What It Really Costs to Drive This Year

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you thought the price of health care is high, wait until you see how much it costs to drive your car or truck this year -- not the sticker price you paid to get behind the wheel, but the "driver costs" of maintenance, gas prices, insurance, deprecation and even what you pay for not having properly inflated tires.

"Many factors go into the cost calculation of owning and operating a vehicle," notes John Nielsen, AAA director of automotive engineering and repair. "This year, changes in maintenance, fuel and insurance costs resulted in the increase to just over 60 cents a mile."

AAA estimates that the annual cost of driving your car rose 1.96% from last year. In dollar terms, the average price of owning a car rose by 1.17 cents, to 60.8 cents per mile. The total amount of owning a car in the U.S. according to AAA is $9,122 annually, up from $8,900.

The AAA figures, which are based on 15,000 miles of driving each year, vary by the size of your vehicle.

For example, the annual average cost per mile of driving a small sedan is 46.4 cents, compared with 61 cents for a medium sedan and 75 cents for a large sedan. SUVs are more costly, at 77 cents per mile, while minivan drivers pay 65 cents per mile.

Here's how that breaks down, based on the type of vehicle you drive:

Small sedan: $6,967
Medium sedan: $9,151
Minivan: $9,795
Large sedan: $11,248
SUV or 4WD: $11,599

The most painful hit to the pocketbook for drivers comes from below the hood. Maintenance costs rose by 11.2%, or 4.97% for the average U.S. driver.

AAA attributes that to a hike in the cost of labor and parts and a "major" increase in extended warranty prices, thanks mostly to unusually high losses by auto insurance underwriters in the past year.

The average cost of insuring your vehicle rose $28, to $1,029, for the average sedan driver, and that's a driver considered by insurers to be "low risk, with a clean driving record."

Gas prices have risen -- that's no shock to everyday drivers -- by 14.45 cents per mile, but again it's the size of your vehicle that counts: If you're driving a smaller vehicle, the real rise at pumps to $3.48 per gallon from $3.35 won't affect you as much as if you drove an SUV, minivan or truck.

One factor affecting the annual cost of driving your car might be under the radar, but it's a big drain on the budget nonetheless: AAA says that depreciation costs, while rising less than 1%, are at $3,571 per year. AAA says that may be due to more used cars on the open market, which hurts the resale value of all cars in the U.S.

So the next time you're stuck in traffic, try not to think that every second the "cost-per-driving" meter is ticking ever upward. Other than leaving your vehicle in the garage or selling it altogether, there's not too much you can do about it.