COSTS TO CONSIDER

The real cost of driving

In the excitement of buying a car, it's easy to forget about ongoing running costs. Factoring these in will help you find the best car for your lifestyle and financial situation.

Sometimes, in the excitement of buying a new car, the thought of how much the car is going to continue to cost can fall off the radar.

But the clearer you are about how much you'll need to stay on the road, with insurance and regular maintenance, the better equipped you'll be to find the best car for your lifestyle and financial situation. Here are a few things to consider.

Fixed costs

Depreciation

Unless you own a rare or classic car, depreciation - or the amount your vehicle devalues over time - is something you can't avoid.

Some cars depreciate faster than others. A car manufacturer's reputation plays a big role in lowering a vehicle's rate of depreciation. You can also expect a higher resale value if the carmaker is known for making cars that last longer and perform well.

A popular car model is more likely to resell for a better price than a less fashionable one.

Be smart by researching which cars depreciate less and talk with your car dealer about your choices.

Interest on loans

The interest component of your car repayments is considered part of your fixed costs. Whether you've taken out a personal loan, used car loan, or pre-approved loan, or are refinancing, a good interest rate can save you a lot of money over time.

There are many car interest rate comparison tools and calculators you can find easily on the Internet.

Road-side assistance membership

Many manufacturers, including Toyota, offer roadside assist services at the time of purchase. If a car is not covered in this way, you can pay an annual fee for membership to a roadside assistance organisation.

While this is an optional cost, breaking down in the middle of nowhere and having to pay to be towed may end up being more costly.

Car registration

Your car needs to be registered every year. Older vehicles may also need to be checked and approved by a mechanic before they can be registered. So it pays to keep your car regularly maintained.

If you're buying a new vehicle, the registration cost will be included in the advertised drive-away price.

However you will still need to renew the registration annually in the following years.

Registration fees vary from state to state and may also depend on the model and age of the vehicle.

Car insurance

This can be a cost, as it takes into consideration your driving history and other factors that can affect the cover you receive.

Insurance companies calculate your premium based on the kind of car you drive, your age, where you live and your driving record.

Once again, it might pay to shop around to ensure you find the right cover. Learn more about car insurance.

Ongoing costs

Fuel

Fuel consumption can eat up about 20% of your car's weekly running costs and will fluctuate according to market price.

The size of a vehicle's engine is also a major influence on fuel costs as the bigger the engine, the more fuel it tends to use. Optional extras, such as a turbo, may drive up costs too.

All new cars sold in Australia are required to display a Fuel Consumption Label on the front windscreen. You can also usually find fuel consumption costs on the manufacturer's website.

Older cars tend to be less fuel-efficient than modern vehicles and dragging around additional weight will increase fuel consumption. So make sure you don't use your car to store heavy items such as tools, sporting equipment and kids' gear.

If you'd like to dramatically lower your fuel costs, hybrid cars are an excellent option. Hybrids are powered by an optimised combination of petrol and electricity, which delivers excellent fuel efficiency. In fact, if you choose a Toyota Hybrid, it effectively uses no fuel and creates no CO2 emissions at all when travelling at low speeds or stopped in traffic.

Go here to compare the costs of running a Toyota Hybrid model with other cars.

Tyres

How often you'll need to replace your tyres will depend on the distance you drive, the condition of the roads you drive on, and how long you own the car for.

There's a big price difference between buying budget tyres and upmarket options that can cost much more. Generally speaking, the more expensive the tyre, the better it is. Good tyres will grip better and may offer reduced rolling resistance, which will also help with fuel consumption.

To help get the most from your tyres, check tyre pressures regularly and make sure they're always filled to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. If the car is out of use for long periods, the wheels should be rotated regularly.

Car maintenance & repairs

Servicing your car regularly is an essential part of ownership. Unexpected repairs can be very costly - especially if your car is older or uses expensive imported parts.

One of the biggest advantages of buying a new car is that it will typically come with a vehicle and parts warranty, which can give great peace of mind.

Many manufacturers, including Toyota, now also offer capped price servicing, which means you know upfront the costs you are up for.

If you are buying a used vehicle, regular maintenance checks by a mechanic can help you avoid engine and parts decay, and a nasty bill in the long run. So it's wise to budget for these. Read more about car maintenance.

Unexpected costs

Parking and speeding fines

Obey the rules of the road. Fines can really hurt you in the pocket and breaking the rules can even cost you your licence.

If you do get a fine, pay it on time, otherwise you could be forced to pay penalties or even face having your vehicle confiscated.

Tolls

If you'll be using toll roads regularly these charges can be a significant addition to your weekly budget. To help you estimate your weekly bill, do a web search for the relevant toll costs of the roads you expect to be travelling on.

There are fines for not paying a toll so be prepared by making sure you have the right electronic tagging system in place. Check with your state's road and traffic authority for details.

Parking costs

If you need to use parking meters or parking stations regularly, you can expect to pay daily or weekly fees that can really add up. Look out for early bird parking specials, as these can be quite cost effective.

An increasing number of local councils also require resident's parking permits to park outside your home.

Check with your local council for the regulations in your area. The number of permits allowed may be restricted and you'll need to take this into account if other members of your household already have permits.