what airbags smell like) makes me leery of putting a lot of miles on a beater, cost be damned. Not that I put a lot of miles on my Accord taking the subway to work, but it's the principle of the thing.

Alternate-side parking is another bitch. My car has to move at least twice a week, every week, so no long-term sitting on jackstands for me.
posted by Skorgu at 2:22 PM on July 12, 2007

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