My First Year of Car Ownership – How much does it really cost?

Last April, I bought my first car at the age of 32.  More on that in this post on how to buy a used car.  Before that, I tried to save money on transportation costs.

Now that a year has gone by, I thought it would be interesting to analyze how much it really cost to own the car in the first year.  Let’s roll through the various components in descending order of amount spent:

Insurance & Registration
  • Insurance: total for the year = $1,702.95 (average of $141.91 / month for my wife and I for a single car)
  • Registration: $86.00 for the year (average of $7.17 / month)  


  • As I wrote in my post “How to buy a used car”, we tried to buy a used car that had already passed the steepest part of the depreciation curve – so that it would maintain its value fairly well going forward
  • The all-in cost to purchase our car was $15,105.82.  This included:
    • Cost of the car: $14,000.00 (negotiated down from $15,000)
    • New summer tires (Costco): $814.71 (the car came with winter tires)
    • Pre-purchase inspection: $165.93
    • Rental car and gas to go pick up the car from Calgary: $67.48
    • Pre-purchase CARFAX report: $57.70
  • Without selling the car, it is difficult to estimate depreciation over the ownership period.  So what I did was look at comparable cars that are for sale (the exact same year / make / model / trim – 2012 Toyota Camry XLE).
    • I found 3 cars in Alberta
      • one with 155,000km listed for $14,900
      • one with 196,000km listed for $13,000
      • one with 128,214km listed for $18,888
    • Obviously this isn’t perfect since list price doesn’t always equal transacted price (due to negotiation).  That said, I feel pretty good that so far we have dodged depreciation given that our car only has 76,473 km to date (much less than the comparable cars for sale).  I am quite confident that we could sell our car for the same price we bought it for a year ago, $14,000.  Not to mention we bought new tires for it (and have both summer and winter tires)
  • If we sold the car for $14,000 today, total depreciation for the year (including the various costs listed above such as tires) would be $1,105.82 (average of $92.15 / month)
  • I am interested to see how depreciation will trend going forward.  With increasing interest in electric cars, I am curious what is going to happen to the secondary market for good old gas guzzlers.  Time will tell!


  • We completed the following maintenance on the car in the last year:
    • Alignment, rear brake replacement, brake fluid flush, and battery terminal service: $914.84 (this was recommended during the pre-purchase inspection)
    • Oil top-up: $14.01 (bought 2 bottles of synthetic oil – still have these)
    • Changing tires: $104.92 (switched summer tires to winter tires and then back to summer tires)
    • Car washes: $14.00 (I’m embarrassed to say that I only washed the car 3 times)
    • I tried to change the oil twice during the year, however they said that it didn’t need to be changed yet both times.  Thanks to the honest folks at Jiffy Lube on 104th Avenue!
    • Total maintenance: $1.047.77 (average of $87.31 / month)


  • We didn’t drive much during the year, mostly due to COVID-19.  Total kilometers  (“km”) for the first year of ownership was only 6,175km.  See the chart below:
  • As you can see, our km usage was quite linear / steady throughout the year (the two spikes in June and August were trips we took to visit family / go camping last summer)
  • Gas prices – The variability of gas prices was truly amazing.  Gas prices ranged from a low of $0.589 per litre at the beginning of the pandemic to $1.159 per litre most recently.  See the chart below:
  • Fuel economy
    • Total km: 6,175
    • Total litres used: 672.137
    • Average fuel economy (L/100km): 10.9
    • Total cost: $625.04 (average of $52.09 / month)
    • Average cost per litre: $0.93
    • Average cost per km: $0.10
  • See the chart below:
  • This chart shows the average fuel economy for each time I filled up the car with gas.  As you can see, the fuel economy for the highway trips (bringing the car home from Calgary, visiting family, going camping) is solid (less than 8.0L/100km), however it is pretty bad for city driving.  This was known when we bought the car (we chose to buy a six-cylinder rather than a four-cylinder)

Licensing and Emergency Roadside Assistance

  • My drivers license wasn’t up for renewal in the last year so I didn’t pay any licensing fees
  • Emergency Roadside Assistance: $176.40 (average of $14.70 / month) for a Premium AMA membership (in hindsight, we probably didn’t need the premium membership, but the extra towing km does give me peace of mind when we do our little road trips)


  • We paid $19.75 (average $1.65 / month) for parking during the year
  • This will likely be lower than the average year since we didn’t go out much due to COVID-19

Summing it all up:

The total cost for the first year of car ownership was $4,763.72

  • $396.98 per month
  • $13.05 per day
  • $0.77 per km

I was a bit surprised to see how high this was.  Especially given we bought a used vehicle that barely depreciated and didn’t drive much at all throughout the year.  I can’t imagine what the numbers would look like if we bought a new vehicle and drove more; not to mention if we were a two car family instead of a one car family.  May write a post on that down the road.

Pie chart breakdown of vehicle expenses:

Well, that’s it for the first year of car ownership.  I’ll report back next year to see how things have changed.