Lifetime Vehicle Ownership and Operating Cost Calculator

The total cost of owning and operating a private vehicle includes capital costs, financing, fuel use, insurance, maintenance, etc. The goal of this project is to provide students and the public with a tool to estimate the cent/mile and total cost of vehicle ownership over the life of the vehicle. The calculator provides cost estimates for each component so that users can weigh the relative importance of these elements in their vehicle purchase and use decisions. The calculator is applicable at any educational level. The team is also designing Python processing tools that support the processing of external files into the calculator, and save calculator outputs in files that for use in research projects.

Typical online websites, such as Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book, provide users with a simple five-year cost of ownership calculation, based on vehicle make, model, and model year information. However, these sites do not allow the users to personalize specific information such as insurance, parking, and toll costs in the calculation. Furthermore, the existing sites do not provide the level of detail needed by users to see how they might change their operating costs.

The NCST website provides users with data entry flexibility, and a clear and an intuitive, interactive, user-interface through which users can better understand their vehicle ownership costs. Vehicle ownership costs are calculated using default data and user-specified inputs for purchase price, down payment, interest rates, loan term, annual insurance, maintenance, tire, smog check, parking, tolls, car washes, etc. All default data can be modified as desired by the user. The research team developed the cost calculator using data from: 1) EPA Certification Test Result Database, for the assortment of vehicle make, model, model year and fuel type; 2) the State of Georgia Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle Database, for vehicle values; and 3) US Department of Energy’s Fuel Economy Database, for fuel economy.