One of the big perks of folks living in the very urban cities is the lack of needing a car. This is sadly just not possible in Southern California. Some people do it, but I think they’re crazy. Public transit here takes forever and is not by any means frequent. Some people think that a long time ago, General Motors actually paid the city of LA to remove all of the street cars.

Unfortunately I don’t have any historical data that’s easily accessible for my auto insurance costs or my gas costs, but I do have everything else!

If you’re one of those uber mechanical dudes who can DIY your car maintenance…you are a rock star and I salute you. I am not remotely mechanical. My cost to own my vehicle includes taking my car to the “Stealership” every time the Honda maintenance minder light turns on. I have been able to save some money on tire rotations at the dealer because when I had a nail in my tire that was not salvagable, that included free tire rotations at the tire shop. Sometimes I have just elected to have the dealer do the tire rotations so that I don’t have to go sit and wait somewhere else. (they only take $20 off if you skip the tire rotation). I actually had asked the tech at Just Tires who was changing my tires if I would save any money using a place like Just Tires on my oil changes. He told me to keep taking it to Honda, that my car will last longer. That’s what he does with his Honda. I appreciated his honesty.



Last year, I entered all my maintenance costs into a spreadsheet, but for this, I had to dust off an old plastic bin and go digging for my purchase contract!


I purchased a brand new 2011 Honda Civic LX in December 2010 for $15,710.  I haggled with internet departments at multiple dealers via e-mail and the guy actually had to call me while I was on my way over to say that he couldn’t give me the price he originally quoted (a couple hundred dollars less). Looking at the purchase contract, I got hosed on a lot of the add-on’s that I probably didn’t need, but now I know better. I still know that I haggled those dudes down on every line item and by the end of it, my dad told me that I should go with him next time he buys a car.

Me:”You know, I don’t think I really need this”
Finance guy: “but you already negotiated that price with the sales guy.”
Me: “Yeah, but I’m still not sure that I really need it?”
Finance guy: “Ok. I can knock it down to  _____ ”
Me: “Great!”

Never ever just say yes when some shady auto dealer person is trying to sell you something. Doesn’t matter if it’s a new car or a used car. They always have room to haggle.

Add on’s purchased:

$1,500 – 84 month 100,000 mile warranty…..and the birth of the road trip.
$895 – Xzilon 5 year protection – my previous car needed a paint job due to hood discoloration around five years in. I’m guessing a paint job would have been cheaper than this thing was. But I’ve had this car for almost six years and I haven’t had to paint it yet.
$799 – Security System – self explanatory
$495 – Vehicle Replacement protection. If I’m reading the contract right, If my car gets stolen, and the security system that I also paid $800 for fails to actually protect my car, I’ll receive a cash equal to the value of a replacement (new) car.  Do not buy this! This is pure bogus dealer profit. How did both me and my dad miss this one?
$1579.98 – Required Sales Taxes on the car and the add-on’s.
$302.75 – Misc Required fees for state of California including first year car registration.
$84 – The dealer charged me to file something electronically (registration? purchase?) with the DMV and for “document preparation”. Shame on them.

($6,000) – 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo trade-in

Total cost to leave the lot  was $15365.73. In addition to my trade-in, I put $1,500 on a credit card, most likely to hit some sort of spending bonus, but I don’t have the memory or data to suggest what that was.  They offered me a lot less than $6,000 for my Chevy, but I brought in an appraisal from Carmax with me and they matched it. ALWAYS takes your car to CarMax first when trading in your vehicle. Some dealers will tell you they can’t touch CarMax, and that’s no problem. It made my life simpler that this one was willing to match it. They said “If we can’t sell it, we’ll just take it to CarMax”. Great, now I don’t have to deal with going to CarMax. This is why I think it’s highly advisable to take someone with you if you’re going to buy a new car…you may need someone to drive your old car home for you. Which is exactly what I did when my sister bought her car. Volkswagen of Orange didn’t want to touch CarMax on her ten year old Honda Civic. So she took it to CarMax the next day and I drove her home. Note: My sister absolutely loves driving her new Volkswagen Passat, but financially, I can tell that she regrets it. She believes the Volkswagen scandal has devalued her car by even more than your normal depreciation. If she sold it today, it would not be enough to pay off her auto loan.


