Keep track of expenses to make sure your vehicle is adequately covered financially at all times. Photo: David Ritchie / African News Agency (ANA)
Do you know how much it costs to keep your car on the road every day?

Or, more precisely, how much your car costs you daily, even when it is parked in the garage? The AA says it is important for all owners to understand that the cost goes far beyond the price of petrol.

“Too many people assume the cost of the vehicle is the repayment of the loan (if they have one), and fuel. But, in reality, the cost of ownership extends further and owners must know exactly how much they are spending on their cars, and where it is going,” the association says.

In a recent survey by the AA on vehicle ownership costs, almost 40% of those polled said they didn’t know how much it cost to own and run their car every month. Despite the fact that the most common issues affecting motorists are increasing petrol costs, maintenance costs, and unexpected repair expenses.

There are many variables which determine the amount of money spent on a vehicle daily, weekly, monthly and annually. It is important owners understand these and, if necessary, manage them better to ensure they do not overspend.

“The type of car you drive, how you drive, the fuel you use (and where you fill up), the tyres you use, the terrain you drive on, the kilometres you drive daily, weekly, monthly and annually, and the insurance cover you have on the vehicle are just some of the factors you need to consider when calculating the true cost of keeping your car on the road,” says the AA.

The association says maintenance and service plans, instalment payments, and unexpected expenses such as cracked windshields and windows (which, for a small number of owners is covered by insurance, but even this may require excess payments), should also be factored into the total cost of ownership.

“If, for instance, you drive a small sedan at the coast, the total AA rate calculated on the vehicle may be R3.35 per driving kilometre which amounts to R67 000 if you drive 20 000km a year. An SUV driven inland over the same distance is markedly more expensive - around R137 000 per year, R3.75 per day.

But, importantly, this doesn’t only cover the cost of fuel, it also covers all costs associated with keeping the car on the road.

People working on a budget must keep a track of these expenses to ensure their vehicle is adequately covered financially at all times,” the AA notes. 

The AA says too many motorists or motorcyclists only factor in their fuel costs when calculating how much their vehicles cost them monthly. This, it says, leaves these road users financially exposed as they may not be setting enough money aside for emergencies.

“Owning a vehicle has many associated costs. If you own a car or motorbike, make sure you calculate all the variables such as tyres, services, insurance, and, in the case of motorbikes - replacement gear - into your monthly budget. Doing this will give you a more accurate picture of the cost of owning the vehicle, even when not being used.”

The association says owning a vehicle requires planning for once-off expenses such as tyres and maintenance. If you haven’t planned for these expenses, they will seem expensive, especially if the costs are higher than you expect.

Part of planning for an annual vehicle budget, it says, is tracking current expenses by category such as tyres, maintenance and fuel.

This will allow you to budget future expenses based on historical data of your usage.

The AA says even though it may seem like a lot of work, knowing exactly how much you are spending on your vehicle - even when it is in your garage - is important to managing your vehicle’s expenses properly and, if needed, altering certain elements such as your routes and driving habits, to mitigate the impact of rising costs.

“Take the time to look at where you can make savings, and do what you can to bring costs down.

Even small savings build up over time and may save you thousands of rand in the long run.”

For more information, visit or, or contact the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA).

* Beard is public relations manager at the AA