How much does it cost to own a car? [Updated 2021]
Having a car is an undeniably wonderful thing – and in many parts of Australia, absolutely necessary. But as you probably already know, it’s not always great for the bank account. Once you get the keys to your brand-new ride, it can feel like the fees start popping up out of nowhere – insurance fees, registration fees, registration checks, car service costs. And that’s not even taking into account the day-to-day costs of parking and petrol. But before you throw your keys away in defeat, take a deep breath. With a little bit of planning, you can make sure that the costs of maintaining your car are always within your budget.
In this guide, we’re going to talk about all of the common, and sometimes surprising, costs of having a car. Once you see all of the expenses laid out, you can have a better handle over your car’s maintenance and never feel like the fees are piling up. Of course, not every city in Australia has the same costs, so it’s helpful to break it down by region. Here, we’ll cover the big ones – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and Tasmania – but it’s also a good idea to look into your own area and see what the specific costs around your area are.
What variable costs should I factor in?
Before we get into the regional difference in prices, some things are going to be the same no matter what region you’re in. At the same time, some things are going to be impossible to predict. Let’s talk about some of those special considerations.
For the purposes of this guide, it’s helpful to take a look at some of the common registration costs. The estimates here all refer to light-weight cars around or under 5 years old that were bought new or from a previous owner. That said, when you register your car for the first time, you’ll see very quickly that there are many different things that will go into your actual registration. Some people qualify for concessions. Some people want personalized license plates. Whatever your unique situation, you should contact your local government agency to figure out how much you’ll pay for registration.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re a first-time buyer and feeling overwhelmed by registration costs, these numbers won’t reflect how much you pay year-to-year. Fees like stamp duty, appointment costs and transfer fees won’t be repeated when you renew your registration next year. Also, if you’re buying your car directly from the dealership, many of these costs will be covered by the dealer. It’s always a good idea to ask the car dealership what you’ll need to cover for the registration of your new car.
There are many factors that go into the price of your car insurance policy. How old you are, how old your car is, the type of coverage you want and your driving history are all factors that will go into your final monthly fee. In general, there are three types of insurance offered. From cheapest to most expensive, they are: Third Party Property, Third Party Fire and Theft, and Comprehensive. The third party property plan is the least amount of insurance required by the state where you live, while the comprehensive plan is going to give you much more coverage. The plan you get is up to you, just remember that it’s easier to budget for good coverage than the unknown costs of an accident.
Although we’re going to talk about some averages when it comes to car insurance by region, your plan is going to be different. Many insurance companies will offer online quotes, so make sure to shop around to pick the one that will give you the best rate for the most coverage. One thing to consider before choosing an insurance plan is whether or not you get roadside assistance. It may feel painful to shell out for the extra service now, but having your car towed for free is a huge money-saver if you ever have to use it.
The last thing that you will need to know is whether your state requires you to purchase a green slip separately. That’s a form of insurance, also called Compulsory Third Party insurance, that covers other drives in the case of an accident. As we’ll discuss in each region, you may be required to pay for it as part of your registration fee, or you’ll have to acquire it before registration.
How much you should be paying for maintenance costs does depend on your region, but it depends on many other things, as well. The age of your car, the extent of the damage and how frequently you get your car serviced will all contribute to the final total you may pay for repairs. It can be tough to know how much you’ll have to pay before you go to the mechanic, but it can be helpful to browse online forums or simply give a mechanic a call beforehand to get a feel for how much you’ll have to pay.
Petrol and parking costs
How much you spend on parking and petrol is really going to depend on where you live. If you live in the suburbs of any major city, for instance, you may not pay monthly parking fees in your neighborhood, but you might pay more in petrol and daily parking fees if you work in the Central Business District (CBD). If you live in the city centre on the other hand, you may pay a higher monthly parking fee but less in petrol if you use public transportation.
Regardless of where you live in the country, parking has become cheaper because of companies like Spacer and Parkhound. In this guide, all of our averages for short-term and long-term parking will come from these two sites.
A city-based guide to the cost of car ownership
Now that we’ve talked about some of the caveats, it’s time to take a look at the different car ownership costs across Australia’s six major cities.
There’s always so much going on in Sydney that you could find yourself driving to the beach in the morning, taking a class in the afternoon and maybe popping by a restaurant opening at night. That means it’s crucial to have a reliable car. So, how much is that going to cost you?
