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AAA study finds small sedans, like the Ford Focus, are more in demand and holding their value longer.

It’s official: Your driving costs are going up.The average cost of owning and operating a sedan in the USA rose 4.8% this year to 56.6 cents per mile, or $8,487 per year, a study out today by auto club AAA finds.

 

Rising gas prices are primarily responsible for the increased costs and also are lowering the resale or trade-in value of cars that don’t get good gas mileage, says John Nielsen, director of AAA’s approved auto repair and auto buying network.

The 2010 edition of AAA’s annual “Your Driving Costs” study found that small sedans are the most sought-after vehicles. “That’s where the market is moving,” Nielsen says. “It looks like this year people are very much preferring smaller cars.”

Small sedans — including the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla — were the only category of vehicles that held their value longer than in the 2009 study.

When this year’s survey was compiled in December, the national average cost of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.60 per gallon, 12.7% higher than last year. On Wednesday, the national average was $2.84.

The auto club analyzes ownership costs, including insurance, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges, and operational costs, including fuel, maintenance and tires. It did not factor in the vehicle purchase price.



SUVs — including the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner — had the greatest yearly loss on resale or trade-in value. Depreciation rose 10.7%, to $5,003 a year, based on driving 15,000 miles annually. Large sedans, including Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon, had a depreciation jump of 6.1% to $4,828 annually.

“So many people think of the purchase price of a vehicle as the greatest factor to consider,” Nielsen says. “But your biggest costs are depreciation, fuel, things like tires, insurance repair and maintenance.”

AAA found the average cost of full-coverage insurance on sedans rose 5.7% over last year. It based the average on a full-coverage policy for a married, 47-year-old male with a good driving record, living in a small city and commuting 3 to 10 miles daily.

The policy includes $100,000 maximum coverage for a single injury or death and $300,000 maximum coverage for any incident, with a $500 deductible for collision and a $100 deductible for comprehensive coverage.

Tire costs went up 8.7%. That analysis is based on the price of one set of replacement tires the same as the originals and includes mounting, balancing and sales tax.

Via USA Today