For most consumers, two of our largest investments are a house and a car — hopefully in that order.
When we shop for a vehicle, most of us focus on the sticker price, but that's actually only a fraction of what you'll pay for the privilege of driving.
Environmentalist group The Union of Concerned Scientists this week pointed out that over the life of a car, most consumers actually pay almost as much in gasoline as they do in the purchase price. And with climbing fuel costs, that could increase.
The concerned scientists assume a conservative fuel economy of 22.8 miles per gallon, driving 15,600 miles the first year and 4.5 percent fewer miles each year over the next 14 years.
Even with those numbers, the group estimates the average driver would spend more than $22,600 over the lifetime of the vehicle, as compared to an average purchase price of $24,500.
With older vehicles already on the road, the difference is much more striking.
In 2011, the average consumer used more than 1,100 gallons of gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The national average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.60, according to AAA.