- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Does it sometimes seem as if there are more cars around these days?

As a matter of fact, there are. The latest available U.S. count of vehicles (1995) shows 123.2 million cars and trucks on the road. In 1970, that number was 80.4 million. No wonder people fight over parking spaces.

We're also driving more miles than we used to. In 1970, cars in the United States drove 917 billion vehicle miles. In 1998, they drove 1,545 billion vehicle miles. (Vehicle miles equate to the number of vehicles on the road multiplied by the estimated number of miles each was driven.)

But here's a pleasant surprise: Average gas mileage in 1970 was 13.4 miles per gallon. In 1998 it was 21.4 mpg.

And do you know how much, on average, it costs you to operate your car (which, in all likelihood, is the single biggest expense you have other than your mortgage)? The government estimates that the cost per mile to own and operate a car today is 53.08 cents, including depreciation, insurance, tax, gas, etc. Of that, tires cost about 1.4 cents per mile (four tires). The last time we looked, the Internal Revenue Service was allowing only 34.5 cents per mile for cars that were itemized as a business deduction.

In fact, the operating costs for vehicles vary widely, so 34.5 cents is probably a generous allowance. More expensive cars will cost more to operate, mainly because of their depreciation. Depreciate a $75,000 car by 50 percent, and you're into some big bucks.


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