You may feel an impulse to swallow hard before you purchase a car with a price that pushes near or even into six figures. But hold on to your wallet, because the dollar drain has just been opened.
The full cost of ownership for any automobile can be eye popping. The figures for expensive luxury models are especially high because vehicle depreciation — the loss of resale value as a car, truck, van or sport utility vehicle ages — is the biggest single car ownership cost, said Michael Calkins, manager of approved auto repair for the AAA National Office. For a vehicle with a higher initial purchase price, the loss adds up to a greater monetary amount than it does for a low-cost car that began its life with little to lose.
Only high-flying luxury cars and sport utilities appear on this ranking of the 10 most expensive vehicles to own because their depreciation is so great. “Some of these vehicles may depreciate slower than lower priced cars,” says Calkins. “But even if the percentage is the same for, say, a Chevy and a Mercedes, the dollars add up to a greater amount for the Mercedes.”
Five-Year Ownership Cost: This ranking is compiled by AAA by calculating five-year ownership costs for every version of a vehicle available. For the Porsche 911, third on the list, that includes 10 separate model variations. The sixth-place Mercedes-Benz S-Class includes six versions. Some models, like the ninth-ranked Acura NSX, come in only one variation.
To present them here, we averaged the ownership costs for each vehicle line, coming up with a single figure for each model. The list does not include super exotic cars that sell in small numbers. It is based on ownership-cost projections for production vehicles available in 2005.
Depreciation: You don't see this cost until you sell or trade your vehicle. Other components of its total cost of ownership are more visible, covering insurance and finance charges, maintenance and, of course, fuel.
Fuel: To figure fuel expense, AAA used the average gasoline price during the last quarter of 2004. Of course, that price is higher now, but the change doesn’t affect the overall ranking.
Maintenence: To make its calculations, AAA figured an average driver covers 15,000 miles annually — totaling 75,000 miles over five years. It factored in the expense for one set of tires over that five-year ownership span. We bundled the cost of the four tires with overall maintenance costs. AAA lists tires as a separate expense.
Insurance: The agency used the rate paid by a standard driver, who is middle-aged, married, driving five to 10 miles to work and living in a midsize city in Michigan.
Finance: The statisticians at AAA calculated vehicle finance costs based on a five-year loan at 6.5 percent, with a 10 percent down payment.