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Owning a car is undeniably expensive. CarEdge has put together a list of the most affordable car brands. This list showcases the cheapest five-year ownership costs across the entire brand, so it may not be the best indicator of the particular car you’re shopping for. For model-specific costs, CarEdge lists the cheapest five- and 10-year ownership for cars categorized by their MSRP. It is important to note that car ownership comprises far more than the initial purchase price and fuel, and this list breaks it down by category. 

What ownership costs are most relevant to you?

When most people look at cars—especially first-time buyers—they tend to hyperfixate on the initial cost. This could be in the form of a lump sum or monthly payments. Though obvious to some, this is not the whole story. 

Car prices are still outrageous

That said, shoppers can’t ignore the purchase price. NerdWallet reports that the average monthly payment on a new car in 2022 was $700. If you opt for a used vehicle, the average cost drops to $525 and down even further to $497 for a lease. Assuming you aren’t buying a 10-year-old car for under $10,000, those payments would be closer to $100-$200 a month. Nonetheless, $500 or more is a lot to budget for.

Keeping your car running well costs money

The most unpredictable ownership cost is maintenance and repairs. Routine maintenance, like oil changes, tire rotations, and other expected elements of proper care, are fairly predictable. Major repairs and damage are tough to prepare for but could be avoided depending on your car’s warranty. NerdWallet reports the average maintenance cost for a new vehicle is $121 a month. 

The expense of staying road legal

Depending on the age and price of your latest purchase and the state you live in, you could spend as much as $675 for registration, taxes, and licensing, reports NerdWallet. Thankfully, these costs are typically bigger upfront and tend to decrease as your car’s value decreases—at least concerning taxes. 

Depreciation: the silent killer

Speaking of decreasing value, depreciation is going to be a major factor as well. This won’t be something to budget for, but given cars tend to depreciate 15% a year, this is something to consider depending on the length of ownership. If you buy a Toyota Camry and plan to drive it for 12 years, this may not be a concern, but it could be a big hit to your wallet on the backend if you only plan to keep a new vehicle for three to five years. 

The 5 car brands with the most affordable ownership costs

The hood of a Mitsubishi Outlander SUV model covered in rain in Dublin, Ireland
The hood of a Mitsubishi Outlander model | Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Coming out on top is Mitsubishi, reports CarEdge. The average cost of owning a Mitsubishi for five years is only $27,175. Pretty solid, but ultimately not surprising given Mitsubishi focuses exclusively on small, cheap, and economical vehicles.

Subaru and Fiat come in at a close second and third cheapest. Five years on average will cost you $28,513 in a Subaru and $28,643 in a Fiat. However, it’s worth noting that Fiat only sells one vehicle in the U.S., the 500X. Still, CarEdge also includes the now-discontinued 500L on this list. 

A Mazda will set you back an average of $29,155 for five years. Interestingly, Mitsubishi and Mazda are the two cheapest brands concerning maintenance on this list. Mazda models cost $615 over a five-year period, and Mitsubishi models at $592. In this category, Fiat is the most expensive at $693. 

Rounding off the list is Kia, which, at $30,066, is the only manufacturer on the list to eclipse $30,000. 

Being an informed buyer is easy these days

Though this list does require some additional knowledge to understand why these particular brands occupy the top five, the data is beneficial when shopping. Depending on each person’s financial situation, understanding the full scope of a brand or model’s cost to its owner is invaluable and could save drivers money in the long term.