Four Hidden Costs of Car Ownership You Need to Know

Guy on Hood of CarYou’ve probably heard that sticker price is only part of the real cost of owning a car. Don’t be surprised by a $1,000 bill for new tires, steeper car insurance or a snagged sunroof! Here’s how to anticipate and avoid four hidden costs of car ownership.

1. Hidden cost of ownership: Car repairs

Your grandfather offers to sell you his 2006 Mercedes-Benz E350 for way less than its Blue Book value. Best grandfather ever, right? A month later, you find out you need a new catalytic converter. The repair cost? $2,300. And no, Gramps won’t write you a birthday check to cover it.

Luxury Cars are More Expensive to Repair

To avoid expensive car repair costs down the line, do some research before you buy a new car. The most expensive cars to repair are, unsurprisingly, luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW. Keep in mind that turbocharged cars and convertibles are more likely to require complicated repairs down the road. On the other hand, a popular car like a Honda Civic or Toyota Camry may be a bargain to repair, especially if you opt for used parts or grab them yourself from a self-service salvage yard.

2. Hidden cost of ownership: Car specialty tires

Buying a new car is exciting. Buying new tires is the opposite of exciting. Most car buyers don’t give the tires a second thought until it’s time to replace them — and that can be a mistake. Tires for luxury cars, SUVs and pickup trucks cost more than those for sedans. The most expensive tires — high-performance sports car tires and off-road trail tires — can sell for close to a grand apiece.

What can you do to save money on this hidden cost of car ownership? Do a quick price check on tires before you buy a new vehicle. When it’s time to replace them, don’t go too cheap. Car experts recommend replacing your tires with the brand and type that was originally on your car: “The original equipment tire was selected to highlight the vehicle’s good features and, often, smooth over weaknesses,” Popular Mechanics explains. And remember that you absolutely can mix new tires with old ones. Just make sure they’re aligned and balanced properly.

3. Hidden cost of car ownership: Premium gas

You find a great deal on the car of your dreams: a used Mini Cooper coupe, sky blue with racing stripes. It’s such a good deal, in fact, that you forget about one of the most common hidden costs of owning a car: the price of gas. A gallon of premium gasoline can cost 40 cents or so more than a gallon of regular. That’s an extra $4 or more every time you fill up.

Want to beat this hidden cost? Don’t be fooled by the hype — “premium recommended” isn’t the same as “premium required.” Examples of premium-recommended cars that can go just fine on regular include the 2016 Audi A3, Ford Escape and Nissan Maxima, according to Edmunds. If you drive a 2016 Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Acura MDX or even a Honda Civic Si, however, you’ll have to spring for premium.

4. Hidden cost of ownership: Car insurance

If you’ve been driving a beater for a while, you’ve probably gotten pretty comfortable with your itty-bitty car insurance bill. And when you upgrade to a new car, you may not realize you’ll have to upgrade your insurance, too. Here again, luxury cars will be among the most expensive cars to insure, but the cost of the car isn’t the only factor. Insurance companies consider not only the size, safety features and repair costs of a vehicle, but the habits of other drivers who own it. In other words, if drivers of the Subaru Outback are less likely than others to submit claims, then insurance rates will go down.

How can you beat this hidden cost? Easy — use to find the best policy. Enter your information just once and get quotes from dozens of top insurance companies.

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