How much will my new car cost to run?

New shiny cars are so much fun that it’s easy to overlook how much those hot new wheels are going to cost you to run.

Just say you’ve been driving a sedan for the past few years and migrate to a 4WD. Common sense tells us that it’s going to be more expensive to maintain, but are you prepared for the real price hike? Changing front and rear brakes on your average sedan costs around $1,000. On a 4WD, that jumps to around $1,500 and if it’s European, as much as $2,000. Ouch.

To avoid this kind of nasty surprise ideally you want to be aware of the running costs of a potential new vehicle at a weekly or monthly level for 3 reasons:

1. It helps you compare your options.

2. Provides you the true cost of a car.

3. Positions you to proactively look after it, rather than seeing costs such as maintenance as something you can avoid.

Thinking of getting a new car? Below we’ve detailed how to calculate the running costs yourself, as well as what to look out for.



Even cars with a similar purchase price can have vastly different insurance costs. When choosing a car, consider the following factors that will influence your insurance premium:

  Cheaper to insure More expensive to insure
Purchase price Cheaper cars Expensive cars
Engine size and horsepower Smaller engines and lower horsepower

E.g. Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Nissan Micra

Larger engines and horsepower

E.g. V8s, turbo charged

Fuel consumption Fuel-efficient cars (with some insurers)

E.g. Toyota Prius, Suzuki Alto, Audi A3

Gas guzzlers: V8s, many 4WDs
ANCAP rating



E.g. Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3

Lower than 5-star

E.g. Great Wall dual cab (2-star), Toyota Landcruiser (3-star), Nissan Patrol (3-star)

Shape Family cars

E.g. Minivans, station wagons, family sedans


E.g. BMW 220i, Mazda MX-5 Roadster

Theft rates Family cars, small cars and slow cars Older model Holden Commodores, fast cars and convertibles
Risk rating Low-performance cars

E.g. Family sedans and small cars

High-performance cars

E.g. Subaru WRX


To get your exact expected insurance cost, the easiest way is to jump online with your preferred insurance provider and obtain a quote via their online quote tool.

Similarly, the best way to get your expected annual rego costs is by calling the motor registry in your state or jumping online.



Calculate your expected fuel cost by referring to the fuel-efficiency rating that comes with the car. Fuel consumption is measured in the number of litres of fuel required per 100km driven (L/100km) so the simplest way to calculate expected fuel costs of the car you want to buy is to follow this calculation:

(KMs per annum) x (average fuel price) x (fuel consumption rating) / 100 = annual fuel bill

So if a car owner was driving 15,000kms per year on average, paid around $1.27 per litre for unleaded fuel and had an 8.9 rating on their car, the expected fuel costs would be $1,695.45 per year (15,000km x $1.27 x 8.9 / 100 = $1,695.45).

While this formula will give you a good indication and help you compare different models of cars, it’s important to round up the result as your fuel bill will always be higher.

This is because the fuel ratings are derived under artificial manufacturer conditions. Cars are placed on a simulator and driven at 19km/h (urban ‘city’ driving) and 120km/h (extra urban ‘highway’ driving). They then average the two out to achieve the fuel consumption rating. Unfortunately, that’s not real life and the percentage of highway vs. city driving will vary greatly person to person.


Therefore, you should estimate your fuel consumption based on your driving conditions using the following:


1.  Extreme driver: mostly city driving, short trips, heavy on the brakes and accelerator = urban fuel consumption rating + 10%

2. Mid-level driver: combination city and highway driving, conservative driver = combined fuel consumption rating + 10%

3. Highway driver: mostly highway driving, conservative driver with no excessive use of the accelerator or brake = combined fuel consumption rating



No matter what car you get there is certainly no getting out of regular servicing and general maintenance like brake pads and tyres.


If you’re buying new your dealer should be able to provide a quote on the repairs and maintenance expected over the first five years of the vehicle. Beware if the dealer just outlines the first three years, as costs significantly increase in years four and five as major services become due, standard parts such as batteries and tyres require replacement and other parts start to deteriorate.


Don’t take what the dealer says as gospel, try get your hands on a quote from an independant mechanic as well. If for some reason you can’t get this information, there is a percentage-based sliding scale based on the typical maintenance and repair costs of every car in Australia:

*Over the first three years of your car’s life, expect to pay 10% of the vehicle’s purchase price.

*For extreme driving styles and conditions, 4WDs and European cars, expect to pay 15% of the purchase price (50% more than what you would pay for other cars).


Final Word

The true cost of a car isn’t what you see on the price sticker — it’s how much it costs over its lifetime. Fortunately, these costs are predictable and can be budgeted for. As long as you research your costs upfront, you can make an educated decision about which car is the best value for you. Happy car shopping.


Find your local mechanic now.


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