The cost of a car or truck is more than just the price you pay driving it off the lot. Every year, auto owners need to factor in a number of different costs to determine the true price of owning a particular model. Everything from the cost of repairs to the price of fuel goes into determining such a cost.
As supply shortages and varying demand have made the current auto market one of the most challenging in recent memory, the idea of affordability has begun to change. CoPilot estimated the cost of the most popular vehicles from 2021 for an average U.S. driver based on data from its CoPilot Price Pulse tool, Car and Driver, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The number of miles driven and the mix of highway and city driving came from estimates of countrywide averages provided by the DOE. Full details about the DOE's methodology can be found here. The current market price of each vehicle comes from the Price Pulse tool and looks at the price of a 2021 model for each vehicle.
The most basic model for each vehicle was chosen. Fuel price was collected from AAA's gas price tracker as of Sept. 1, 2022. Annual operating costs and cost per mile are for the cost during the first year and include fuel, tires, maintenance, registration, license, and insurance. The ranking is based on the number of vehicles sold in 2021.
All of the vehicles on this list are gas engine models. The Honda Civic has the best fuel efficiency, getting 37 mpg average, which helps it take the top spot in terms of cost. The Honda Civic also has the lowest cost per mile of any car on this list at $0.29. The highest cost is a tie between the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500 Pickup, and the Chevy Silverado, which are all more expensive by $0.08 per mile. The difference may sound negligible, but considering the average number of miles put on any given vehicle is over 13,000 per year, that "negligible" amount translates to quite a chunk of change—around $1,078.
Continue reading for the full cost breakdown of the most popular vehicles.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Honda Civic 4Dr 4cyl 1.5L Automatic (variable gear ratios)
- Annual operating cost: $3,496
- Annual fuel cost: $1,239
- Cost per mile: $0.29
- Annual emissions: 7,761 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 263,787
- Current market price of vehicle: $29,099
The Honda Civic is understandably popular, given its relatively low cost and reputation for reliability. Along with the affordability of the car itself, the Honda Civic also has a reputation for being inexpensive to maintain. Its average cost of maintenance over the first decade of its life is almost $2,000 less than the national average for sedans.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Toyota Highlander 6cyl 3.5L Automatic (S8)
- Annual operating cost: $4,179
- Annual fuel cost: $1,921
- Cost per mile: $0.35
- Annual emissions: 12,040 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 264,128
- Current market price of vehicle: $44,345
The Toyota Highlander gets high marks for fuel efficiency relative to other SUVs in its class. Car and Driver test-drove the 6-cylinder model and got 28 mpg. Edmunds also cited its solid fuel efficiency. Although the Highlander has a higher average annual fuel cost than other cars on this list, it is still far more cost-effective in terms of gas than many other cars of its size, such as Range Rovers or most model Jeeps.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD 6cyl 3.6L Automatic 8-spd
- Annual operating cost: $4,302
- Annual fuel cost: $2,044
- Cost per mile: $0.36
- Annual emissions: 12,811 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 264,444
- Current market price of vehicle: $42,883
Although Jeep Grand Cherokees are considered iconic Americans SUVs, they are not without their costs and issues. Repairs in particular can be pricey. One vehicle depreciation tracker found that there is a more than 30% chance a Cherokee owner will have to pay for a major repair in the first 10 years of ownership—nearly 10% more likely than for other SUV owners.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Nissan Rogue AWD SL/Platinum 3cyl 1.5L Automatic (AV-S8)
- Annual operating cost: $3,682
- Annual fuel cost: $1,425
- Cost per mile: $0.31
- Annual emissions: 8,930 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 285,602
- Current market price of vehicle: $33,760
The Nissan Rogue is a compact crossover and the company's bestselling SUV in the United States. And the new models are giving new owners a lot to be happy with. Reviewers have praised in particular the model's switch from a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine to a standard 1.5-liter turbo-three, which makes for a powerful ride. Enhanced fuel efficiency is also a hallmark of the new model, offering 3 miles more per gallon than its prior iterations, as well as many of its competitors.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Toyota Camry 6cyl 3.5L Automatic (S8)
