Report finds Pa. driving costs lower than national average

State average is seventh lowest vehicle operating costs in country


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Wouldn't it be nice if buying a new vehicle -- which now averages around $31,000 -- was the only turn of the money spigot?

Of course driving away from the showroom is just the beginning.

There are taxes, fees, insurance, gasoline and repairs to pay for, among other costs of keeping that car on the road.

In Pennsylvania, motorists spend an average of $2,764 annually to operate their vehicles, according to a new analysis by the financial website Bankrate.com.

While that's nothing to sniff at, those costs are significantly lower than the national average of $3,201.

And in the most expensive state, Georgia, the typical driver spends $4,233 per year, the report found.

Oregon was the least expensive state at $2,204 per year.

Overall, Pennsylvania ranked No. 44, meaning it had the seventh lowest vehicle operating costs in the country.

PG graphic: The cost of driving a car
(Click image for larger version)

While insurance and repair costs for Pennsylvania motorists were in line with the national averages, the biggest factors holding down expenses were lower taxes and fees, and lower spending at the pump.

Drivers in the state pay an average of $769 per year for taxes and fees compared with the national average of $1,058, the report showed.

That category included such costs as registration fees, emissions checks and state sales tax (amortized over three years). For some states, such as Georgia, it also included an annual car tax.

Fees could soon be going up for Pennsylvania residents, however. A bill in the state Senate would raise both vehicle registration and license fees.

Gas costs -- which factored in average pump prices plus highway miles driven per capita -- averaged $813 in Pennsylvania compared with the national average of $1,028.

In Georgia, it was $1,129, a bill jacked up by motorists' relatively long commutes. "Georgians spend a lot of time in their cars thanks in part to Atlanta's sprawling communities and lack of public transportation," the report said.

In some states with the highest gas prices, such as Alaska, California and Oregon, motorists still managed to spend comparatively less fueling up because they have found ways to cut back on driving, Bankrate.com research analyst Chris Kahn said.

Approaches differ from people relying more on mass transit to drivers reducing trips by combining errands, he said.

Besides altering driving habits, motorists can help cut their overall car operating costs by shopping around for insurance and repairs, Mr. Kahn said.

Although he acknowledged that most people wouldn't relocate to another state based on lower car costs, Mr. Kahn said the information was useful for financial planning purposes.

"While you can buy a Honda Civic anywhere and pay the same price, the cost of driving that Honda will vary widely," he said.

Bankrate.com's estimate of annual driving costs nationwide ($3,201) was substantially lower than AAA's latest estimate contained in its popular "Your Driving Costs" study, which pegged the average cost at $9,122.

The main reason for the discrepancy was that Bankrate.com did not factor in depreciation or finance charges, a spokesman said.

Time to turn up that spigot.

For the complete list of car operating costs by state visit http://www.bankrate.com/finance/auto/car-ownership-costs-by-state.aspx.

state - businessnews - autonews

Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066. First Published August 30, 2013 4:00 AM


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