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The Hidden Costs of Buying a Car

You’ve heard it said a car depreciates in value as you soon as you drive it off the lot. In fact, according to ConsumerReports, it’s the biggest cost of owning a car. But even if you don’t care about depreciation and plan on keeping your car until it’s good for nothing except scrap metal, you’ll still be facing the many costs of ownership.

When you build your car budget, make sure you’re factoring in all expenses. Make sure you’re saving money each month to cover the costs of your vehicle. Use this checklist to help you get started.


  • Gas
  • Parking and tolls

Monthly/Every couple months

  • Loan payments
  • Leasing fees
  • Car wash services—or cleaning supplies
  • Oil & fluid changes
  • Tire air


  • Maintenance (e.g. windshield wiper changes)
  • Insurance: collision, comprehensive, and liability
  • State and local taxes
  • Roadside assistance, AAA, or other additional help
  • Emission testing fees
  • Inspection fees

Costs over the years

  • Replacements—for just about anything, including tires, water pumps, brakes, brake pads, belts, speakers…if it can break, it’s on this list
  • Tow trucks and rental cars—if you’ve opted out of roadside assistance companies and certain insurance
  • Recalls—they’re free, but you may need to factor in time, a carpool, or a cab when you have to leave it with a dealer
  • Antitheft devices—especially if you live in a city

Further Considerations

You will have several more fees up front during the purchase process, including tags, titles, and registration. There are also some charges you may pay when buying from a dealer, including document preparation fees and dealer preparation charges. Warranties are optional, and make sure you know what the manufacturer’s warranty covers. You can also purchase GAP Insurance through Dominion Energy Credit Union.