- Annual operating cost: $3,949
- Annual fuel cost: $1,691
- Cost per mile: $0.33
- Annual emissions: 10,601 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 313,795
- Current market price of vehicle: $31,499
The Toyota Camry has a reputation for reliability and affordability. The company in general is known for producing vehicles with low maintenance costs that typically require little in the way of major repair. The average Toyota costs around $420 a year to maintain for its first 10 years, and the odds of a major repair being needed in the first 10 years of ownership are lower than competitors' vehicles in its class.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Honda CR-V AWD 4cyl 1.5L Automatic (variable gear ratios)
- Annual operating cost: $3,802
- Annual fuel cost: $1,544
- Cost per mile: $0.32
- Annual emissions: 9,681 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 361,271
- Current market price of vehicle: $35,077
The Honda CR-V gets high marks for quality and affordability in the SUV category. According to an Edmunds breakdown of the "true" cost of ownership, maintenance on the CR-V averages out to just under $900 annually for the first five years, but other sources put that figure at just under $400 for the same time frame. The CR-V also generates less CO2 per year compared to other SUVs like the Jeep Cherokee, meaning that its impact is as relatively light on the planet as it is on the wallet.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Toyota RAV4 4cyl 2.5L Automatic (S8)
- Annual operating cost: $3,734
- Annual fuel cost: $1,477
- Cost per mile: $0.31
- Annual emissions: 9,255 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 407,739
- Current market price of vehicle: $34,808
Toyota recently overtook General Motors as the top-selling car brand in America, and the RAV4 is its quintessential SUV. And although its CO2 emissions and gas costs are already low, new models promise even more for drivers looking to lessen their impact on the environment and lower their gas costs. A new hybrid model of the RAV4 is receiving praise from critics for its distinctive blend of the best qualities of both gas and electric cars, which means that new buyers can look for even lower annual fuel costs.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2WD 4cyl 2.7L Automatic 8-spd
- Annual operating cost: $4,375
- Annual fuel cost: $2,118
- Cost per mile: $0.37
- Annual emissions: 13,274 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 519,774
- Current market price of vehicle: $48,513
The Chevrolet Silverado is a seminal American pickup truck, though as a larger vehicle it does have both a larger carbon output and higher fuel costs than many vehicles listed here. New models are being made specifically for off-roading, which means that along with fun for owners, additional maintenance costs to repair any damage could be on the horizon.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Ram 1500 Classic 2WD 6cyl 3.6L Automatic 8-spd
- Annual operating cost: $4,466
- Annual fuel cost: $2,209
- Cost per mile: $0.37
- Annual emissions: 13,844 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 569,388
- Current market price of vehicle: $50,674
Ram Pickups are full-size trucks that were sold under the Dodge brand until 2009, when it launched as a stand-alone division. They have been named MotorTrend's Truck of the Year on numerous occasions. There are also Ram Pickups specifically geared towards fuel-efficiency, such as the EcoDiesel, which even with a 3-liter V6 gets 33 mpg highway.
- Model used for comparison: 2021 Ford F-150 Pickup 2WD 6cyl 3.5L Automatic (S10)
- Annual operating cost: $4,442
- Annual fuel cost: $2,185
- Cost per mile: $0.37
- Annual emissions: 13,693 lbs CO2
- Units sold in 2021: 726,004
- Current market price of vehicle: $56,391
Perhaps the most iconic American truck is the Ford F-Series. The F-150 model has been the bestselling truck in America every year since 1976 and the top-selling vehicle of any kind since 1981. The company switched to using aluminum for certain parts of the truck traditionally fabricated from steel, which led to fears repair costs would rise. Those fears have, as yet, not been realized, though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had estimated that fender-benders would be pricier as a result. Real-world evidence has contradicted those initial estimates.
This story originally appeared on CoPilot and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.