Finding a car to suit your budget can be tricky. The purchase price is one thing, but what about ongoing running costs? That’s where RAC's 2020 Car Running Costs guide comes in.

Over the course of a year, the amount of money you spend to keep your car on the road can easily run into thousands of dollars, particularly if you’re paying off a car loan. In addition to ongoing running costs, depreciation means the value of your car will be going down reducing its value significantly as the months and years roll by.

Before you buy a car, it’s worth considering just what the total costs of owning and running it will be as it can vary significantly depending on what you choose. To help you uncover the true costs of a car before you buy, RAC’s 2020 Car Running Costs guide provides a breakdown of the monthly and annual costs associated with owning and operating a car in Western Australia.

We assessed 79 popular cars across 12 categories, considering the cost of fuel and servicing, interest on principal and loan repayments, along with the initial purchase price, depreciation, the Compulsory Third Party insurance (CTP) that is part of your car registration and general car insurance premiums.

You can also see how car registration costs are calculated and which cars are cheaper to register by checking our car registration costs breakdown.

Our car running costs calculations are based on a five-year period from new, driving 15,000km per year in private use.

Most fuel-efficient cars

The most fuel-efficient cars were in the electric category. The Hyundai Ioniq Elite EV was the most impressive, costing just $42.12 per month to ‘fuel’, followed by the Hyundai Kona Elite EV at $47.16 per month. The Hyundai Ioniq Elite Plug-in Hybrid wasn’t far behind at $54.41.

Although it didn’t have the lowest fuel cost, the Ioniq Elite Plug-in Hybrid had the cheapest running costs of all the electric cars assessed at $1002.02 per month, which was due partly to its cheaper purchase price and insurance premium.

Outside of the electric and plug-in hybrid car category, the most fuel-efficient car overall was the Suzuki Swift GL Navigator at $89.76 per month. The Suzuki was in the light car category and although it was light on fuel, it’s overall running costs were higher than two other cars in that category.

The most fuel-efficient small car was the Hyundai Ioniq Elite Hybrid at $63.58 per month, and among the non-hybrid small cars, the Hyundai i30 Go was the lightest on fuel costing $90.42 per month.

A hybrid was also first across the line for fuel efficiency in the medium car category, with the Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid coming in at $85.31 per month. It also had the lowest total running costs of all the medium cars at $791.81 per month.

In the popular mid-size SUV category, the best for fuel economy was the Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid at $87.89. The RAV4 had by far the lowest fuel costs across all SUV categories, including among the small SUVs. But it wasn’t the cheapest to run  overall at $1094.84.17 per month.

The biggest fuel guzzler was the Nissan Y62 Patrol Ti, costing $292.50 per month to top up the tank with its required premium 95 octane petrol. The second-most expensive car to fuel was the Toyota Landcruiser Workmate at $205.84, followed by the Kia Carnival people mover at $201.96 per month.

RELATED: Cheapest cars to insure »

Cheapest cars to run by category

The following are the cheapest cars to run when you combine the costs of fuel, tyres and servicing.

Category Make and Model Total running costs (p/month)
Light vehicle Suzuki Baleno GL $538.77.10
Small vehicle Kia Cerato S $657.46
Medium vehicle Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid $791.81
People mover Honda Odyssey VTi $1071.71
Electric vehicle Hyundai Ioniq Elite Plug-in Hybrid $1002.02
Small SUV Hyundai Venue GO $667.06
Medium SUV Mazda CX-5 Maxx $947.84
Large SUV Subaru Outback 2.5i $1057.03
All-terrain SUV Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX $1218.07
2WD Ute Mitsubishi Triton GLX (4X2) $999.21
4WD Ute Mitsubishi Triton GLX 2.4 (4X4) $1072.79

Most economical cars overall

Once we add standing costs, such as insurance, registration and the cost of the Compulsory Third Party insurance (CTP) included your car rego, the list shuffles around a bit.

Depreciation is the biggest single cost of owning a car, despite it being something drivers don’t often consider.

The three cars which lost most in depreciation over a five-year period were the Toyota Landcruiser GX 4.5 which dropped $41,090 in value, the Toyota Landcruiser Workmate which lost $40, 572.80 over the five years, and the Nissan Y62 Patrol Ti with a $39,890 depreciation over the period. These cars lost a lot in dollar terms because they're among the most expensive to buy - the higher the price, the more dollars they have to lose.

In terms of overall affordability, the Suzuki Baleno GL was the cheapest car to own and run at $632.96 per month, although buyers should be aware that it lacks any advanced driver assistance safety features such as autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance.

