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 2021 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 2021 Car Running Costs guide provides a breakdown of the weekly, monthly and annual costs associated with owning and operating a car in Western Australia.

We assessed more than 80 popular cars across 11 categories, considering the cost of fuel and servicing, 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.

Please note: Some costings have been updated since initial publication in Horizons magazine.

Cheapest cars to fuel

The cheapest cars to fuel – be that liquid fuel or electricity or in hybrids, a combination of both – were in the electric vehicle (EV) category. The Hyundai Ioniq Elite EV was the cheapest, costing a low $42.15 per month to ‘fuel’ - in this case, that means the cost to charge it up with electricity. In this year’s survey the second cheapest to fuel was another Hyundai EV – the Kona Elite with a monthly charging cost of $47.19.

When all ongoing costs of running and owing the car are combined, the MG ZS EV had the cheapest total cost among the EVs and hybrids, at $1,081.08.

Outside of the electric and plug-in hybrid car category, the cheapest car for fuel costs was a non-plug-in hybrid from the small car category, the Hyundai Ioniq at $53.94 per month. Hybrid fuel-saving tech again came to the fore in the medium sized car category, with the Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid being the cheapest medium car to own and run overall.

However, the Camry Hybrid wasn’t the cheapest medium car to fuel – the Honda Accord VTi-LX was much more expensive the purchase, but it was cheaper to fuel at $71.00 per month compared to the Camry at $89.48 per month. In the popular mid-size SUV category, the best for low fuel costs was the popular Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid, costing $77.61 per month for fuel. It was also the cheapest to run overall in its category at $1,081.71 per month.

RELATED: Hybrid SUVs available in Australia 2021 »

Among the small SUVs, the cheapest for fuel was the Toyota Yaris Cross GX Hybrid at $62.75 per month. However, the cheapest for total monthly costs among the small SUVs was the Hyundai Venue, at $783.75, (compared with $852.31 per month to own and run the Yaris).

The biggest fuel guzzler overall, for the second year running, was the Nissan Y62 Patrol Ti costing $274.14 per month in fuel. This pricey petrol use comes not just from the rate at which the Patrol’s 5.6-litre V8 drinks it, but also from the extra cost (about 10-15 cents per litre) of the premium 95 RON petrol it needs. This, as well as the Patrol’s price of $87,031, made it the most expensive car to own and run in this year’s survey, at $2,273.58 per month.

Cheapest cars to own and run by category

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

Category Make and Model Total running costs (p/month)
Light vehicle MG3 Core $514.44
Small vehicle Kia Cerato S $667.20
Medium vehicle Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid $855.77
People mover Honda Odyssey ViL $1,161.86
Electric vehicle MG ZS EV $959.98
Small SUV Hyundai Venue $660.80
Medium SUV Toyota RAV4 GXL $957.28
Large SUV Subaru Outback 2.5 AWD $1,072.48
All-terrain SUV Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX $1,226.07
2WD Ute Mitsubishi Triton GLX (4X2) $1,028.17
4WD Ute Mitsubishi Triton GLX 2.4 (4X4) $1,097.10

Most (and least) economical cars overall

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

Depreciation is the biggest single cost of owning a car, despite it being something drivers don’t often consider – mainly because they don’t notice it until it comes time to sell their car..

The three cars which lost most in depreciation over a five-year period were the Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series Workmate, which dropped by a massive $51,619.22 in value, the Nissan Y62 Patrol Ti which lost $40,430.86 and the Hyundai Kona Elite EV which depreciated by $40,421.50 in value over the calculated period.

These cars lost a lot in dollar terms because they were among the most expensive to buy. Generally, the more you pay to purchase, the more dollars you’ll lose in depreciation over the lifetime of the vehicle.

For overall ownership and running costs, the MG3 Core was the cheapest car in this year’s survey, costing just $16,990 to buy, with an overall average monthly running and ownership cost of $639.02 and an annual cost of $7,668.29.

On the downside, however, the MG3 lacked some important advanced driver assist systems, such as autonomous emergency braking and lane assist systems. It also does not currently have an ANCAP safety rating.

In the small car category, the front runner for low overall ownership and running costs was the Kia Cerato 2.0 Hatch ($795.65 per month). Of the mid-size SUVs, the Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.5 Hybrid led the field at $1,081.71 per month, with the Subaru Outback 2.5 AWD the cheapest large SUV to own and run at $1,213.36 per month.

