Scott Shenk writes about transportation issues affecting Fredericksburg-area residents. You can email him at

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Driving is more expensive and not just because of rising gas prices

There is some good news and some bad news in AAA Mid-Atlantic’s news today that it cost us more this year to drive than a year ago at this time.

The good news: several vehicles tested had better fuel economy this year and maintenance and insurance costs fell. Some of the reduced maintenance cost, however, is actually included in the price of some cars as automakers include such things as oil changes in the purchase price of a car. Insurance costs are down for those who have good driving habits and are low risks. For them, insurance costs for sedans dropped 6.1 percent ($63) to $968 annually.

That’s about it for the good news.

Before the bad news, here’s a little background on the AAA study. The automotive membership organization has published Your Driving Costs since 1950, when gas was 27 cents a gallon, according to spokeswoman Martha M. Meade. The current study began in Dec. 2010 when the average price of gas was $2.88 a gallon. Current local prices look to be hovering between $3.53 and $3.59 per gallon for regular this week (not counting the gas stations near the Interstate 95 exits).

Now for the bad news. According to the study, the average sedan driver is spending 3.4 percent more this year to own and operate their vehicle. Based on driving 15,000 miles,  the average cost for sedan drivers is 58.5 cents per mile, up 1.9 cents per mile from last year, for a total of $8,776 annually, according to AAA statistics.

Why the increase?

The cost of gas is the most obvious culprit, which offset any gains in fuel economy: rising gas prices were up 12.34 cents per mile compared with last year, according to the study.

Tires also are more expensive. The cost of tires increased almost 16 percent for sedan owners. The “rise in raw materials, energy and transportation has led to notable tire price increases in recent years and 2011 is no exception,” Meade writes in the AAA release.

One more knock against car owners is depreciation, which actually is the most costly of all factors, according to AAA. The study “found a 4.9 percent increase in depreciation costs, averaging $3,728 yearly for sedans driving 15,000 miles annually.”

Click here to see the AAA study.

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