The U.S. department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
(EERE) recently developed a great tool to compare cost of multiple cars over their lifetime. The graph below is an example of my (unfortunately) hypothetical comparison of cars I would like to purchase. I entered not just make of the car, but the average miles I drive a day, zip code and price of fuel. The other great thing about this calculator is that it takes into account the cost of maintenance, registration,tires, insurance and loan payment (hence shape of the graph). The calculation also shows annual use and cost of fuel, and co2 emissions (a nice piece of information you don’t get at the dealership).
Cumulative Cost of Ownership by Year (Dollars)
If you want to try out other tools like this, the vehicle calculator is part of the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Data Center, which has numerous tools from an alternative fuel finder to petroleum reduction planning.