The costs associated with registering your car for the first time will depend a bit on the type of car you buy and the age of it. Generally, when registering a new vehicle in New South Wales, be prepared to cover the following fees:
Greenslip – $35
Safety and Identity check (for cars over five years old) – $65
Registration fee – $68
Motor vehicle tax – between $221 and $790 (this covers most cars owned for private use)
Stamp Duty – $3 for every $100 that your car is worth, provided that your car is worth less than $45,000
Number plates – $47
These prices are all based on a standard, light-weight car that is being registered for the first time. After the first year, you won’t have to pay certain fees like Stamp Duty and the standard number plate fee.
Insuring your car
For registration, you’ll need to have a green slip showing that you’ve purchased third-party compulsory insurance. NSW is pretty much the middle of the road when it comes to car insurance costs. According to Mozo and Finder, you’re likely to pay as low as $31 or up to $115 per month, assuming that your car is relatively new. Again, the higher the premium, the more coverage you’ll get.
Maintenance and care
As a new year approaches, you’re going to want to get your car serviced. This can be done at the dealership where you bought the car or at a private mechanic. It’s a good idea to shop around for the best price, keeping in mind that older cars with more kilometers on the odometer will cost more for servicing and repairs.
According to Autoguru, servicing your car will cost between $250 and $330 per year, depending on your car type and the details of your warranty. If, on the other hand, your car breaks down or you hear something weird happening under the bonnet, you might have to pay for a repair. In Sydney, Oneflare suggests that the average price of mechanic work in 2021 was between $160 and $240, though major repairs could reach all the way into the thousands.
Other expenses: petrol and parking
Average fuel prices in Sydney in 2021 ranged from $1.31 to $1.41 per litre, with the exact average sitting at $1.36. So, if you live outside of the city centre (suburbs such as Marrickville) and drive in daily for work, you will pay somewhere around $8.80 per week.
For people living or working in Sydney, it’s pretty much necessary to pay for monthly parking. Not surprisingly, the most expensive spaces go for $800 to $900 right in the middle of Sydney CBD. The farther out you get from the central area, the cheaper the monthly cost is – anywhere between $200 and $600. Because of Sydney’s great public transportation, it’s perfectly fine to book something in the suburbs and catch a train in. For short-term parking, you’re looking at around $12 to $30 per day depending on where you want to park.
Summing up Sydney
Sydney is a wonderful place for locals and tourists, however it’s one of the more expensive regions in Australia to own a car. So, while having a car may be necessary for work and running errands, it’s also a good idea to keep public transportation in mind as a secondary option.
This city may have an extensive tram system, but it’s still pretty useful to have a car, especially if you want to explore some of the amazing areas outside of the city centre.
According to the Victoria Transport website, here’s the breakdown of everything you will have to pay when registering a car for the first time:
Registration fee – $834.80 (or $779.80 if you live in the outer suburbs)
Transfer fee – $40.70(or $20.70 if you bought the car from a dealer)
Motor vehicle duty – for cars worth under $68,740, the fee is $8.40 per $200 of the car’s market value (or $10.40 per $200 for cars over $68,740)
Standard number plates – $38
Roadworthy Certificate – $100 to $150 (for the inspection, and only if your car isn’t brand new)
Appointment cost – $48
Your insurance options
Like in Sydney, the cheapest option, the Compulsory Third Party plan is required at the time of registration. But, you also have the option to go for more coverage if you’re willing to pay a higher premium. According to Compare the Market, the average cost of insurance in Melbourne in 2020 was between $48 to $95 per month, depending on the coverage.
How about maintenance?
The average price to get your car serviced in Melbourne, according to Autoguru and Oneflare, is between $150 and $250, while the average price for hiring a mechanic in the city cost $188 to $270. Again, other major repairs will generally cost more, and these prices will be different based on your specific car and the details of your warranty.
The other expenses: parking and petrol
In 2018, the price of petrol in Melbourne fluctuated between $1.15 and $1.66, with the average at $1.47. That means that if you live in a suburb, like Coburg or Balwyn, and work in the centre, you’ll likely pay somewhere between $8 and $11 per week on petrol, just to drive in and out of the city Monday through Friday.
When it comes to parking, finding a space on the street or in a parking garage can be a hassle. Luckily, there are hundreds of listings on Parkhound and Spacer so that you don’t have to fight for a spot or overpay. In fact, monthly parking is significantly cheaper in Melbourne than in Sydney, with monthly rates at around $200 to $300 in central Melbourne. Most daily rates are between $11 and $15.
