The True Costs of Owning a Car

When you first got your driver’s license, your mom and dad probably warned you that driving is expensive. It’s a huge cost that many teens incur before they have even moved out of the house.


Before the reality of learning how to cook for themselves and doing their own laundry kicks in, the cost of owning a vehicle usually hits teenagers right in the bank account before they are even done high school.


Whether it meant paying back our parents for gas money, or saving up cash from our part-time jobs in order to buy a clunker, cars became expensive as soon as we learned how to drive them. Most of us justify the costs because the convenience of owning our own cars is simply unbeatable in many places, Victoria being one of them.


Flash forward to a couple of decades later and vehicle costs really start to add up! Here is a closer look at the true cost of owning a vehicle these days, and a few suggestions on where you can save $$$:

The Vehicle


If you don’t have enough money to buy a car or truck outright upfront, you’ll be faced with having to finance or lease a vehicle, the cost of which can get insane if you’re not buying something within your budget.


Whether you are leasing or financing, monthly car payments can climb as high as $800 and beyond for something really fancy. However, with so many dealerships offering incentives, it’s likely you’re paying less than that per month, let’s say somewhere in the ballpark of $400.


Average Annual Spend: $3,600 ($400 per month)


Ways to Save:

  • Go to the bank and see if you can qualify for a personal line of credit, and then look for a good deal on a private sale. Don’t forget to read our post How to Spot a Lemon at the Used Car Lot 
  • Never overspend, even if the salesperson tries to offer you the world.
  • Look for 0% financing offers on new models, but read the fine print carefully.
  • Keep saving up instead of having to borrow money from the bank.
  • Try and buy a car or truck with a higher resale value.

 How to Spot a Lemon at the Used Car Lot

Basic Auto Insurance

British Columbians pay a lot for auto Insurance, and premiums across Canada are on the rise as roads become more crowded and driver’s become increasingly distracted. While ICBC may provide annual safe driver’s discounts, for many of us the savings are being offset every year by rising insurance costs.


Average Annual Spend: $1,717 ($143 per month)


Source: Insurance Business 


Ways to Save:

  • Shop around. Aside from basic auto insurance, there are private insurance companies that offer all the extras like collision and comprehensive coverage for cheaper rates than ICBC offers.



Gasoline is another expense that will likely set you back about as much as insurance, especially on Vancouver Island where the rates are known to climb quite often. Whether you have a diesel engine or just pump regular gas every time, you’re looking at spending around $150 a month on gasoline, give or take a commute or two.


Average Annual Spend: $1,942 ($162 per month)


Source: GasBuddy 


License Plates & Registration

These aren’t considered monthly fees but they should be rolled into the overall cost of car ownership just the same. In BC, you’re required to have a front and a rear license plate; the set costs $18. After that, the registration fee is simply the cost of basic insurance.


You can buy new plates as often as you want, and if you’re willing to pay extra for fancier plates, that’s always an option, too.


Regular Maintenance

Regular vehicle maintenance costs might feel like they add up fast, but maintaining your vehicle regularly helps you save money in the long run. After all, a few oil changes a year is nothing compared to having to replace an entire engine long before it dies of old age.


It’s not everyone’s favourite thing to spend money on, but things like brake checks, fluid flushes, battery replacements, air filter replacements, oil changes, timing belts, and tire rotations are a reality vehicle owners must face.


The recommended number of oil changes you should get for your car or truck is four (one per season), depending on how much you drive.


If you had your oil changed and always bundled it with other services, you can expect to pay between $300 and $1,500 a year on vehicle maintenance. Keep in mind this is for cars that are younger than 5-10 years old.


Average Annual Spend: $300-$1,500

Ways to Save:

  • The cost of seasonal vehicle maintenance can be brought down if you bundle the services as often as possible. Most mechanics offer seasonal maintenance packages that ease the financial burden of routine maintenance. There is still time to book a Searles Seasonal Winter Service Special. (Offer expires February 28, 2017)


Emergency Repairs and Big Ticket Items

Emergency car repairs are a bit tougher to budget for. Emergency vehicle repairs includes things like paying for insurance deductibles (upwards of $500) and other major parts that need replacing, such as your clutch, radiator, fuel pump, or tires.


Since these types of major repairs are hopefully not going to come up every year (fingers-crossed!), why not put aside a couple hundred dollars here and there to save up for your next roadside emergency?


Ways to Save:

  • Always have major repair work done by a reputable automotive mechanic that you trust. Make sure their work is all done under warranty 


Driver’s Licensing Fees

In BC, all drivers are required to renew their driver’s licenses every five years at a current cost of $75. Often cited as a cash grab, the licensing renewal process allows the provincial government to have your current photo ID on file and issue a card with all of the latest security features – it doesn’t require you to take the test again once you have a full license.


While this fee isn’t necessary adding up to your car ownership, it IS what allows you to drive it, so we added it on this list just for the heck of it.


Driving Car Costs Calculator

Every driver is unique, so based on these averages alone, it’s hard to know where you stand. In this case, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) Driving Costs Calculator is a handy tool if you’re curious about your actual costs.


The calculator provides two options you can use to better understand the complete cost of operating a vehicle. The first option allows you to check how much money it takes on average to drive a certain type of vehicle. The second option digs even deeper and shows you the approximate costs for a specific make and model.


What Does It All Add Up to?


It’s a lot of math here, so we’ll just end things by pointing out that the CAA and Globe Drive have compiled their research and have determined that the average annual cost of car ownership is $10,456.


These findings are based on running a 2013 Toyota Camry 18,000 km a year, with the cost of gas at $1.23/litre. In this example, the CAA has included a few things we didn’t cover here, such as vehicle depreciation and financing fees, which don’t affect every driver.


Choose an Auto Mechanic That Gives Back


If all of this all sounds a little overwhelming, there are ways you can reduce the costs of car ownership. For example, Victoria has a car-sharing program, or why not try carpooling with a co-worker a couple of times a week? Other ways to save include walking more, biking more, taking the bus, and switching to a fuel-efficient vehicle.


But, if you find yourself having to pay full pull for your car or truck every year, one of the ways to feel a bit better about the amount it costs to get your car serviced is to choose a locally owned family business to take care of all of your automotive needs.


At Searles Auto Repair, we like to stay connected to our community  which is why we support a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships, and employee volunteer activities.


If you have any questions or concerns about your car’s maintenance and service requirements, come see us at Searles Auto Repair in Victoria, BC.


Our friendly experts are always here to help! You can also give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online to get your car ready for spring.



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