The Toyota Camry was one of the few hybrid winners in this year's RACQ vehicle ownership survey.
The Toyota Camry was one of the few hybrid winners in this year's RACQ vehicle ownership survey. Paul Bradshaw

RACQ reveals the cheapest cars to own and run

SIZE matters when it comes to motoring savings.

Going small not only saves you on the sticker price and fuel, but the ongoing costs of buying a new car add up to thousands over the first three to five years of ownership.

For the second year in succession, Suzuki's Alto was named the cheapest car to own in the first five years, according to the RACQ's annual running costs survey.

This year's investigation sampled 110 cars and took into consideration fuel consumption, servicing, replacement tyres, loan interest and deprecation.

The V8-petrol powered Nissan Patrol was named the worst offender, just trumping the Toyota LandCruiser GXL diesel and petrol models for the infamous title.

Run an Alto over five years doing about 15,000km annually, and the average cost is $113 a week. The Patrol ST-L on the other hand will set you back $402.

But comparing the two is an unfair assessment, with both serving dramatically different purposes.

Motorists must identify their needs and future wants before making a buying commitment.

And that is one of the key messages from this year's survey which revealed downsizing can mean monumental savings over the long term. For example, getting out of a Toyota Aurion and buying a Mazda3 adds up to more than $3600 in annual savings.

"Just by making one category downshift there is real weekly savings that appear fairly quickly," the RACQ's Steve Spalding said.

"When you consider there is an ongoing ownership cost issue past the sticker price that's when you can literally pay for that decision over the next three to five years.

"Once you have decided on a category of vehicle, you really need to compare models and take into account their full range of operating costs. There is quite a difference between the cheapest and most expensive in a category.

"For vehicles of similar characteristics there are fairly big savings to be made."


RACQ annual vehicle ownership survey.
RACQ annual vehicle ownership survey.

The survey also proved it's still not easy being green. With three electric vehicles on the market, all three have expensive price-tags which ultimately rules out any savings made in running costs.

Most hybrids too proved more expensive to own and operate than petrol variants of the same car, also hampered by the initial extra outlay.

Only the Toyota Camry Hybrid bucked this trend with average weekly running costs of just above $200 - about $13 a week cheaper than its pure-petrol stablemate.

While diesels are recognised as delivering greater fuel efficiency the survey has found this is generally negated due to higher servicing costs and sticker price compared to petrol models.

Another key finding was the improvement of quality, features and safety equipment which is now standard in new cars. Australia is regarded as one of the most competitive new car markets in the world and the consumer is enjoying the spoils.

Suzuki Queensland general manager Adam Le Fevre said since its release in August 2009, the Alto (which topped the survey for the second year in succession) had proven to be an outstanding economiser that draws support from a wide range of buyers.

"Fuel consumption is only one element within the cost of ownership equation," he said.

"Other cost-related issues, such as the initial purchase price, vehicle retained value, the cost and frequency of mechanical servicing, the cost of genuine factory spare parts, insurance premiums, registration costs, borrowed capital to facilitate purchasing, opportunity cost and other factors, are also critically important.

"That's why independent assessments of ownership costs as undertaken by organisations like the RACQ, are so important - they give an accurate and very detailed insight into the real costs of vehicle ownership."

Queenslanders have bought more than 3200 Altos since the release of the current version which was the fourth car in Suzuki's world car program, following on from completely new models of the Swift, SX4 and Grand Vitara.

Key findings

This year's RACQ Vehicle Ownership Costs survey revealed:

  • Buyers who opt out of large cars in favour of a small car can see their bank balance improve by about $3100 per year or nearly $60 per week.
  • Choosing a medium SUV instead of an all-terrain four-wheel model could slash motoring costs by about $94 per week or $24,325.65 over five years from new.
  • All classes running costs have reduced with change largely due to interest rate reductions since last year.
  • In almost all examples in the survey, the diesel variants of essentially comparable models worked out to be more expensive to own and operate.

Click here to see the full survey evaluation. 

Click here to see more from the RACQ. 

The RACQ annual vehicle ownership survey.
The RACQ annual vehicle ownership survey.

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