Summing up Melbourne
Like Sydney, Melbourne has so much to offer, especially when you have a car to explore all of the surrounding suburbs. The highest costs you’ll face in terms of your vehicle will be for registration and petrol, so make sure to budget accordingly.
There are plenty of amazing things to see in and around the capital of the Sunshine State, and you’re going to want a good way of travelling from place to place. Brisbane is known for being an affordable city, so let’s take a look at the cost of having a car.
First off, registration
Brisbane offers registrations that are valid for 6 months as well as the standard 12-month option. These numbers reflect the 12-month rate so that you can more easily compare the prices to other cities. Here’s the breakdown:
Certificate of inspection – $87.70
Registration fee (which includes the compulsory third party insurance) – approximately $700, but will depend on your specific car
Duty – If you have a hybrid or electric car worth less than $100,000, you’ll pay $2 for every $100 that the car is worth. For other cars with one to four cylinders less than $100,000, you’ll pay $3 per $100. For more cylinders, you’ll pay $3.50 to $4 per $100.
Transfer Fee – $29.20
Number Plate Fee – $31.45
How about insurance?
According to Autoguru, getting your car serviced in Brisbane will cost around $250 to $300. For the price of a mechanic for general repair, Oneflare suggests that the average price in the city is between $188 to $270.
Let’s talk other expenses: petrol and parking
Unfortunately, Brisbane is one of the most expensive cities in the country when it comes to petrol. ABC reported that the city was being charged up to $169.90 per litre, higher than any other major city. In fact, Brisbane service stations sold fuel at a 15-month record high in April, despite international oil prices falling. From the beginning of 2021 until now, prices have still averaged out at $1.40. So, how much will it cost you to drive around in Brisbane? Well, if you live outside of the city, in Gordon Park or Tingala and work in Brisbane City, for instance, you’ll pay somewhere between $10.30 and $14.40 per week in fuel costs.
Parking in the central business district is generally pretty chaotic, but luckily this city has plenty of car parks and other parking options. Parking in a car park will usually cost somewhere between $18 and $30 unless you’re able to get there early.
Spacer and Parkhound offer even more affordable options throughout the city, with daily averages that are the same as the hourly averages of most car parks. That means, you could pay anywhere between $10 and $25 for the entire day! If you’re interested in monthly parking, you’ll likely pay somewhere between $300 and $500.
Summing up Brisbane
Although Brisbane is known to be one of the more affordable cities in the country, there are some exceptions when it comes to the cost of having a car. Petrol, for instance, tends to be more expensive here, and the cost of parking will definitely add up over time. This means that it might be a good idea to car-share and shop around for more affordable parking options.
Canberra is the gorgeous capital city of Australia. Because it is what’s called a planned city, driving here a breeze. You’ll definitely want to hop in your car and take a look around.
So, let’s talk cost.
When registering a car for the first time in Canberra, you’ll be expected to pay:
Establishing registration fee – $93.40
Compulsory third party insurance – $524 to $549 (depending on the provider)
Government fees – $66.90
Registration fee – $306.80
Motor Vehicle Duty – between $0 to $600 depending on the rating of the vehicle according to the Green Vehicle Guide
Like Brisbane, Canberra allows you to purchase a 3-, 6- or 12-month registration. These numbers, from the Government of Australia Capital Territory website, are based on the 12-month option.
In Canberra, compulsory third party insurance is included in your registration fee, and it can get pretty expensive compared to some of the other cities we’ve reviewed. So, if you want to get more coverage, how much will that cost?
If you have a car under 5 years old and you drive an average of 15,000 km per year, you’ll likely pay somewhere between $65 and $130 per month for a comprehensive plan. Again, it all depends on your car and your driving history, so it’s a good idea to shop around.
The average cost of getting a car repaired in Canberra is between $200 and $250, according to Oneflare. Autoguru prices a car service between $300 and $350, which is one of the more expensive averages that we’ve considered so far.
The extra expenses: petrol and parking
Getting around by car in Canberra is great. The city planning has made driving especially accessible and enjoyable. There are also quite a few ways to park for cheap or free, if you know where to look. Car parks tend to cost anywhere between $15 and $30 for the day, and there are even car parks that offer free parking for the first two hours. Keep yourself up-to-date on where there are spots available by using Parkopedia. That also means that Parkhound and Spacer are even cheaper. Right in the middle of the central business district, you can pay as low as $9 a day.
