[my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

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surfstar
Posts: 1884
Joined: Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:17 pm
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

[my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by surfstar » Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:05 pm

(If too long, see summary below)

Back on March 6th of 2016, at the age of 35, I purchased my first ever truly new vehicle: a 2016 VW Golf Sportwagen. It had 11 miles on it when I test drove it - with shipping packaging/stickers still - I was likely the first customer to ever drive it. Prior to this purchase, my "newest" vehicle was a 2005 Saturn Vue, purchased in 2012 with ~80k miles on it for $7200 - that was low for me! Under 100k - dang, that felt like a new car then.

Going back to post-dieselgate VW, Winter 2015... I found myself reading up on the new Golf VII models and how well they drove, got rave reviews, etc. Hmm... how much does a wagon cost... Oh wow, with VWs troubles, you can get some really good deals - I continued to research (had read bad things of VW reliability in the past) and kept looking for deals. Test drove one locally, a 2015 for a good price, but really wanted the 2016 for cloth seats (the "vtex" pleather was too warm in summer, and a larger infotainment screen with backup camera and Android Auto - which was like getting navigation for free).
Preferred the Silk Blue, with the dark grey/black interior and a 5 speed stick - the "base" model. The stick shift seemed to get the best mileage based on reports I'd read, plus it had the lowest MSRP - win, win. The lowly S model was very loaded coming from all my years of used cars. Great safety rating, all the conveniences I could want, drove sporty, yet quiet and felt well put together and was a step above in terms of quality, fit and finish for anything else you could buy new at the price I paid.

Negotiated on 1 of 2 Silk Blue, 5MT, black interior that existed in California at the time. Drove 4.5 hours (each way) to buy it, was about to walk out over $700 price difference, when the finance manager met the price we wanted. Was $18,5xx I believe. I just paid off my Penfed loan today, after 40 months, so I know that I spent $20,896.02 all in: purchase price, interest payments, tax, title and license fees (not cheap in CA). Still not bad as the MSRP was $22,445, + destination.

I decided to fully track expenses on this, instead of just gas and MPG like I had with previous cars. Prior to purchase I had estimated that a TCO over 11 years would be about $44k. We shall see if I keep it that long (not likely), but at least how it is lining up. One eye opening item (for me at least) was seeing just how much insurance and registration adds up, over time. We've used Geico for years and they were always the best price when I shopped around, and without owning expensive cars and having great driving records, our premiums were never high, but they still add up.

So here's my expenses to date, after 40 months of ownership and 54k miles:

Purchase: $20,896.02
Fuel: $4,248.62
Routine Maint: $662.16
Repairs: $0
"Warm & Fuzzy": $548.50
Insurance: $2441 (paid through 11/2019)
Registration: $730
Est. KBB pvt party: ($11,000)

Net Cost: $18,526.30 or $463.16/month or $0.3431 per mile


*I get awesome MPG - 38.60 average so far. Part of that comes from my "warm and fuzzy" purchases (things that include roof racks, coil spring helper bags for heavy loads, etc - "want" items), which included OEM underbody aero panels that come on some Euro VW and/or Hybrid models for better efficiency. They should have paid for themselves by now with hwy MPG savings. Of course I leave the racks off except when needed - I'm all for efficiency.
*CA gas - I have averaged $3.03 per gallon, 87, with this car
*I DIY my maintenance. Details of that $662.16 include: $80 for oil extractor, $25 oil change/tire rotations, $25 spent on purchasing wax, $14 for Philips xtravision headlights, $10 cabin filter, $280 for new tires + installation (@ 46k mi), $5 keyfob battery, $42 on spark plugs...

Other misc. notes: it felt weird to sell my Vue - it was a perfectly functioning car, why would I get rid of it? I spent more time detailing it and posting photos, than it was listed on CL for. Asked $2800, got $2500 within 3 hours of listing. Great timing and the kid who ended up with it got a solid, reliable car (also a 5sp stick) with ~145k when sold.
I ran many purchase scenarios, and determined that a well-bought new car, wouldn't cost that much more than buying and selling used cars, over the long term. We get to drive around in a newer, featured, and most importantly, safer vehicle, without much increase in cost. Of course we have low expectations as you can see by my "expensive" new car purchase price :D

This wagon holds as much stuff (for camping/climbing/surfing) as my old Saturn Vue, yet returns 10 MPG better, is fun to drive, quieter and safer.
I hope to continue to own it to 100k or 150k miles, if no major issues come up. A new Outback would likely replace it, based on cars available at this time. (we could use a little more room for gear and ground clearance on occasion for our trips - and would love the standard safety feature upgrade)

Just wanted to share my experience - if you made it this far, thanks for reading! :mrgreen: :sharebeer
Last edited by surfstar on Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

abonder
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Re: [my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by abonder » Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:33 pm

Thanks for the thorough breakdown of your experience. I agree that a well-bought new car CAN be competitive with a used car. I think you can still do better from a cost perspective with a well-bought used model, but it requires research and planning (and choosing a car with a depreciation curve that favors the used car buyer).

