Management & Operations

New study finds parking is the largest cost of driving

Posted on April 13, 2018

A new study found that the indirect, hidden costs of driving, such as sitting in traffic and searching for parking, carry a significant economic burden for drivers in the U.S. Photo: B137 Wikimedia Commons
A new study found that the indirect, hidden costs of driving, such as sitting in traffic and searching for parking, carry a significant economic burden for drivers in the U.S. Photo: B137 Wikimedia Commons

A new study found that the indirect, hidden costs of driving, such as sitting in traffic and searching for parking, carry a significant economic burden for drivers in the U.S. — to the tune of $3,037 per driver in 2017. The findings of the first-ever "Cost of Driving" study, by INRIX, calculated vehicle ownership costs in 30 major cities in the U.S., UK and Germany. 

The average U.S. driver faced a total driving cost of $10,288 in 2017, made up of direct (maintenance, fuel, insurance, and parking and toll fees) and indirect/hidden (wasted time and carbon, parking fines and overpayments) costs. Interestingly, traffic- and parking-related costs made up nearly half (45%) of the total cost of ownership in the U.S.

“The true cost of driving was staggering but what was truly surprising was the size and breakdown of the hidden costs. Parking, for example, made up a third of the total cost of vehicle ownership,” explains Dr. Graham Cookson, chief economist, INRIX. “On average, drivers spent more than $3,000 a year on all parking-related costs.”

INRIX Cost of Driving Index – U.S. City Results
On the local level, New York City was the most expensive city for drivers out of the 30 cities studied. In 2017, the total cost of driving in NYC was nearly two times the national average at $18,926 per driver, mostly due to the cost of parking. New Yorkers parked more often (10 times/week), paid more frequently (60%) and paid the most (average off-street rate of $28 for two hours). At $10,203 per driver, Detroit had the lowest total cost of car ownership mostly due to cheaper on-street and off-street parking rates.

Rank City Direct Costs* Indirect Costs** Total Cost
of Driving
Car Ownership Parking Congestion Parking Pain
1 New York City $7,237 $5,395 $2,960 $3,334 $18,926
2 Los Angeles $7,237 $2,405 $2,808 $2,383 $14,834
3 San Francisco $7,237 $2,801 $2,226 $2,361 $14,625
4 Washington D.C. $7,237 $2,170 $2,045 $1,846 $13,297
5 Chicago $7,237 $2,096 $1,982 $1,576 $12,890
6 Boston $7,237 $2,045 $2,075 $1,497 $12,853
7 Seattle $7,237 $1,274 $1,834 $1,504 $11,848
8 Atlanta $7,237 $872 $2,205 $1,264 $11,578
9 Dallas $7,237 $723 $1,671 $1,210 $10,841
10 Detroit $7,237 $815 $1,251 $900 $10,203
           

INRIX Cost of Driving Index – Country Results
The average U.S. driver faced a total driving cost of $10,288 in 2017, which was 55% more than the average UK driver and 14% more than the average German driver. However, U.S. drivers use their cars more than their German counterparts (13,467 miles driven annually in the U.S. and 8,709 miles driven annually in Germany), but the congestion impact is smaller.

Country Direct Costs Indirect Costs Total Cost
Car Ownership Parking Congestion Parking Pain of Driving
U.S. $5,645 $1,607 $1,642 $1,394 $10,288
U.K. $4,260 $1,244 $1,398 $1,337 $8,239
Germany $4,376 $1,062 $2,347 $1,556 $9,341
         

Thankfully, there are solutions to alleviate some of these costs through awareness and technology. Applying big data to create intelligent connected car services is key to solving mobility problems, which will reduce the economic impact of congestion and parking pain.

The direct Cost of Driving includes parking and car ownership charges. INRIX Research calculated car ownership costs by multiplying the annual mileage travelled from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by the IRS stated mileage rates that can be reclaimed when using a vehicle for business purposes — $0.537 in 2017. This figure is updated annually and is designed to reflect the average cost of running a vehicle in the U.S. Multiplying this by the average annual mileage provided by the FHWA provided an estimate of the annual cost of running a car.

Car ownership costs include:

  • Purchasing or leasing a vehicle including finance costs
  • Depreciation in the value of the vehicle
  • Maintenance and servicing including tires
  • Insurance
  • Fuel
  • Parking and toll fees
  • Taxes

** The indirect Cost of Driving includes the cost of congestion and ‘Parking Pain’:

  • Time, fuel and value of carbon emissions generated by sitting in congestion
  • Time, fuel and value of carbon emissions generated by searching for parking
  • Overpaying for parking (e.g. putting 2 hours in when you need 30 minutes)
  • Parking fines

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