In the small car category, the front runner for low costs was the Kia Cerato S Hatch ($789.53 per month). Of the mid-size SUVs, the Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.0 led the field at $1068.12 per month, with Subaru Outback 2.5i the cheapest large SUV to own and run at $1197.51 per month.

Cheapest light car - Suzuki Baleno GL

Car running costs 2020 light Suzuki Baleno

The Suzuki Baleno was the cheapest light vehicle to own and run. With an estimated on-road price of $19,816, after five years it’s trade-in value will be approximately $6000. The Baleno’s total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $94.20 per month.

To fuel the Baleno you’ll be paying $100.98 per month. Regular servicing averages out to $30.08 per month and $8.08 for tyres. Principal and interest loan repayments will be $399.62. This brings the total running costs to $538.77 per month.

Adding both standing costs and running costs together, the total cost of keeping the Baleno on the road are $632.96 per month, or $158.24 per week.

But as stated above, potential buyers should be aware that the Baleno does have safety compromises that need to be considered and it doesn't have an ANCAP safety rating.

Runners up:

  • Kia Rio S - $643.44 total per p/month ($160.86 p/week)
  • Suzuki Swift GL - $665.31 p/month ($166.33 p/week)

Cheapest small car - Kia Cerato 2.0 Hatch

Car running costs 2020 small Kia Cerato S

The Kia Cerato 2.0 Hatch was the cheapest small car to own and run. Its estimated on-road price is $23,490 and after five years its trade-in value will be approximately $9100. The Cerato's total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $132.07 per month.

When it comes to running costs, fuel will set you back $138.38 per month, servicing works out to $37.58 per month, tyres are $7.78 per month, and monthly principal and interest loan repayments are $473.71, bringing the total monthly running cost to $657.46.

Overall, the total cost to own and run the Cerato comes in at $789.53 per month, or $197.38 per week.

Runners up:

  • Toyota Corolla Ascent - $797.25 p/month ($199.31 p/week)
  • Hyundai i30 GO - $798.17 p/month ($199.54 p/week)

Cheapest medium car - Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid

Car running costs 2020 medium Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid is the cheapest mid-size car to own and run. Its estimated on-road price is $34,436, and after five years depreciation will bring its value down to $11,200. Overall, its total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) will be $118.91 per month.

Fuel will cost you $85.31 per month, servicing will be $20.67 per month, tyres $10.28, and $675.55 per month for principal and interest  loan repayments, bringing the total running costs to $791.81 per month.

Combining standing costs and running cost, the total costs of the Camry are $910.72per month, or $227.68 per week.

Runners up:

  • Toyota Camry Ascent 2.5 – $939.35 ($234.84 p/week)
  • Skoda Octavia TSI Sport – $1021 ($255.42 p/week)

Cheapest people mover - Honda Odyssey VTi 2.4

Car running costs 2020 People Mover Honda Odyssey

The Honda Odyssey VTi 2.4 is the cheapest people mover to own and run. With an estimated on-road price of $43,484 and a trade-in value after five years of $17,300, its total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $144.63 per month.

You'll be paying $142.12 per month for fuel, $66.25 for servicing per month, $10.28 on tyres and $853.05 in principal and interest loan repayments per month. This brings your total running costs to $1071.71 per month.

Overall, it will cost $1216.34 to own and run the Odyssey per month, or $304.09 per week.

Runner up:

  • Kia Carnival S 3.3 - $1320.89 p/month ($330.22 p/week)

Cheapest plug-in hybrid car - Hyundai Ioniq Elite Plug-in Hybrid

Car running costs 2020 electric Hyundai Ioniq Plug In Hybrid

The cheapest plug-in hybrid car to own and run is the Hyundai Ioniq Elite Plug-in Hybrid. The Ioniq has an estimated on-road price of $47,174 and a trade-in value of $18,200 after five years. The Ioniq’s total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $144.75 per month.

Fuel will set you back $54.41 per month, servicing is a low $25.42 per month, tyres are $7.78 per month and principal and interest loan repayments are $914.41 per month. So, total running costs add up to $1002.02 per month.

Combined standing and running costs are $1116.77 per month, or $279.19 per week.

Runner up:

  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - $1289.18 p/month ($322.29 p/week)

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Cheapest small SUV - Hyundai Venue GO

Car running costs 2020 small SUV Hyundai Venue

The cheapest small SUV to own and run is the Hyundai Venue GO. It has an estimated on-road price of $25,233 and a trade-in value after five years of $8600. Its standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $124.92 per month.

