Cost Considerations for Your First-Time Car Buyer
Before your son or daughter drives off the lot in his or her first car, offer guidance on what it costs to own and maintain a vehicle.
Your recent college grad landed a job and is ready to purchase a vehicle with that first paycheck. While you already know that the purchase price and monthly car loan payment are only part of the picture, they might not fully appreciate this. To help your first-time car buyer, review the additional expenses that go with purchasing a vehicle.
Here’s how those expenses break down.
Here’s a scenario to help them think about fuel costs: If they were to drive 15,000 miles per year, averaging 23 miles per gallon, and the national average price of regular gas was $2.49 per gallon, their fuel costs could run about $135 per month.
If they’re eyeing a larger vehicle such as an SUV, keep in mind those vehicles often have larger engines and heavier bodies, which can drag down fuel economy. They may also require premium gas, which may cost about 50 cents more per gallon.
Maintenance and repairs
If buying a new car, factory warranties can cover some, but not all, repairs and routine maintenance for the first 36,000 miles or three years.1 Unless the car is covered by a warranty, your first-time car buyer will likely be responsible for repairs and routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations. New vehicles, on average, will cost a driver $1,186 annually to maintain and repair.2
If buying a new car, factory warranties can cover some, but not all, repairs and routine maintenance for the first 36,000 miles or three years.
While auto insurance premiums average $1,202 nationwide annually for full coverage on a medium sedan,3 your first-time buyers’ may depend on his or her driving record, vehicle year, make, model and value, selected coverage, limits, and deductibles. Where he or she lives will also be a factor, since premiums vary from state to state.
Your first-time buyer will likely pay for a car by making a down payment and taking out a four- or five-year loan to cover the balance. Make sure he or she understands that the finance costs will depend on the length, amount and terms of the loan.
Say the car costs $18,000. With a 20 percent down payment of $3,600, 5 percent sales tax, and a 48-month loan at 3.42 percent APR, the monthly payment is an estimated $342.4
Licensing, registration and taxes
These depend on the state where they live. A title fee is a one-time charge assessed when acquiring the title of a new car. Drivers in New Mexico pay only $3.00, while car owners in Massachusetts pay $75.00.5 Registration fees also vary widely. Many states use a flat fee. Oregon, for example, charges $43 every other year, and Illinois charges $101 every year.5 Other states base their fee on metrics (e.g., gross vehicle weight, vehicle age and fuel efficiency).
Based on the state where they live, they may also need to pay a tax based on the value of their vehicle.
While depreciation isn’t a monthly expense, it will eventually reduce the car’s trade-in or resale value. Explain to them that a new car begins to depreciate as soon as it’s driven off the lot. By the end of the first year, it could lose up to 30 percent of its value and continue to depreciate by 15 to 18 percent annually over the next five years.1
Whether your first-time car buyer purchases a new or used car, basic maintenance can help to keep those long-term costs down. Create a maintenance plan for these vehicle parts.
- What Is the Total Cost of Owning a Car? NerdWallet, 2017.
- AAA Reveals True Cost of Vehicle Ownership, AAA, 2017.
- Your Driving Costs, AAA, 2017.
- Car Loan Payment Calculator, Cars.com, 2018.
- Title and Registration Fees, Digest of Motor Laws, AAA, 2017.