CARpe diem

I don’t know how much gas is where you live, but in Seattle $3.95/gallon seems about normal. Girl Ninja and I spend about $200-$250 a month on gas. Thank goodness for a work vehicle, otherwise that amount would be another $100+ higher. Our insurance runs another $160/month.

Carry all these expenses out over a twelve month time frame and we’re averaging about $5,000 a year to drive our two cars.


Do you know how many California Burritos that is?


Driving freaking sucks. It sucks the money out of my wallet, and places it in to a depreciating asset.

That is no bueno.

Sure I could drive less or probably find cheaper insurance (we have full comp/coll coverage on both vehicles), but even that wont drastically reduce our annual auto expenses.


The only thing Girl Ninja and I can really do to ensure transportation has a minimal impact on our budget is try to drive less, and drive our vehicles until they explode.

New cars depreciate like crazy (40% in the first four years). This is why I personally could not stomach a $400 car payment on top of the gas, insurance, and maintenance payments I previously mentioned we have.

The disdain I have for debt, outweighs the joy I’d get from driving a new vehicle. 

That’s just me though. I have plenty of friends that have car payments (many who read this blog in fact). They are all intelligent people and are by no means reckless when it comes to their finances. I realize that just because I don’t have an appetite for a car payment, doesn’t mean that someone else wont find them beneficial or helpful.

This is the very reason I love personal finance.

You do you, and I’ll do me. 

So reader, How much do your transportation costs work out to each month? Break it down by line item (gas, insurance, maintenance, and payment). After adding all these numbers up, are you shocked just how expensive driving can be (I was with our $400-ish a month obligation)? Where does it fall on your balance sheet (I’m assuming probably your second or third largest expense after your rent/mortgage and maybe food)?Do you hate car payments, find them a necessary evil to have reliable transportation, or love the ability to spread payments out over many years?


42 thoughts on “CARpe diem”

  1. When I worked we had 3 cars. Gas was $350 – $450.
    Car payments – $425.
    Auto insurance $150.
    Yearly car inspections for both cars $100.
    I’m not going to add servicing the cars cost because just typing this I’m crying about it. 😉
    Now we have 1 car because I don’t work, no car payments.
    Gas is about $200 – 250 <– Nice weather
    Insurance – $63

  2. Once GN stops working, your gas consumption will probably go down…so you have that going for ya.

    Hold on to your hat…per month…

    Car payments – $127+230 = $357 (loan balances are $4300 and $6900 respectively)
    Insurance (which are trying to lower as we speak) for both- $131
    Gas – $600 (yes, that is right….)
    Maintenance (what we put aside towards oil, wipers, etc) – $40
    Property Tax (paid 2x yr, but you want monthly) – $37.50
    Registration – $7.50

    Total – $1300 for 2 cars (which doesn’t include repairs as they come up)

  3. Ok, this is pretty freak in bad, but here goes:

    550 mo hubby car payment. Interest is nonexistent , so would rather have cash in the bank
    0 car payment for my 3 y/0 toyota beater
    118 mo for insurance.. full comp/collision, high limit, low deductible
    650 mo gas — 30 plus mile commute for both of us. During the summer with daycare, this turns into a 50 mile each way trip
    350 mo tolls —north texas, we are strong armed into paying em
    20 mo ins and inspections
    50 mo into maintenance fund for oil change, etc. Both cars under extended warranties.. will bump this up once we are closer to being out of warranty

    Grand total…. 1738 PER MONTH. Or 20.8k a year.
    Prior to that, we were paying another 550 a month on my car but got tired of it so wrote a check and paid it off

    I should also note that we could pay off the car, prepay insurance etc if need be, but I Mich prefer having the cash in my pocket if disaster were to strike. Hubby car is at 1 percent interest, so I can stomach making payments. If it were at 5 percent or higher, I would be paying it down in large chunks etc.
    It is a huge amount, but only represents a budget line item of about 11% of our earnings, if we made less, we certainly would drive cheaper cars, pay off etc etc

      • Tis true, but still gives me a little heart attack. But we do also contribute to retirement and kids college and help family out financially before paying for cars… I would take the bus if it came down to one or the other

  4. My wife and I share an SUV together. We both try to be as minimalistic as possible:
    Gas – $173.00/Month
    insurance – $200ish/Month
    maintenance – I would guesstimate it to be $50/Month
    payment – $350/Month

    Total: $773/Month

    The car is probably 2nd to my largest expense. Man, let’s just say, I am soooo thankful my wife and I only share one car. 🙂

  5. We have one car – a 2003 Ford Focus with 96K miles. We’d love to upgrade to a slightly larger car, but we don’t want a car payment and don’t have enough saved to pay cash.

