Info The Cheapest-To-Own Cars And Trucks

All but the wealthiest car buyers compare sticker prices when shopping for a new ride, but we’d guess far fewer consider how much money a given vehicle will actually cost to own and operate over the course of several years.

The sharpest car shoppers work the bottom line like an accountant to determine which models under their consideration will prove to be the most financially advantageous in the long run. This includes comparing the costs of depreciation – how much the vehicle will have lost in value at trade-in time – fuel, insurance premiums, maintenance charges, state fees, and out-of-warranty repair bills.

“­­New-car shoppers typically give more consideration to the cost of a car upfront, but sometimes other factors, such as depreciation, maintenance and fuel costs, can significantly increase total ownership costs,” says Mike Sadowski, vice president of operations and general manager for Kelley Blue Book.

To help consumers find the best overall deals, KBB just announced its annual 5-Year Cost to Own Awards in 20 separate vehicle classes. The kbb.com website tracks new vehicles’ depreciation, fuel costs, insurance costs, financing, repairs, maintenance, and average state sales taxes and registration fees over a five-year ownership period, and even computes a per-mile expenditure for easy comparison. We’re featuring the 20 vehicles cited by KBB for low ownership costs in their respective classes in the accompanying slideshow.

20 Cars And Trucks With The Lowest Ownership Costs

The cheapest-to-own vehicle among all models for 2017 is the Chevrolet Spark microcar, which starts at around $15,000. It’s not for everybody, but in its base form (with an automatic transmission) KBB predicts the Spark will cost an average owner $27,577 over five years, which comes to $5,511 a year, $459 a month, or 36 cents a mile.

Among automakers, Subaru was cited as having the lowest overall ownership costs among mainstream makes for the second year in a row; KBB notes the brand’s low rate of depreciation and stalwart fuel economy as helping keep expenditures affordable across the model line. Meanwhile, Acura took top honors among luxury brands, placing its vehicles either first or second in better than half of the aforementioned ownership cost factors. Among individual models, the Chevrolet Impala was cited as having the lowest costs among large cars for the sixth year running and is the only car to fill that slot since KBB initiated the awards in 2012.

Generally, the more expensive the vehicle, the more important differences in certain ownership costs become over time – particularly depreciation – simply because there’s more money at stake to lose. For example, the costliest model in KBB’s survey, the Lexus LS 460 – a 5-Year Cost to Own winner in the High-End Luxury Car category – is estimated to lose $47,493 of its original $73,495 MSRP after five years while the above Chevy Spark, starting at a far more affordable $14,975, is expected to cost an owner just $10,440 in depreciation.

Checking long-term vehicle expenses is great way to help consumers budget for all-inclusive car costs. It can also help tell whether a hybrid-powered version of a given vehicle is a good deal compared to a gas-only model, or for comparing the cost differences between a plug-in hybrid to a conventional self-charging hybrid. For example, the projected five-year ownership costs of a base-model Toyota Prius hybrid are predicted to run an average $34,409, according to KBB, while the plug-in Prius Prime version (which can run for the first 25 miles on a charge solely on battery power) is estimated at $32,553. That’s a five-year savings of $1,856 despite the Prime initially costing $2,415 more.

The fine print: KBB’s 5-Year Cost to Own awards are based on estimated average costs for depreciation, fuel, maintenance, insurance premiums, state fees, and out of warranty repairs. Figures cited are for base models from the 2017 model year with standard powertrains and equipment (except where a manual transmission was standard, we chose the optional automatic for the sake of consistency). KBB calculates total ownership costs for new vehicles by applying a sophisticated valuation methodology along with critical financial data from third-party providers; depreciation costs are based on KBB predicted residual values. Be aware that specific ownership costs will vary from one area of the country to another based on local gas prices, insurance premiums (based on location, driving record and other personal factors), per-hour labor charges, and other variables.