The American Automobile Association has just released the 2010 edition of its annual "Your Driving Cost" study, and predictably, the average price to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. has gone up. On its most basic level, the AAA data showed the cost involved in a running a typical sedan has risen by 4.8 percent, to 56.6 cents/mile, which works out to $8,487 per year assuming 15,000 miles of driving. To determine the overall comparative figures, the AAA factored in insurance, license and registration fees plus taxes, depreciation and finance charges as well as the direct operational costs of fuel, maintenance and tires.

What was behind this bump in cost? "Rising fuel prices are a key factor in this year's 'Your Driving Costs' study. Paying more at the pump is not only increasing the operational costs of vehicles, but it's also affecting depreciation values," said John Nielsen, director, AAA Auto Repair and Buying. "With the growing appeal of more fuel efficient vehicles, small sedans are experiencing less depreciation and holding their value longer while we're seeing notable rises in depreciation costs with categories of less fuel-efficient vehicles." However, the AAA study found upticks in cost of tires and insurance each played a significant role in the big pricing picture for each of the five categories (Small Sedan, Medium Sedan, Large Sedan, 4WD SUV and Minivan) it surveyed.

By way of comparison, the AAA data showed that small sedans suffered only a 2.9-percent increase relative to their 2009 index, with cost-per mile rising to 43.3 cents and total cost coming in at $6,496. The good news is that depreciation in the segment actually decreased by 1.9 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, the once-popular 4-wheel drive SUVs cost 73.9 cents/mile or $11,085 per annum as well as suffering a projected 10.7 percent increase in annual depreciation.

The other three categories in order of ascending costs, saw medium sedans require 56.2 cents/mile to run and a yearly toll of $8,436; minivans command 62.0 cents/mile or $9,301 annually; and large sedans take to the streets at a rate of 70.2 cents/mile or $10,530 per year.

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