When it comes to buying a car, most of us fixate on one aspect: the list price. Sure, we might throw a few thoughts towards how much the car we’re considering will cost to run, but overwhelmingly we focus on the upfront price. After all, that’s the biggest single chunk of money we’re going to need to finance.

As the running costs don’t come upfront, but aren’t accrued over time, it’s easy to forget about them. However, all cars are not made equal; some will cost relatively little to run, while others are incredibly expensive. If you’re going to factor in the full cost of keeping a car on the road, so you’re making a purchase with all the knowledge you need behind you, then you need to focus on these six areas:

1) Miles Per Gallon (MPG)

MpG is a simple metric to help you figure out how much your car will cost to fuel, but keep in mind it’s only an estimate — and usually a “best case scenario” estimate, at that. Most cars will perform well below their advertised MpG, so while you should note the number, don’t set too much store by it.

2) Projected Repair Costs

As a general rule, the more complicated your car, the higher you can expect to pay for auto repair services. The gadgets, gizmos, and tech that makes a car so appealing to you might also be its downfall in terms of price. The more moving parts and electrical components there are, the more there is to go wrong. If you want to keep repair costs low, then choose a car that is rather simple on a basic level; you can always upgrade areas when your finances allow for it.

3) Warranties

A warranty should not be underestimated; it ensures you’re covered for repair costs should something go wrong due to manufacturer fault. You might have problems proving the problem is a manufacturer fault, however, so always take any promises of warranty benefits with a pinch of salt.

4) Insurance Costs

Insurance cost is based on a number of different factors, so don’t assume insurance will be cheap — always run a few comparison quotes to ensure the amount you’ll be expected to pay is well within your budget.

5) Weight

The weight of a car determines how much fuel it uses, so the lighter the better. This is particularly important if you predominantly drive in cities, involving a lot of stopping and starting. Stopping and starting plays havoc with fuel consumption, making a low car weight all the more important for city drivers.

6) Fuel Type

As a general rule, you will go further for less with a diesel car compared to a petrol. If you really want to save money on fuel, however, electric is the way to go. This might limit your choice of vehicles, but your wallet will thank you over the next few years.

Adding all of these factors to your car-buying decision making process will stand you in good stead in the long run — and ensure you can keep your car on the road without emptying your pockets to do so.

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Emily Muelford

Emily is a British writer whose love of car culture is augmented by a fascination with both the European and American automotive markets. Her perspective is uniquely fish and chips.

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