An official website of the United States government.

We've made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017 Web Snapshot.

Green Vehicle Guide

True Cost of Car Ownership

It costs money to get around. When hopping on transit, renting a scooter, or hailing a ride, you generally know the cost of the trip upfront, before you start your journey. It is a bit trickier, however, to calculate the true cost of driving your own car. Let’s take a closer look at these costs…

  • There are the obvious costs like your monthly car payment, gas, and parking at your origin and/or destination. Add to that the somewhat less obvious “pay and forget” costs that come up regularly or semi-regularly, like registration, fees, taxes, and insurance, as well as maintenance and repairs.
  • Then there are those costs that are harder to quantify, like the time spent looking for parking if you don’t have a designated space, or the inconvenience of having to park far from your destination. Traffic is never a fun way to pass the time, but at least in other modes like transit or ridesharing, you can read, nap, or just relax.
  • And finally, there’s the depreciation of the car. While not a direct cost, depreciation is ultimately a loss that accumulates over the car’s lifetime.

true cost of cars

Having a car always at your disposal can be convenient but, for something that sits idle (parked) on average 95% of the time, 1 it may be at a high “cost per trip” price. By choosing an alternative to car ownership, you may both save money and reduce your environmental impact.


1 Shoup, D. (2005). The High Cost of Free Parking.