    Average monthly costs:
    Insurance – $70
    Gas – $75
    Maintenance – $65
    Taxes/Registration – $10
    Total: $220/month on the car

    We also spend $200-$250 on train/bus passes to get to work and are trying to save $300/month for the purchase of a new-to-us car within the next few years.

  6. payment: $0 – need to save $100-200 per month for this, which i am not currently doing
    gas: $200-300 per month, this should go down signficantly when I move to the city I work in (next month!)
    Insurance: $80 per month
    Maintenance: $100 per month (saved and used as needed)

  7. I have to commute to Seattle as well and gas is pretty expensive so I commute by the train. Its about $131 a month considering it is a pretax payroll deduction. That reduces insurance to $48 a month and about $20 in gas a month. My hour commute would be much more expensive if I were driving.

  8. I moved downtown last fall, so I can walk to work. I love it for the ease but also lowering the wear and tear on my 6 year old car.

    Monthly expenses:
    Car payment = $0
    Gas = $50
    Insurance = $60
    Maintenance = $10
    Taxes = $20
    Total = $140

    I drive maybe 300 miles a month. That monthly cost actually seems fairly high given how little I drive, but I’m not in a situation where I can completely give it up.

  9. My wife and I have 2 cars, both of them paid off:

    Car Payments – $0
    Gas – $150
    Auto Insurance – $55
    Licensing – $7.92
    Oil Changes – $17 (Both German cars, 1x per year oil changes)


    Fortunately, licensing and auto insurance is fairly cheap for us in AZ. We have two older cars (1999 and 1998) so this makes those items dirt cheap as we only cover liability.

  10. I have one car and I bought it new in late 2010. My car insurance works out to about $100/month. I usually spend about $60-70/year on maintenance (one oil change and a new set of wiper blades). I’ve been driving a lot less this year though so I might skip the new set of wiper blades and just get the oil change in the fall. Vehicle tabs usually run me about $130/year. In 2013, I spent about $390 on gas. In 2014 so far, I’ve spent a whopping $35 on gas and I’m on track to fill up once per quarter. My car might end up costing me a total of $1,510 this year or about $125/month.

    In 2013, I drove about 3,000 miles. This year, I’m on track for about 1,200. Sometimes I wonder why I have a car. I live and work in the same city. I either walk or bus to work and pretty much everywhere else I go unless I’m going further than 3 miles.

    I make as much as the person above who said they spend $20k/year on their cars and I choose to spend very little of my income on transportation. I thought I was spending a lot on housing until I started seeing friends buying houses/condos worth 2-4x mine.

    • I am jealous how little driving you do! Unfortunately we live in the burbs, so between commuting and shuffling the kids around., tge gas really adds up… and out here tolls are a necessity to get to work.. to bypass them would add an hour each way to my commute, and the extra time with my kids is well worth a couple hundred bucks.

      I do miss living in so cal where you could get anywhere on public transportation

  11. 2008 Ford Fusion and 1994 Volvo 850

    Monthly breakdown:
    Car payment – $0
    Gas – $200
    Insurance – $72
    Maintenance (average of last 16 months) – $110
    Total: $382

    We’re saving up to replace the Volvo, but hope that it makes it through the end of this year at least.

  12. For my car and husband’s truck:
    Car payment = $0
    Gas = $300
    Insurance = $60
    Maintenance = $125 (average over last 12 months – we use to track our maintenance and are very diligent)
    Taxes = $17
    Car Replacement Savings Fund = $100 (we are increasing this after a short-term goal is met – I also refuse to have a car payment)
    Total = $602 a month, or $7224 annually, or roughly 15% of our overall budget

    This doesn’t include registration fees, which hit us every two years – the truck just came up and we owe $190 next month. My car is usually around $100.

  13. Car payment 153$
    Auto insurance 92$ a month
    Maintenance 60$ a month
    Gas 150$ a month
    Total 455$ a month or 5,460 a year

    I had to highly estimate maintenance costs. Newer car so that is just oil changes and the occasional break work. Gas is probably lower as I bike to work but I do visit friends and family often out of town.

  14. We have 2 cars, one owned, the other has a payment:
    Car payment/s: $253/month
    Auto insurance: $376/quarter ($94/month)
    Maintenance: oil changes $25-30/5k miles; then other maintenance as recommended
    Gas: $80/week ($40/car); $320/month (Gas in our town is $3.93/gallon but we both work in a city about 20 miles away from where we live and gas is $3.63/gallon so we fill up there instead!)

  15. 2005 Jeep & 2013 VW Passat TDI

    Payments: $435 for Passat. Jeep is paid off.
    Auto Ins: around $250 per month for both (9 months of payments)
    Gas: without extra driving trips it’s about $450/500 for both.

