Top 5 Most Expensive States to Own a Car: Cost Analysis for 2024 Drivers

Where does owning a car cost the most? We’ve done the homework to rank the most expensive states to own a car in 2024, pinpointing the major expenses that drive up costs, such as insurance, sales tax, and fuel expenses. Get ready to learn which states could impact your car budget the most in our list of the “most expensive states to own a car.”

Key Takeaways

  • Car ownership costs vary significantly by state, with California, Nevada, Florida, New York, and Washington being the most expensive due to high costs of insurance, fuel, sales tax, and vehicle depreciation.
  • Factors such as location, crime rates, population density, age, and gender influence car insurance premiums, and state-specific factors like sales tax and dealer fees can add considerable expenses to the car’s purchase price.
  • Considerations for reducing overall car ownership costs include strategies to save on fuel, minimize vehicle depreciation, understand maintenance costs across different states, and utilize resources like Kelley Blue Book for informed financial planning.

The Heavyweights of Car Ownership Costs: States That Top the Charts

When it comes to car ownership, the numbers don’t lie. Certain states consistently rank as the most expensive, with towering costs that can send any budget spiraling. Factors such as:

  • insurance premiums
  • sales tax
  • fuel costs
  • maintenance expenses

Understanding Car Insurance Rates Across States

While the initial price tag of a car may seem daunting, insurance premiums can often be the silent thief in the budget of car ownership. Grasping how variables such as:

  • location
  • crime rates
  • demographics
  • driving history

Understanding the factors that impact insurance premiums is vital for drivers aiming to manage their costs effectively, especially when comparing car insurance companies.

From high crime rates leading to increased premiums to urban population density contributing to higher auto insurance rates, insurance companies consider a myriad of location-specific factors when calculating insurance premiums.

The Impact of Location on Premiums

The place you call home plays a pivotal role in determining your car insurance premiums. A location with a high crime rate can lead to increased insurance premiums due to a greater likelihood of theft and vandalism. Similarly, densely populated urban areas may result in higher insurance premiums due to the increased risk of collisions and accidents.

However, it’s not all bad news. Living in areas with low crime rates or close proximity to emergency services might entitle you to location-based discounts, which can significantly lower your insurance costs.

Demographic Details: Age and Gender

Your demographic details, specifically your age and gender, also play a role in your insurance premium. Young drivers, due to their lack of experience and higher accident rates, typically face higher insurance premiums. However, as drivers age and gain experience, the cost of car insurance tends to decrease significantly by the age of 25.

Gender also influences insurance costs, with males often paying higher premiums than females, especially at younger ages, due to statistical differences in driving behavior and accident rates. This gender disparity in auto insurance premiums becomes less pronounced as individuals approach 25 years old, after which men and women are roughly on equal footing in terms of premiums.

Sales Tax and How It Affects Your Car Purchase

In the process of buying a car, the sales tax plays a substantial role, considerably impacting the final price. While the focus often lies on the sticker price, the added sales tax can tip the scales when deciding between similar options. From states like Montana with a 0% montana sales tax policy to states with reasonable car prices and lower sales taxes like Wisconsin sales tax, the presence of sales tax across states significantly affects cost savings in car ownership, especially in states where sales tax is a major contributing factor, such as the Alaska sales tax, the New Mexico sales tax, the North Carolina sales tax, and the Oregon sales tax.

Comparing State Sales Tax Rates

Sales tax on vehicle purchases, including Virginia sales tax, can vary dramatically across the United States. While some states offer a more lenient tax policy, others impose a hefty sales tax that can add thousands of dollars to the car’s initial price.

Before proceeding with a purchase, prospective car buyers must gain a thorough understanding of these rates.

The Role of Dealer Fees

Beyond sales tax, dealer fees also play a significant role in the total cost of purchasing a car. Every state imposes a documentation fee (doc fee) on car purchases, which varies widely. Some states, like California and New York, cap dealer documentation fees, offering some protection to buyers. However, in states like Florida that do not have a cap on dealership documentation fees, the cost to the buyer can potentially be much higher.

Beyond the documentation fee, dealerships may also include additional fees, such as title and registration, encompassing them in the total cost presented to the car buyer.

States with the Highest and Lowest Dealer Fees

Dealer fees, also known as documentation fees or “doc fees,” are additional charges that dealerships apply to the final cost of purchasing a vehicle. These fees can vary significantly from state to state and can have a substantial impact on the overall price of a car. Here we list the five states with the most expensive dealer fees and the five states with the least expensive dealer fees, providing a clearer picture of how these costs can affect your car purchase.