Now, how much will you be paying for petrol in Canberra? Well, according to ABC News, Canberra residents tend to pay a lot more to fill up than the rest of the country. Luckily, commute times tend to be shorter in Canberra compared to some of the other cities on this list, so if you live in a suburb and work in the city, you’ll likely pay somewhere between $8 and $14 per week on petrol. In other words, while the cost of petrol may be higher here, you’re not likely to spend more than national averages if you’re mainly driving in and around the city.
Summing up Canberra
As the capital city, some things tend to be on the more expensive side. Parking around the city centre can be a bit expensive, for one, while the price of petrol exceeds the national average. That said, because of its careful planning, Canberra is an enjoyable city to drive around.
Heading to the other side of the country, Perth is a huge city with 250 suburbs, so you’ll definitely need a car if you want to get around easily.
According to RAC’s Car Running Cost Guide, you’ll be responsible for the following fees when you register your vehicle for the first time:
Vehicle licence duty – anywhere from about $300 to $700 depending on the age and weight of your car
Compulsory third party insurance – $409 for private cars
Recording fee – $12.10
Registration is fairly simple in Perth, and the overall cost tends to be less than some of the other cities on the list.
According to Canstar, if you’re interested in buying insurance separately from the compulsory third party, you’ll likely pay between $55 and $95 depending on your age and driving record.
The average price of a car service, according to Autoguru, is going to be somewhere between $250 and $350. If you need to hire a mechanic, Oneflare reported that the average cost in Perth is around $185 to $250.
The extra expenses
Since the beginning of 2019, Perth has seen some pretty drastic spikes in fuel costs, typically happening on Tuesdays, according to the ACCC. The high of the last few months was $1.43 while the lows averaged between $1.15 and $1.20. If you live in a suburb like Ashfield or North Fremantle and work in the city centre, you’ll likely pay between $9 and $16 per week.
When it comes to parking, there are a variety of car park and street parking options. In the city centre, you’ll pay around $5 per hour for street parking and car parks or daily rates of around $20. On Parkhound and Spacer, you’ll pay between $10 and $20 per day in Perth and West Perth. Or, for a monthly rate, you’re looking at between $200 and $400.
Summing up Perth
Perth is the most populated city in Western Australia, so there’s bound to be plenty of motorists on the road. But even so, it’s not a radically expensive place to have a car. Registration costs are relatively low, and you can find plenty of affordable parking.
Adelaide is such a fun city with plenty of art museums and other must-see attractions. But does that mean that this sought-out tourist location is expensive to own a car? Let’s dive in.
When registering a new vehicle in Adelaide, be ready to pay the following fees:
Registration fee – around $150
Compulsory third party insurance – around $350
Other government fees – about $140
Lifetime support fund – $113
If you’re looking to insure your car beyond the compulsory third party plan, Compare the Market suggests that you’ll pay between $66 and $108 per month for comprehensive insurance.
The other expenses
Petrol in Adelaide is pretty average compared to the other populated cities in the country. The highs from the beginning of 2019 to now capped at $1.41 and motorists generally pay between $1.20 and $1.35. That means that if your drive around 10 to 15 km per day for work, you’ll likely pay $11 to $16 per week.
When it comes to parking, the rules and regulations can be a bit complex, which is why the City of Adelaide published a guide. Car parks and street parking can cost anywhere between $5 and $13 per hour, which can definitely add up. Parkhound and Spacer offer slightly less listings in these cities at the moment, but you can still find great parking in the city centre for as low as $10 a day.
This city is every outdoor-lover’s dream, and you’ll definitely want a car to visit some of the surrounding beauty of this area. Let’s take a look at how much everything will cost.
Registering your vehicle in Darwin for the first time is fairly straightforward. You’ll be responsible for paying the following fees:
Transfer of number plate – $21
Transfer of ownership fee – $17
Stamp duty – 3% of the purchase price (so generally somewhere between $300 and $600)
Registration fee – $606.30 to $748.30, depending on the engine size
Inspection fee (if the car is older than 5 years) – $55
Unlike some of the other cities on the list, registration in Darwin doesn’t include compulsory third party insurance, so you’ll likely just be paying for one insurance plan. Compare the Market suggests that you’ll pay somewhere between $90 and $130 per month for an insurance plan.
The average cost of hiring a mechanic in Darwin according to Oneflare is $150 to $190. And for a car service, Autoguru suggests you’ll pay somewhere around $380. Because Darwin is a much smaller city, options may be a bit limited.