I think your idea of going the VW route after the scandal plus choosing an unpopular style (wagons are amazing but get no love in our SUV-crazed society) helped you get more bang for your buck. Plus you went manual transmission and do most of your maintenance. I own a 2011 Jetta Sportwagen and really like the vehicle although it has had more mechanical issues than our same-age Mazda. Still, it has a wonderfully solid feeling and I love the utility of a wagon. The maintenance is pricey but I have an independent mechanic I trust and I usually buy my own parts/oil so I can get VW spec stuff but get the best price. Time will tell how it holds up as we are only 8 years in so far.

Chip
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Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:57 am

Re: [my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by Chip » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:45 pm

Thanks for the info -- nice amount of detail.

Here are a couple of previous threads on the same topic, though few posts with your level of detail:
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=247492
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=214666

My experience with a '98 Camry, driven 243k miles over 15.3 years, with most of the maintenance done by me:

$227/month, 17.1 cents/mile

Details are in the second thread referenced. I doubt if I will ever have car expenses that low again.

Topic Author
surfstar
Posts: 1884
Joined: Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:17 pm
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Re: [my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by surfstar » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:16 pm

Chip, I remember those threads - thanks for bringing them back up.
I never did have the data to properly analyze, but my 2nd car was likely very low TCO - 1993 Mazda MX6 owned from 82k to 345k miles, over ~11 years.

I did a rough guesstimate for my Saturn Vue TCO, and came up with ~ $337/mo or $0.25 per mile.

So that means my VW is roughly $1500/yr more to own. That sounds pretty spot on, and seems like a good trade-off for a vehicle that starts out as brand new and goes to 3-4 years old, vs one that started off 7 years old and went to 11 years old. Also, my cost per month/mile should drop, the longer I own the VW...

Other funny items that stand out - if your purchase price is only $20k - your total cost of fuel can easily surpass 50% of that cost, depending on MPG.
Low purchase price, plus high MPG are major drivers of TCO (assuming similar insurance, and maintenance)

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4nursebee
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Re: [my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by 4nursebee » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:20 pm

I think you chose a great time to buy a VW!
4nursebee

crossbow
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Re: [my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by crossbow » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:35 pm

What kind of insurance coverage do you have? Do you decrease coverage as the vehicle gets older/less value?

If you keep level of coverage the same, do your premiums decrease as the value of your vehicle decreases?

Topic Author
surfstar
Posts: 1884
Joined: Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:17 pm
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Re: [my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by surfstar » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:52 pm

crossbow wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:35 pm
What kind of insurance coverage do you have? Do you decrease coverage as the vehicle gets older/less value?

If you keep level of coverage the same, do your premiums decrease as the value of your vehicle decreases?
Pretty standard coverage, I'd say - middle of the road (without pulling the specific numbers). I leave the coverage the same, unless the vehicle is worth little, like under $5k.
The premiums do slowly decrease over time, not as fast or as much as I'd want, though!


Another funny side note after seeing my real numbers... leasing - something I've always been against... if I could lease a similar vehicle for $300 per month, figure $100/month to cover insurance, reg, etc, another $100 for gas and maintenance, its not that far off my 40 month TCO amount. Again, I expect my figures to drop as I own the car for more and more years, but over ~3 years, a lease would be comparable to buying (for some people). Its the fact that I drive 16k + miles per year and plan to own the car 5-7+ years, where ownership starts to definitively pull away in terms of lower expenses.

stoptothink
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Re: [my] real world vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership)

Post by stoptothink » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:53 pm

Very similar experience, except we gave our perfectly running '09 Hyundai accent to my FIL and purchased a 5mt silk blue '17 jetta for <$14k OTD. Never even remotely considered a VW before due to the reliability reputation. We've averaged way over EPA estimates mpg wise (low to mid 50's on the fwy) and have had zero issues in 3yrs and 31k miles of ownership. Also, it's amazing how much stuff we can fit in this "compact" car; we've done multiple 7+ day camping trips with our 4 person family. The sportwagen was definitely on the short list for our next vehicle (probably not for another 5yrs), but it sounds like it is going to be discontinued and only the all-track being kept (I have no interest in paying in extra $5k for an efficiency-killing lift and some body cladding).

If they made a GTI sportwagen (I'm not paying the premium for the A3 wagon), I'd probably be at the dealership right now.

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