Cheapest light car - MG3 Core hatch

Blue car driving near beach

The MG3 Core was the cheapest light car to own and run. With an estimated on-road price of $16,990, after five years its trade-in value will be approximately $6,450. The MG3 Core’s total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $124.58 per month.

To fuel the MG, you’ll be paying $127.55 per month. Regular servicing averages out to $35.02 per month and $11.27 for tyres. Principal and interest loan repayments will be $340.61. This brings the total running costs to $514.44 per month.

Adding both standing costs and running costs together, the total cost of owing and keeping the MG3 Core on the road are $639.02 per month, or $147.47 per week.

As stated above, the does Core does lack some important safety systems, such as autonomous emergency braking, plus a further disadvantage is the relatively high fuel cost, with the MG3 Core needing the more expensive premium 95 RON petrol.

Runners up:

  • Kia Picanto S - $649.01 total p/month ($149.77 p/week)
  • Suzuki Baleno GL - $661.17 p/month ($152.58 p/week)

Cheapest small car - Kia Cerato 2.0 Hatch

Small silver car

The Kia Cerato 2.0 Hatch was the cheapest small car to own and run. Its estimated on-road price is $25,490 and after five years, its trade-in value will be approximately $10,500. The Cerato's total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $128.45 per month.

Look at running costs for the Cerato, fuel will set you back $122.19 per month, servicing works out to $38 per month, tyres are $9.93 per month, and monthly principal and interest loan repayments are $497.07, bringing the total monthly running cost to $667.20.

Overall, the total cost to own and run the Cerato will be $795.65 per month, or $183.61 per week.

Runners up:

  • Honda Civic VTi Hatch - $797.76 p/month ($184.10 p/week)
  • Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport - $798.22 p/month ($184.20 p/week)

Cheapest medium car - Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid

Silver car driving in city

The Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid is the cheapest mid-size car to own and run. Its estimated on-road price is $37,517, and after five years depreciation will bring its value down to $14,700. Overall, its total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) will be $118.73 per month.

Fuel will cost you $89.48 per month, servicing will be $22.75 per month, tyres $11.93, and $731.61 per month for principal and interest loan repayments, bringing the total running costs to $855.77 per month.

Combining standing costs and running cost, the total cost of owning and running the Camry are $974.49 per month, or $224.88 per week.

Runners up:

  • Toyota Camry Ascent 2.5 - $975.24 p/month ($225.06 p/week)
  • Skoda Octavia 110 TSI Ambition - $980.16 p/month ($226.19 p/week)

Cheapest people mover - Honda Odyssey ViL7 2.4

Big black car driving near water

The Honda Odyssey ViL 2.4 is the cheapest people mover to own and run. With an estimated on-road price of $49,464 and a trade-in value after five years of $20,100, its total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $149.16 per month.

You'll be paying around $132 per month for fuel, $61.43 for servicing per month, $15.27 on tyres and $953.06 in principal and interest loan repayments per month. This brings your total running costs to $1,161.86 per month.

Overall, it will cost $1,311.02 to own and run the Odyssey per month, or $302.54 per week.

Runner up:

  • Kia Carnival S 3.5 - $1,365.60 p/month ($315.14 p/week)

Cheapest electric car - MG ZS EV

Blue car parked near water

The cheapest electric car to own and run is the MG ZS EV. The MG ZS has an estimated on-road price of $43,990 (though this price has increased since the survey was done to $44,990) and a trade-in value of $17,100 after five years. The MG’s total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $121.10 per month.

Charging costs will be $58.36 per month, servicing is a low $29.18 per month, tyres are $14.60 per month and principal and interest loan repayments are $857.83 per month. So, total running costs add up to $959.98 per month.

Combined standing and running costs are $1,081.80 per month, or $249.48 per week.

Runners up:

  • Hyundai Ioniq Premium Plug-In Hybrid - $1,200.06 p/month ($276.94 p/week)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Elite EV - $1,235.47 p/month ($285.11 p/week)

RELATED: Electric cars available in Australia in 2021 »

Cheapest small SUV - Hyundai Venue

Red car driving near beach

The cheapest small SUV to own and run is the Hyundai Venue. It has an estimated on-road price of $24,960 and a trade-in value after five years of $8,850. Its standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $122.95 per month.

