Study: Georgia leads nation in vehicle costs

Vanessa Carey of Cobb County is constantly on the lookout for cheaper car insurance.

Carey, who was at an auto repair shop near Perimeter Mall on Wednesday, said she’s paying about $175 a month for coverage.

“You’d think I was a new driver with the amount of insurance I have to pay for a 13-year-old car,” Carey said as she prepared to pay for a new radiator belt.

Georgians lead the nation in digging deep into their wallets to keep their vehicles on the road, according to a new study.

Bankrate.com studied costs nationally for insurance, repairs, gasoline and taxes/fees, and found Georgians pay an average of $4,233 in total costs a year, compared with the national average of $3,201.

The biggest cost for Georgia car owners is taxes/fees ($1,952), followed by gas ($1,129), insurance ($767) and repairs ($385). Costs are above the national average in all those categories.

In metro Atlanta, the higher costs stem partially from long commutes, which can result in higher insurance and gas costs, Bankrate said. The annual average premium for liability, collision and comprehensive insurance combined in Georgia dropped to $914 in 2010 from $964 in 2006, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, citing the lastest figures available.

Metro Atlantans have gotten a break on gas prices in recent weeks. According to the American Automobile Association’s “Daily Fuel Gauge Report,” the average price of regular unleaded was $3.47 Wednesday, down from $3.49 a week ago, $3.57 a month ago and $3.70 a year ago.

To come up with its averages, Bankrate used median insurance premiums provided by the NAIC for 2006 to 2010; average 2012 repair costs from CarMD.com; and taxes and fees — including sales taxes on new purchases — from Kelley Blue Book. Gasoline spending was estimated from figures provided by GasBuddy.com. Depreciation wasn’t included.

Bankrate said Georgia leads the nation in auto taxes/fees, while New Jersey led in insurance costs ($1,119) and repair costs ($393); and Wyoming in gas costs ($1,643).

As of March 1, Georgia has changed the way it collects taxes on vehicles, opting for a one-time payment to title a car, truck or SUV, rather than collecting yearly taxes that are due before a car owner’s birthday. However, people holding onto older cars will still have to pay the so-called “birthday tax,” based on the fair market value of a vehicle. All Georgians still must pay an annual $20 standard tag renewal fee, or more for specialty tags.

On top of her insurance and car repair costs, Carey, who is unemployed, said she has to renew her car tag this month. She estimates she’ll have to pay out close to $500 for car maintenance in August.

“My car is at the point now where if I don’t go ahead and purchase another vehicle it will be continual repairs,” Carey said as she waited for her radiator belt to be installed.

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