How Much Is Wear and Tear On a Car Per Mile

Wear and tear costs most car owners roughly 73 cents per mile, or an average of about $26.38 per day.
Written by Jessica Barrett
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
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Wear and tear can make a big difference to the overall cost of owning a vehicle. By calculating wear and tear, you can better understand the real cost of driving your car.
  • The cost of wear and tear includes fuel, oil changes, new tires, other routine maintenance and
    car repairs
    , and depreciation per mile.
  • To calculate wear and tear per mile, determine the cost of each item then add them up.
  • Your average wear and tear cost per mile may seem small, but it adds up quickly. 

Wear and tear: What it is and how to calculate it

Wear and tear defines how much resale value your vehicle loses with each mile you drive. You may hear it called operating costs, car costs, or costs of ownership, but no matter what you call it, normal wear and tear on a car includes:
  • Replacement of lights, tires, and brakes
  • Exterior scratches and dings that can be buffed out
  • Interior stains that can be cleaned and removed
  • Tires that match the recommended guidelines from the manufacturer
  • Small cracks in lamps and turn signals
  • Minor nicks or scuffs on the wheel covers
To figure out wear and tear on your car per mile, you’ll need to calculate how much the following items cost you per mile:
  • Fuel 
  • Oil changes
  • New tires
  • Other maintenance and repairs
  • Depreciation

Fuel

Fuel costs are calculated by dividing the average amount you pay for fuel by the number of miles you can get out of each gallon of fuel. Most new vehicles calculate your miles per gallon (mpg) or fuel economy for you, but you can also find these figures in your car’s owner’s manual.
For example: If your car averages 29 mpg, and a gallon of gas costs $4, then fuel costs you about 14 cents per gallon. 
  • Average fuel price / miles per gallon = fuel cost per mile: 4 / 29 = .14
MORE: How to track gas mileage

Oil changes

Most vehicles require an oil change every 5,000–7,000 miles. To calculate how oil changes impact the cost of wear and tear on your car, divide the cost of an oil change by the number of miles you can get out of it. 
For example: If you change your oil every 5,000 miles and an oil change costs $50 then oil adds one cent per mile wear and tear to your car. 
  • Oil change cost / Mileage = Cost of oil per mile: 50 / 5,000 miles = .01

New tires

Most tires are rated to last around 60,000 miles. So, if you paid $600 for a new set of tires, you’d calculate it with this formula:
  • Tire cost / 60,000 = Cost of tires per mile: 600 / 60,000 = .01
This means tires add one cent’s worth of wear and tear to your car per mile.
MORE: How often should you replace your tires?

Other maintenance and repairs

This category is different for everyone and depends heavily on the age and condition of your vehicle, as well as your vehicle type. Other maintenance costs include non-warranty items like: 
Vehicles or used cars with more than 100,000 miles on them may require a lot more in the way of maintenance, but they’ll come with more unexpected repair costs than a new vehicle.
To calculate the cost of wear and tear for this category, determine how much you spend, on average, each year for your vehicle maintenance and repairs—let’s say $600. Then, determine how many miles you usually drive per year—we’ll use the national average of 13,500 miles.
Once you have these figures, plug them into this formula:
  • Annual spend / miles per year = cost per mile: 600 / 13,500 = .04
You spend about four cents per mile on maintenance and repairs.

Car depreciation per mile

Put simply, depreciation is how much you paid for the car over the life of its use—and it’s usually a lot more than you think! Depreciation typically hits new cars harder than used vehicles—especially in the first year—, but regardless of what you’re driving, you can expect this to be your largest expense.
To calculate depreciation:
  • Figure out your vehicle’s cost (including purchase price and any interest on loans)
  • Determine your car’s trade-in value
  • Estimate your expected mileage at trade in
For example:
  • Vehicle cost: $36,000
  • Trade-in value: $15,000
  • Expected mileage: 40,000
Depreciation is then calculated as vehicle cost minus trade in value divided divided by expected mileage:
  • (Vehicle cost – trade-in value) / expected mileage = cost per mile
  • (36,000 - 15,000) / 40,000 = cost per mile
  • 21,000 / 40,000 = .53
In this scenario, your depreciation cost per mile is 53 cents.

The average cost per mile to drive

To find out the total cost of wear and tear on your car per mile, add up all the above per mile costs:
  • Fuel + oil changes + new tires + other maintenance/repairs + depreciation = wear and tear per mile.
  • Per our examples: .14 + .01 + .01 + .04 + .53 = .73
Your total is what it costs you per mile to drive: In this example, wear and tear costs 73 cents per mile. 
While the cost might seem pretty low, consider how much you drive each day. If you average 36 miles per day, you’re spending $26.28 daily on wear and tear!
Bottom line: Figure out the per-mile cost of fuel, oil changes, tires, maintenance and repairs, and depreciation. Add it all up for the total wear and tear per mile.
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