Fuel will cost $118.89 per month, servicing is $30.25 per month, tyres $11.27, and monthly principal and interest loan repayments $500.39.

Together, the total standing costs and running costs come to $783.75 per month, or $180.87 per week.

Runners up:

  • Kia Stonic S 1.4 - $788.62 p/month ($181.99 p/week)
  • Hyundai Kona - $818.76 p/month ($188.94 p/week)

Cheapest medium SUV - Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.5 Hybrid

Car running costs 2020 medium SUV Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.5 Hybrid is the cheapest medium SUV to own and run. Its estimated on-road price is $43,012 and its trade-in value after five years is $17,700. Its total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $124.43.

You can expect to pay $77.61 for fuel per month, $21.92 per month in servicing, $19 per month towards tyres, and principal and interest repayments on a loan will be $838.76 per month, bringing the total running costs to $963.45 per month.

Total standing and running costs per month are $1,081.71 or $249.62 per week.

Runners up:

  • Toyota RAV4 GXL 2.0 - $1,083.98 p/month ($250.15 p/week)
  • Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.5 - $1,132.95 p/month ($261.45 p/week)

Cheapest large SUV - Subaru Outback 2.5 AWD

Blue car driving near water

The cheapest large SUV to own and run is the Subaru Outback 2.5. The Outback’s estimated on-road price is $45,248 and its trade-in value after five years is $18,700. Total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) are $140.87 per month.

Fuel costs are $120.54 per month, servicing costs are $61.12 per month, $19 for tyres, and monthly principal and interest repayments on a loan are $871.82. This brings the total running costs to $1,072.48 per month.

Altogether, you'll be paying $1,213.36 to own and run this car per month, or $280.01 per week.

Runners up:

  • Kia Sorrento S 2.2 - $1,323.88 p/month ($305.51 p/week)
  • Hyundai Santa Fe - $1,332.07 p/month ($307.40 p/week)

Cheapest all terrain SUV - Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX

Red car driving near a shed

The cheapest all terrain SUV to own and run is the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX. Its estimated on-road price is $53,190, with a trade-in value of $22,500 after five years. Total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $150.56 per month.

Fuel will set you back by around $129 per month, servicing is $47.75 per month and $23.67 for tyres, plus $1,024.85 for monthly principal and interest repayments on a loan. This brings the total running costs to $1,226.07 per month.

The total cost of owning and running the Pajero Sport comes to $1,376.64 per month, or $317.69 per week.

Runners up:

  • Toyota Fortuner GX 2.8 - $1,421.62 p/month ($328.07 p/week)
  • Isuzu MU-X LS-M - $1,496.14 p/month ($345.26 p/week)

Cheapest 2WD ute - Mitsubishi Triton GLX

Black ute driving on asphalt

The cheapest 2WD ute to own and run is the Mitsubishi Triton GLX. The Triton’s estimated on-road price is $42,504 and its trade-in value after five years is $13,500. Total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP) come to $143.51 per month.

Fuel costs are around $136 per month, servicing is $47.75 per month, tyres $15.27 and principal and interest loan repayments $828.86 per month. This brings the total monthly running costs to $1,028.17.

Overall, to own and run this ute you'll be paying $1,171.68 per month, or $270.39 per week.

Runners up:

  • Ford Ranger XL Hi-Rider 2.2 - $1,208.77 p/month ($278.95 p/week)
  • Isuzu D-Max SX 3.0 (4x2) - $1,248.53 p/month ($288.12 p/week)

Cheapest 4WD ute - Mitsubishi Triton GLX 2.4

White ute driving on sand

The cheapest 4WD ute to own and run is the Mitsubishi Triton GLX 2.4. Its estimated on-road price is $46,406 and its trade-in value after five years is $14,000. Total standing costs (registration, insurance and CTP)  come to $148.16 per month.

Expect to pay $139.54 in fuel per month, $47.75 in servicing per month, $16.60 for tyres, and monthly principal and interest loan repayments of $873.14. This will bring your total running costs to $1,097.10 per month.

Combined standing costs and running costs come to $1,245.26 per month, or $287.37 per week.

Runners up:

  • Volkswagen Amarok TDi420 - $1,425.39 p/month ($328.94 p/week)
  • Isuzu D-Max SX 3.0 (4x4) - $1,432.87 p/month ($330.66 p/week)

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

Car Running Costs Guide 2021 (PDF 442KB)

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