My original loan was with American Honda. The financed amount was was just under $13,900, a 5 year loan @ 1.9%. If I had kept the loan for the whole five years, it would have been less than $700 in total interest. But the personal finance gods were once again smiling upon me, because in September 2012, Navy Federal Credit Union had an offer to refinance your auto loan and receive a $400 cash incentive. I’m a member of Navy Federal because my grandfather was a retired Navy Officer. He was never a member of the credit union himself, as he had utilized USAA for his banking, but him having been an active recipient of Navy Pension is exactly what made me eligible under the family member rule. If I waited until after he passed away, he would have been no longer receiving a DoD pension and NFCU membership would have been lost forever for this family. Of course my grandfather did 99.9% of the leg work there, I just had the foresight to lock in the eligibility. Solely because of my unusual personal finance hobby on the internet, my family and extended family can benefit from the perks of this credit union. Today, my sister has an auto loan with Navy Federal.

The interest that Navy Federal would have received had I kept the loan for the whole term? It was indeed less than the $400 that they were giving away. The financed amount with Navy Federal was less than $10,000, a four year loan at  1.79%. I paid off that auto loan when I sold my condo just over a year ago and at that point I just wanted to get rid of the monthly payment. I’m estimating that I spent between $500 and $550 in interest combined between the two lenders, just by eyeballing the interest rates and how long I had the loans, but I don’t have any data to know for sure.

Therefore, I’m estimating my cost to finance at, say $125. Or basically nothing.

Total Cost To Own so far: $15,500


This is the fun bill that comes every September. It’s not due until December, but I just put it on a credit card when it comes so that I don’t forget about. The first year registration was included above. Subsequent years have cost me $205, $190, $183, $170, $159, $148. The nice thing about not upgrading your car is your auto registration renewal costs go down over time. I suspect this is similar in most states, but it’s certainly the trend in California.

Six Years of Registration Renewals: $1055

Total Cost So Far: $16,555


I’ve definitely had some boneheaded car experiences over the years. I had a low end collision with a car in the parking lot. Most expensive Teriyaki Chicken bowl of my life. I also hit the side beam of a carport when backing out once. The former was a $1,000 insurance deductible, the latter was $1365. I also had a $292 speeding ticket on the California highway.

Total Boneheaded costs: $2,657

Total Cost So Far: $19,212


I’m guessing that this will be the most expensive other than the car purchase itself.

2/11 – 5k miles – oil change & tire rotation: $71.55
2/12 – 11k miles – oil change, tire rotation, inspections: $111.48
1/13 – 17k miles – oil change & tire rotation – $61.48
9/13 – 22k miles, oil change, engine filter, cabin filter, front brake pads – $411.44 (I hear the cabin filter is super easy to DIY. I’ve seen the YouTube video, but I haven’t tried it yet)
3/14 – 28k miles – new tires & 3 year alignment package – $529.18
4/14 – 29k miles – oil change – $33.66
7/14 – 36k miles – oil change & tire rotations – $61.52
8/14 – 38k miles – replace left front TPMS sensor- $171.46
9/14 – 40k miles -replace right front TPMS sensor – $186.92
9/14 -42k miles – oil change, tire rotation, air filter & cabin filter – $175.70
9/14 – 42k miles – front brake pads – $239
9/14 -42k miles -leaking left axle seal – warranty replacement – 0
9/14 – 43k miles – grinding noise, warranty replace front wheel bearings – 0
11/14 – 47k miles – tire rotation – 0
1/15 – 50k miles – oil change – $39.95
6/15 – AAA new car battery – $107.98
7/15 – 56k miles – oil change, tire rotation, air filter, cabin filter  – $171.97
10/15 – 59k miles – replace sun visor, warranty replace motor mount – $10
3/16 – 63k miles oil change, tire rotation, brake fluid flush – $164.23
4/16 – Crack in windshield – replacement – $160
9/16 – rock chip in windshield – patch – $45
9/16 – 68k miles – oil change, tire rotation, automatic transmission fluid change – $186.55
9/16 – 68k miles – front brake pads – $211.87

Total Maintenance Costs: $3150.94

Total Costs: $22,362.94

If we use Alyssa’s super smart “dollars per day” formula…I’m roughly a quarter under $11/day on my car, plus insurance and gas, and the longer I keep my car, the more that daily cost will go down, because the major expenses happened a long time ago. But…if I had bought a beater instead? I’m sure the cost per day would be drastically lower.