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How Much Does it Cost to Own a Car in California

    3 minute read

    man emptying his pockets after paying for car insuranceIt is no secret that Californians love their cars, and it is not surprising that they may pay a lot for the privilege to drive them. But how much does it really cost to own a car in California? We have decided to find out.

    How We Calculated The Price

    We have decided to go with a bright, shiny new car, purchased in California, powered by gasoline, and costing the current national average of $30,748. As a result of municipal laws, some of the costs cited here will vary on a city-to-city basis, so we chose to use an average. We also factored in that the typical individual will likely own a new car for ten years.

    Current One-Time Total: $30,748

    Use/Sales Tax

    In many municipalities a car owner will be charged both city and state vehicle use/sales tax. While this can vary widely depending on the town, the state tax rate is currently 7.5% on all purchases, plus an average of .88% for local taxes. For us, this meant a cost of $2,306 plus $270 for state and local taxes, respectively. just to purchase the car, plus an average of .88% for local taxes. This means that you will be paying an average of $270 on top of the cost and sales tax for a new car.


    Current One-Time Total: $30,748 + $2,576 = $33,324 (includes price of car and taxes)

    Registration Fees

    To register your car, you need to pay a $43 registration fee, $200 for a vehicle license fee, $23 for the California Highway Patrol, and a series of smaller fees for highway emergency, DUI deterrence, air quality control, and other services. The smaller fees are usually $1, although air quality control fees can vary by district. What is the good news? Registration is just $29 to renew yearly and is the only fee in this list that needs to be paid more than once.

    Current One-Time Total: $300


    Needless to say, gas prices can shift dramatically, but sticking with the average driving mileage of 13,476 miles per year, with the average 2013 car mileage at 27 miles to the gallon, and the current price of $3.89 per gallon…

    Current One-Time Total: $2,876

    Current Lifetime Total: $19,415

    Repairs and Maintenance

    Over time, all the work your car requires does take a toll: The average American spends $3,269 per year over the lifetime of their car for repairs, oil, and other necessities. Which means the lifetime total is…

    Current One-Time Total: $2,876

    Current Lifetime Total: $52,105


    We are going to assume you have a good driving record, just for the sake of simplicity. Therefore, with an average of $1,714 per year in insurance costs, that means that you will pay, on average…

    Current One-Time Total: $2,876

    Current Lifetime Total: $69,245

    So on a yearly basis, you will be paying $6,924.50 to keep your car in good running condition in California. This brings us to the lifetime total for a new, gas-powered car to $99,993.

    How can you drive the cost of owning a car down?

    Start with calling Auto Insurance Specialists. At AIS, we have spent decades getting Californians on the road for the lowest possible insurance prices. We search high and low for discounts and can provide a list of features that insurers look for in a vehicle that will keep your costs low. Cars are expensive, but there is no reason to pay more than you need to when you have AIS on your side.

    Image credits: Ambro /, David Castillo Domenici /

    This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements. The definitions, terms and coverage’s in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.