The Most and Least Expensive States to Own a Car

Here’s where the costs for car owners, outside of a car payment, are adding up

Row of automobiles

(Image: File)

When preparing to purchase a new or even a used vehicle, many consumers spend weeks researching the best value.

The decision to buy a car depends on several factors including your driving needs, lifestyle, cash on hand, and credit history. Other key decisions are how you plan on financing the purchase of a car. Then there’s the cost or sticker price. Once you buy the car, there’s also the cost of owning it.

A down payment is only the first of many costs associated with car ownership, in addition to insurance, maintenance, and other expenses.

A new study finds it costs an average of $11,227 to buy and own a car for three years—and this amount varies by thousands of dollar from state to state. Michigan, California, and the District of Columbia are the most expensive places to own a car while New Hampshire, Missouri, and North Carolina are the cheapest.

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Michigan resident are paying more than $2,400 more a year to own a car than New Hampshire residents, according to the latest study conducted by leading personal finance website GOBankingRates.com. The study considered the costs of the following six key factors affecting the expenses of owning a vehicle in all 50 states and the District of Columbia:

The study also revealed that New Hampshire, Oregon, Alaska, and Montana are the only states that don’t levy sales tax on vehicle purchases.

Missouri’s average gas price of $1.59 per gallon is the lowest in the nation. Western states claim the highest gas prices in the country: Hawaii, California, Alaska, Nevada, and Washington.

Outside of the sticker price of purchasing or financing a new set of wheels, GOBankingRates.com evaluated the following expenses to generate a national ranking: Car sales tax, title fees, registration fees, average annual car insurance premiums, annual gas expenses, average car maintenance, and repair costs.

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“The common costs of owning a car outside of the car payment quickly add up—our survey found that the average costs of owning a car for three years is $11,227,” said Elyssa Kirkham, lead reporter on the study for GOBankingRates. “Typically, car owners should keep their costs low—around 15% of their income for the car payment, insurance, gas, and so on—which is trickier in states with higher car costs.”

Top 10 most expensive states for car owners

Rank State               Total Cost for 3 Years of Ownership

  1. Michigan                    $15,314.53
  2. California                  $14,451.56
  3. DC                                 $13,561.06
  4. New Jersey                $13,484.11
  5. Florida                       $13,210.64
  6. Maryland                  $12.925.76
  7. Rhode Island          $12,895.61
  8. Montana                   $12,763.74
  9. Nevada                      $12,695.68
  10. Washington            $12,612.92   

Top 10 least expensive states for car owners

Rank State               Total Cost for 3 Years of Ownership

  1. New Mexico             $9,923.26
  2. Maine                         $9,866.27
  3. Alaska                        $9,813.85
  4. Oregon                       $9,696.00     
  5. Virginia                     $9,602.97
  6. Ohio                            $9,595.07
  7. Wisconsin                $9,570.90
  8. North Carolina      $9,447.94
  9. Missouri                   $9,280.24
  10. New Hampshire    $8,098.00