    The gas for my husband’s old truck was more than the payment and gas for the VW TDI. We had been without a payment for 2 years and this just made sense for us. Especially since we drive a lot and the VW gets amazing mileage. And as far as maintenance, my husband does most of it. Just put a new starter in the jeep so we only had to pay for the part. Thank goodness!

  16. Adding a car payment to my life is enticing. We are currently saving up for a newer car, but now we have enough money where we could pay off our 6.125% Interest student loan. If we continue to pay the minimum on our student loan, we will pay about $2,800 in interest. If we paid off the student loan and bought a car with 1.9% interest we would pay considerably less in interest.

  17. No car payments, everything else about average…

    Still nowhere near as expensive as the daycare part of our budget!!!

  18. Nissan Leaf Electric Car (2012, SV)

    Lease: $179/ month (I traded in the SUV, literally)
    Fuel: $ 60 / month (84 km daily round trip).
    Insurance $95/month.

    Why are you still driving gas cars??

    • Hubby and I use one car

      2012 Hyundai Accent (Hatchback)
      Payment = $200/mo (but it’s finished gone next month)
      Gas = $120/mo
      Insurance = $75/mo
      Maintenance = $40/mo
      $435/mo with the car loan
      $235 without the payment (which is cheaper than both of us getting bus passes by about $120/mo!)

  19. car#1 1999 Honda(bought used)
    gas= 160
    insurance = 100
    maintenance = 62 (oil changes, tires, brakes, wipers, etc.)
    payment = 0
    Total= 322

    Car#2 2008 Subaru(bought used)
    insurance= 166
    maintenance= 68(oil changes, tire, brakes, wipers, etc.)
    payment= 0 (we just paid it off)
    Total= 394

    Grand total=716. Not too bad for two super reliable cars.

    During my college years, I found out (the hard way) how evil car payments were. This explains the $0 car payments. I prefer to invest the money that would otherwise be going towards payments on depreciating assets.

  20. So what I actually budget per month for the vehicles: $600
    We own four, one primary for commuting (full insurance coverage) and three for casual use (in the <7K miles per year insurance coverage).
    Actual breakdowns:
    Fuel… $200
    Insurance… $250
    Maintenance… $150
    When we did have a car payment, I budgeted that payment under debt repayment as opposed to vehicle costs. It was another $450 chunk. We could afford it but I was not happy about it (took on car payment after my paid-off vehicle was totaled in a not-my-fault collision).
    Our maintenance costs are fairly low because we do most of our own maintenance (just did the transmission on the Del Sol).

  21. Oh man. It’s cost breakdowns like this that remind me that I’m in no hurry to get back to a place where I need to take the car (instead of just riding the NY subway everywhere). I will continue to “do me,” as you say.

  22. 2 leased cars = $450/month
    Gas= $240/month
    Insurance= $95/month
    Registration ~ $500/year
    That means I’ve been spending ~ $10k on cars/ year. I had no idea it was that much per year! That’s way too much! Thankfully, I’m saving to get off the lease train. I can’t wait to have a car without a car payment!

  23. 2 vehicles paid off.
    Insurance: $90.34/month
    Gas: $86.15/month
    Registration: $10.63/month
    Maintenance: $10.98/month

    So $198.10/month for automotive transportation. Of course my wife is a SAHM and I bike or take the bus to work, so the cars aren’t used that much. Really just for hauling the kids around and for grocery runs.

  24. Monthly:

    Car: paid for in straight cash homie! (thanks mom and dad)
    Insurance: $100 monthly
    Gas: $80 monthly
    Maintenance: $10 monthly (approx.)

    Car gets great gas mileage and I don’t have to drive far from home often.

  25. I spend ~200 a month in diesel, mostly in the winter. Tax deductible. Plus ~800 a year in insurance, once again, tax deductible.

    new starter last week, $800 (ouch). License tabs $130 annually. Thank god no payments.

    And my other car…..

  26. I used to own a car. Then, my monthly costs were $325.00/month. That included parking, insurance, gas and maintenance.

    Now I have a car share membership – $33.60 annually. I’m still using up credit from when I gave up my car, so no additional costs at this time.

    Monthly pass for public transportation – $124.00

  27. Probably around $500-$700.

    $200 on car insurance for two cars
    $300-400 in gas….not kidding….we drive way too much
    $100-200 maintenance and what not. Seems every month we have to pay registration or get an oil change or fix something.
    No car payments, imagine if we had car payments????Eghh…

  28. I pay about $150 a month in gas and $100 in car insurance. Routine maintenance visits 2-3 times a year are about $100 each. I have a loan with 6 payments left at about $325 each.

    Tolls can be a huge expense if you drive long distances. Last month I had to drive from Long Island to Philadelphia, and bridge and highway tolls easily totalled $50.