States with the Most Expensive Average Dealer Fees

  1. Florida – $999
  2. Virginia – $799
  3. Colorado – $699
  4. North Carolina – $699
  5. New Jersey – $695

States with the Least Expensive Average Dealer Fees

  1. California – $85
  2. Minnesota – $125
  3. Arkansas – $129
  4. Oregon – $150
  5. Texas – $150

Fueling the Cost: Gas Prices and Car Ownership

Gas prices constitute a significant chunk of the average annual cost of car ownership, particularly in states like Colorado where it is deemed the most significant factor. There’s a significant variation in gas prices across states, primarily influenced by the state gas taxes.

The type and size of a vehicle also impact its fuel efficiency, with sedans generally having better gas mileage compared to larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs.

Strategies to Save Money on Fuel

Identifying strategies to economize on fuel can considerably cut down the costs of car ownership. Utilizing smartphone apps like GasBuddy or AAA can help drivers find the most affordable fuel prices, particularly during travel. Additionally, you can earn rewards thanks to many gas station’s incentive programs.

Moreover, by combining errands into fewer car trips, drivers can conserve fuel and decrease total fuel expenditure.

When Cars Lose Value: Depreciation and Resale Concerns

Like most assets, cars depreciate, losing their value over time. This depreciation significantly impacts the total cost of car ownership. During the first year, cars usually lose 15% to 20% of their value due to depreciation. This rapid decrease in value is common for new cars. New vehicles experience a depreciation of approximately 60% within the first five years.

Manufacturer warranties typically last for three years or 36,000 miles, which can influence depreciation rates.

Mitigating Depreciation

Although depreciation is inevitable for car owners, implementing certain strategies can lessen its impact. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Choose a car known for its high resale value
  • Purchase a used car to avoid the steepest depreciation curve of new vehicles
  • Regularly maintain and keep the vehicle in good condition
  • Keep mileage low, as lower mileage vehicles tend to depreciate at a slower rate compared to those with high mileage
  • Parking the car in a garage or covered area to protect it from weather-related damage
  • Keeping the original parts when making modifications
  • Selling the vehicle privately instead of trading it in, which could result in a higher sale price

Following these tips can help reduce the overall depreciation cost of your car.

Keeping Up with Maintenance: Repair Costs Across States

Regular vehicle upkeep, a significant aspect of total car ownership costs, can vary considerably by state. Annual car repair costs show considerable variation across states, attributed to factors including labor rates, the cost of parts, and the prevalence of certain types of vehicles within each state. Given these discrepancies, drivers need to account for state-specific maintenance costs when estimating the total cost of owning a car.

Finding a Better Rate for Repairs

Car owners can utilize technology to secure the most economical repair rates by comparing online quotes or using purpose-built mobile apps. Warranties can offset the cost of repairs, and choosing local repair shops over dealerships can often lead to more affordable service rates. Car repair costs are influenced by variables such as the type of repair, cost of parts, and labor involved.

Regular car maintenance can help detect and address issues early on, potentially avoiding more costly repairs down the road.

The True Cost of Owning a Car: Beyond the Sticker Price

Calculating the total cost of owning a car ensures that buyers fully understand their auto budget. It’s vital to consider all costs beyond the purchase price, encompassing:

  • Monthly payments
  • Insurance
  • Gas
  • Maintenance
  • Any other additional fees

The average cost of owning a car can amount to $10,728 annually or $894 monthly, varying with the vehicle type.

Regrettably, first-time car buyers frequently fail to foresee the full spectrum of costs associated with car ownership, resulting in budgeting difficulties.


Navigating the world of car ownership costs can be complex, with factors ranging from insurance premiums and sales tax to gas prices and maintenance expenses. Yet, understanding these costs is key to making informed decisions and maintaining a stable budget. Whether it’s the Golden State’s costly commute or Nevada’s pricey proposition, it’s clear that location plays a significant role in these expenses. The path may be full of twists and turns, but with the right knowledge and resources, you can steer clear of financial roadblocks and enjoy the ride.

Frequently Asked Questions

What factors contribute to high car ownership costs?

High car ownership costs are influenced by factors such as insurance premiums, sales tax, fuel expenses, and maintenance costs. These factors can significantly add to the overall cost of owning a car.

How does location affect car insurance premiums?

Location can affect car insurance premiums significantly due to factors like crime rates, urban population density, and the number of uninsured drivers in the area.

What role does sales tax play in the cost of a car?

Sales tax significantly affects the final cost of purchasing a new or used car, as it varies by state.

How can I save money on fuel costs?

To save money on fuel costs, find the most affordable fuel prices, use cash-back credit cards at gas stations, and combine errands to conserve fuel. This can help you reduce your overall fuel expenses.

How can I mitigate the impact of depreciation on the total cost of car ownership?

To mitigate the impact of depreciation on the total cost of car ownership, choose a car with high resale value, consider purchasing a used car, maintain the vehicle regularly, and preserve its value.

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