When it comes to petrol in Darwin, you’ll often pay the same as other major cities. From December 2018 to spring of 2019, the prices fluctuated between $1.47 and $1.15. The city is quite small, so if you’re just driving around the centre, you won’t spend much on gas per week. That being said, there’s so much more to explore outside of Darwin, like the Shoal Bay Coastal Reserve and the Howard Springs Nature Park, that you might find yourself spending much more on petrol on the weekends. A trip to Darwin City to the Howard Springs Nature Park and back, for instance, will cost about $6.60 in petrol.
There’s rarely a shortage of parking in Darwin, which is great if you want to spend a few hours in the centre. And when it comes to cost, you’ll find that the prices are much more reasonable. In fact, weekend parking is free in Darwin! During the week, paid parking areas are between $1.30 and $2.50 per hour, although most have a maximum parking time of 2 hours. Car parks charge $7 to $10 for the day if you get there before 9am. On Parkhound or Spacer, you can pay as low as $5 per day for parking, or $175 for the month.
Summing up Darwin
This nature-lover’s paradise has some pros and cons when it comes to owning a car. Registration fees are pretty high, and petrol prices tend to be higher than the national average. Also, because of the size of the city, it may be difficult to find reasonably priced car servicing or maintenance. On the other hand, parking is a non-issue and driving is definitely worth it so that you can see everything there is to explore just outside of the city limits.
In addition to being the only island state in the country, Tasmania also has the smallest population. So how does that fare for motorists?
First, let’s talk registration
To register a car in Tasmania, be prepared to pay any of the following:
Transfer of registration fee – $28.44
Duty – $3 for every $100 of the car’s worth
Registration fee – $564 to $705.49
Inspection fee – $115 to $350
According to Compare the Market, the costs of insurance are pretty low compared to other major cities in the country. A comprehensive insurance plan will run anywhere from $53 to $85 per month.
Although insurance costs may be low, the cost of hiring a mechanic in Hobart is slightly higher than the national average. Oneflare suggests that you’ll likely pay between $220 and $320 for regular mechanical repairs, and according to Autoguru, you can expect to pay between $320 and $520.
Probably because Tasmania is a separate island with a lower population, petrol is not going to be cheap. Hobart’s normal average is around $1.50, although it has been decreasing since the new year. Again, Hobart is a comparatively small city, so you won’t spend too much petrol driving around, but if you want to go on a weekend trip, it will be more expensive. A drive of just 10 km costs about $1.10.
Parking, on the other hand, is a pretty inexpensive endeavour in Tasmanian cities like Hobart. Car parks often include the first one or two hours for free, and there’s plenty of street parking for no more than a few dollars per hour. Spaces on Parkhound and Spacer are generally around $11 to $13 per day, or $200 to $300 per month.
Summing up Tasmania
Unfortunately, Tasmania doesn’t fare well when it comes to vehicle costs. Registration costs can be a bit high, car repair and servicing is steep, and petrol prices are a little expensive. Insurance and parking, though, aren’t so bad, but that’s not really much of a consolation given the other expenses. But still, driving around Tasmania is pretty much a necessity, and you’ll be able to go on plenty of amazing adventures in your vehicle.
To sum it all up
All of the cities on this list have something wonderful and unique to offer. This makes it impossible to say which one is objectively the best to have a car. One city that has lower registration costs, for instance, may cost more when it comes to petrol or parking. Adelaide was one of the cheaper options in terms of registration costs, while Tasmania, Melbourne, and Brisbane were a bit more on the expensive side when it comes to getting a car registered. Some of the lowest insurance rates came out of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Darwin. Adelaide offered up the lowest costs when it comes to car repairs.
Across the country, petrol prices were hard to gauge. In places where there’s a lot of competition, like Sydney and Melbourne, motorists had a better chance of finding lower prices. In places like Darwin and Tasmania, on the other hand, scarcity made petrol costs skyrocket. If you’re thinking about buying a new car, make sure you look into an option that is fuel efficient, because while there are always going to be cycles when it comes to petrol, it’s a good idea to make an investment now that will save you money in the long run.
And when it came to parking, just about all of the cities had some affordable options if you know where to look. Clearly, huge cities with bustling city centres, like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have higher rates within the busy areas. But pretty much everywhere, apps like Parkhound and Spacer have made it easier to find affordable day parking for between $10 and $20. But regardless of where you live, drive and explore, it’s good to know exactly what you can expect to pay for your vehicle. So hit the road! We’ll see you out there!.