    I am, however, completely unimpressed by the argument about a car as a depreciating asset. Most assets depreciate – your appliances, computer, other household items. But if I buy a new car and hold it 10 years (as I usually do) the depreciation is insignificant to me. It’s something I would care about only if I sold the car, and as an individual I cannot benefit from depreciation on my taxes.

    • I agree completely. Like a house, or many other things, the value of some thing is kind of an arbitrary number because the “worth” only matters when you intend to sell. I can look online and see my house is worth X, but unless I plan on listing the house today, it is insignificant.

      Same for a car. While not saying there is anything wrong with buying used cars, I would rather buy a new one every 10 or so years, finance at <2%, and know I do not have to worry about costly repairs for 5-7 of those years.

      If I felt the need to trade up every other year on my car, then the depreciation becomes an issue.

      But I also do not consider a car an asset, I personally see it as more of a tool. It allows me to get to work and earn money. If I were a carpenter, I would buy the best (value wise) hammer I could for the money, brand new under warranty, because it allows me to earn my living and not have to keep replacing hammers or pieces of hammers.

      Just my $0.02..

      • I use the term “asset” in the neutral accounting sense of any item from which a person or business derives benefit. Accountants consider assets used one year or more to be “fixed assets” and these can include buildings, furniture, cars, machinery, land, etc. – all of which can be depreciated (except land).

  29. We live in Singapore where car ownership is astronomical. You need to pay around US$75,000 for the certificate of entitlement, like a registration, to own a car. And then you have to buy the car on top of that.

    So we use public transport and taxis:

    Commute: 75 cents on the bus each way, about $30 a month
    Other misc. trains and buses: $15 a month
    taxis as needed: $25 a week on average (about 2 medium rides), $100 month

    Rough total around $150 a month and never have to visit a gas station.

  30. Scooter/Moped: $900 brand new (taiwanese knockoff)

    Gas: $4 or $5 a month ….. 100 miles to a gallon. Pretty slick! 🙂

    Best transportation resource ever. Obviously, I can’t ride it when it rains, but when it’s ok out, I ride my scooter EVERYWHERE. If you have a 50cc engine or less, you don’t need a motorcycle endorsement or insurance. You can’t ride it on freeways, but I live in Seattle, so I can get everywhere I need/want to go to via Surface roads.

  31. Me – 300 0% loan
    Wife – 410 1.9% loan
    Gas – 500
    Ins – 100
    Main/etc – 50

    1360 a month.

    There was a time when that was only gas, insurance, and maintenance. Both of our cars were paid off and we did not have any children, but that all changed in late 2012 when we got Mrs. Dreemsie a new car to fit our expanding family. Last summer my car had taken enough of a beating and I was tired of buying new tires and fixing repairs. (I had a very unlucky streak for about 7 months where I had to get 6 new tires and accrued plenty of other damage to the car.) On a lucky note, while I was creating our family budget I had prepared for the day when we would be getting new cars and set up a weekly car fund of $200 a week. So, while I find the 1360/mo to be high, it is more than budgeted it for. I may pay the balance of my loan sooner than later if the right scenario pops up.

  32. I have only one car-

    on a monthly basis I pay:

    Car Payment – $0 (but need to start saving for the next one)
    Car Insurance – $58
    Gas – $115 (on average)
    Registration/fees $15 (I sock away a little ea. month for these once-a-year expense)
    Maintenance $50 (put into a sinking fund for eventual repairs)

    So about $238/month. Although repairs in the last few years have been more than budgeted for/ expected so the in reality the average is probably a bit higher.

  33. we have 2 cars:
    2013 honda civic (paid off) for a 50 mi RT daily commute
    2005 honda accord (paid off) for a 30 mi RT daily commute

    we spend about $350/mo for gas (costco gas is the best frugal hack)
    then another $120/mo for insurance
    $140/yr for registration
    I budget about $100/mo for maintenance but lately it’s been a bit more.

    total monthly for 2 cars: $585

    you can use online cost to own calculator to determine depreciation and actual purchase price. that number really scared me. now i don’t want to replace my cars for as long as possible!

  34. This was a painful exercise to do.
    Car payment: 433
    Truck payment: 398
    Insurance: 140
    Gas: 300 or more
    Minimum monthly cost $1271 ugh! And doesn’t include the $300 in registration or costs for oil changes/new tires/etc.

  35. Hubby and I use one car

    2012 Hyundai Accent (Hatchback)
    Payment = $200/mo (but it’s finished gone next month)
    Gas = $120/mo
    Insurance = $75/mo
    Maintenance = $40/mo
    $435/mo with the car loan
    $235 without the payment (which is cheaper than both of us getting bus passes by about $120/mo!)

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