Fuel will cost $134.64 per month, servicing is $29.83 per month, tyres $7.58, and monthly principal and interest loan repayments $495.01.

Together, the total standing costs and running costs come to $791.99 per month, or $198.00 per week.

Runners up:

  • Mazda CX-3 Neo Sport - $820.02 p/month ($205.00 p/week)
  • Kia Seltos 2.0 - $825.48 p/month ($206.37 p/week)

Cheapest medium SUV - Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.0

Car running costs 2020 medium SUV Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.0 is the cheapest medium SUV to own and run. Its estimated on-road price is $40,306 and its trade-in value after five years is $13,900. Its total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $120.29.

You can expect to pay $121.55 for fuel per month, $21.50 per month in servicing, $14.08 per month towards tyres, and principal and interest repayments on a loan will be $790.70 per month, bringing the total running costs to $947.84 per month.

Total standing and running costs per month are $1068.12 or $267.03 per week.

Runners up:

  • Mitsubishi Outlander ES 2.4 - $1,079.31 p/month ($285.41 p/week)
  • Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.5 Hybrid - $1,094.84 p/month ($273.71 p/week)

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Cheapest large SUV - Subaru Outback 2.5i

Car running costs 2020 Large SUV Subaru Outback

The cheapest large SUV to own and run is the Subaru Outback 2.5i. The Outback’s estimated on-road price is $42,067 and its trade-in value after five years is $15,200. Total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $140.47 per month.

Fuel costs are $136.51 per month, servicing costs are high at $81.17 per month, $14.08 for tyres, and monthly principal and interest repayments on a loan are $825.27. This brings the total running costs to $1057.03 per month.

Altogether, you'll be paying $1197.51 to own and run this car per month, or $299.38 per week.

Runners up:

  • Subaru Outback 2.0D - $1237.83 p/month ($309.46 p/week)
  • Kia Sorento Si 2.2 – $1275.31 p/month ($318.83 p/week)

Cheapest all terrain SUV - Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX

Car running costs 2020 All Terrain Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

The cheapest all terrain SUV to own and run is the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX. Its estimated on-road price is $52,940, with a trade-in value of $19,400 after five years. Total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $152.68 per month.

Fuel will set you back $153.90 per month, servicing is $20.70 per month and $17.28 for tyres, plus $1026.19 for monthly principal and interest repayments on a loan. This brings the total running costs to $1218.07 per month.

The total cost of owning and running the Pajero Sport comes to $1370.75 per month, or $342.69 per week.

Runners up:

  • Toyota Fortuner GX 2.8 – $1399.81 p/month ($349.95 p/week)
  • Isuzu MU-X LS-M - $1486.16 p/month ($371.54 p/week)

Cheapest 2WD ute - Mitsubishi Triton GLX

Car running costs 2020 2WD ute Mitsubishi Triton

The cheapest 2WD ute to own and run is the Mitsubishi Triton GLX. This ute's estimated on-road price is $41,208 and its trade-in value after five years is $13,100. Total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $141.63 per month.

Fuel costs are $161.60 per month, servicing is $15.70 per month, tyres $13.50 and principal and interest loan repayments $808.41 per month. This brings the total monthly running costs to $999.21.

Overall, to own and run this ute you'll be paying $1140.84 per month, or $285.21 per week.

Runners up:

  • Isuzu D-Max SX Hi-Ride - $1207.48 p/month ($301.87 p/week)
  • Ford Ranger XL 2.2 Hi-Rider - $1238.79 p/month ($309.70 p/week)

Cheapest 4WD ute - Mitsubishi Triton GLX 2.4

Car running costs 2020 4wd Ute Mitsubishi Triton

The cheapest 4WD ute to own and run is the Mitsubishi Triton GLX 2.4. Its estimated on-road price is $45,045 and its trade-in value after five years is $13,600.  Total standing (registration, insurance and CTP) costs come to $146.86 per month.

Expect to pay $165.44 in fuel per month, $20.70 in servicing per month, $13.50 for tyres and monthly principal and interest payments on a loan of $873.14. This bringing your total running costs to $1072.79 per month.

Combined standing costs and running costs come to $1219.64 per month, or $304.91 per week.

Runners up:

  • Isuzu D-Max SX 3.0 - $1381.80 p/month ($345.45 p/week)
  • Volkswagen Amarok TD1420 - $1433.78 p/month ($358.19 p/week)

Download the complete breakdown of Western Australia's cheapest cars to own and run. 

Car Running Costs Guide 2020 (PDF 64KB)