Cars and Drivers

The Ten Most Expensive Cars to Own

The cost of a luxury automobile does not end with its purchase price — it begins there. The true ownership costs are often much more than what customers perceive, after repairs, insurance, interest and other expenses are taken into account. For example, an Audi R8 has a price tag of slightly more than $170,000. After five years, the costs of ownership of the R8 are an additional $193,500 on average. 24/7 Wall St. has examined the true cost of ownership, based on calculations, for 2012 models sold in the United States, identifying the 10 cars that cost the most to own.

According to the Census Bureau, the median American home costs $221,800, and the median household income is slightly more than $50,000. These should provide some perspective to the cost of buying and maintaining the vehicles on our list. The purchase prices of these cars range from $91,000 to more than $210,000. And the true costs to own the cars for five years range from $117,000 to more than $245,000 — on top of the purchase price.

A large component of these extreme true costs of ownership is the luxury vehicles’ steep depreciation in the first five years. These 10 models are projected to lose anywhere between 27% and 47% of their value in their first half-decade on the road, leading owners to lose between $56,000 and $153,000 in depreciation alone.

While depreciation is a big part of these expenses, it is far from the only major expense. Several direct costs, including repairs, maintenance, insurance and fuel charges, can cost a driver more than $10,000 for each expense during the first five years.

As gas prices approach $4.00 per gallon, fuel costs are increasingly becoming an issue — even for some of the wealthiest drivers. Each of these cars, because of their status as high-end vehicles with high-end engines, has terrible gas mileage. The most fuel-efficient car on our list gets 20 miles per gallon. Six of the 10 get 17 miles to the gallon or less. Over a five-year period, the owners of these cars will have each paid at least $15,000 in fuel costs.

This list is based on True Cost to Own figures, which were provided by 24/7 Wall St. also included fuel economy data from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. registration totals from, and quality and design ratings from JD Power and Associates.

These are the cars that cost the most to own.

10. GT-R
> Make: Nissan
> Style: Premium 2dr Coupe AWD (3.8L 6cyl Turbo 6AM)
> True cost of ownership: $117,892
> Purchase price: $91,830
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 19

The Nissan GT-R is one of the most sought-after new sports cars in the U.S. Not so desirable is its price. The car’s nearly $92,000 base price is steep to begin with. The GT-R ranks among the top 10 most expensive thanks largely to two additional costs on top of its depreciation. First is the car’s maintenance costs, which average $10,043 over five years — the highest amount among all models. The GT-R also has the second-highest insurance costs, at $22,334 for the five years.

9. Range Rover
> Make: Land Rover
> Style: HSE 4dr SUV 4WD (5.0L 8cyl 6A)
> True cost of ownership: $118,158
> Purchase price: $88,862
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 14

Range Rover has the 13th-highest base price of the 291 models examined. However, exceptionally high costs in other areas put the car in the top 10 for true cost of ownership. Compared to other models, Range Rover’s biggest expense is repairs, which cost an average $4,214 altogether for five years. This amount is the third-highest. Also expensive for Range Rover owners are fuels costs. Over five years, owners will pay nearly $22,000 to fuel the car, which gets a mere 12 MPG in the city. The Land Rover has been awarded a five out of five for overall quality by JD Power, but only two out of five for design.

8. ActiveHybrid 7
> Make: BMW
> Style: 750i 4dr Sedan (4.4L 8cyl Turbo gas/electric hybrid 8A)
> True cost of ownership: $122,076
> Purchase price: $101,545
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 20

BMW’s ActiveHybrid 7 has relatively good fuel economy and is also particularly powerful. However, the true cost of the car is much more than the $101,000 price tag. After five years, outside costs, including taxes and fees, insurance and financing interest, ownership of the vehicle averages more than $122,000. The ActiveHybrid 7 does not have particularly good JD Power scores, earning a three out of five for both quality and design. Sales also have been low, with only 118 registrations in the U.S. in 2011.

7. G-Class
> Make: Mercedes-Benz
> Style: G550 4dr SUV 4WD (5.5L 8cyl 7A)
> True cost of ownership: $126,714
> Purchase price: $108,900
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 13

The Mercedes G550, a luxury SUV from the company’s G-Class, has a true cost of ownership of more than $125,000. The car has the third-most expensive fuel costs among all models examined, at approximately $23,500 for five years. The car gets a combined MPG of just 13, and just 11 MPG in the city. The G550 also has among the highest finance interest rates. Five years of ownership result in an average $12,000 in interest. Customers apparently do not mind paying these high costs, as the G-Class has been in production since 1979.

6. LS 600h L
> Make: Lexus
> Style: 4dr Sedan AWD (5.0L 8cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
> True cost of ownership: $129,542
> Purchase price: $119,019
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 20

Although the Lexus LS — the company’s flagship model — has been in production since 1989, the hybrid LS 600h L has only been around since 2006. According to Edmunds, the full-size luxury sedan is the most expensive model that Lexus produces in large numbers. The car’s base price of $119,019 is the fifth-highest among all companies. The car has very good scores from JD Power, earning a four out of five for overall quality and a perfect five out of five for design.

5. SL-Class
> Make: Mercedes-Benz
> Style: SL550 2dr Convertible (5.5L 8cyl 7A)
> True cost of ownership: $129,588
> Purchase price: $106,718
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 17

Mercedes-Benz has been producing its grand tourer SL-Class since 1954. It was not until 2007 that the company debuted the SL550 convertible. Although it is the seventh-most expensive when ranked by purchasing price alone, it ranks the fifth-most expensive model for overall cost of ownership because of its particularly costly financing interest and insurance. Total registrations of the car have dropped dramatically from more than 5,600 in 2007 to less than 1,500 in 2011.

4. CL-Class
> Make: Mercedes-Benz
> Style: CL550 4MATIC 2dr Coupe AWD (4.7L 8cyl Turbo 7A)
> True cost of ownership: $142,558
> Purchase price: $121,671
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 18

Mercedes spun off the CL-Class from its S-Class in 1998 to hone in on the line’s exclusivity. This is certainly reflected in the vehicle’s cost. The CL550 has the fourth-highest purchase price and finance interest. It also has the third-highest cost of maintenance. Sales of the car have steadily decreased over the years. There were more than 3,200 total registrations in 2007. In 2011, there were 980.

> Make: BMW
> Style: SWB 4dr Sedan (4.4L 8cyl Turbo 6A)
> True cost of ownership: $153,150
> Purchase price: $133,445
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 17

The number of registrations of the Alpina B7 has been significantly lower than that of other cars on this list. This is more the result of a limited number of cars being imported to North America than of customers shying away from its high cost. The car’s purchase price alone exceeds $133,000. It also has among the most costly interest on financing and insurance. When it comes to overall quality and design, the car received scores of just three out of five in both categories from JD Power.

2. R8
> Make: Audi
> Style: 5.2 quattro 2dr Coupe AWD (5.2L 10cyl 6M)
> True cost of ownership: $193,429
> Purchase price: $170,175
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 15

The Audi R8’s purchase price of $170,175 is more than the third-most expensive vehicle’s true cost of ownership. The two-door sports car also has the second-most expensive maintenance costs, reaching $7,370 over five years. It also has particularly high fuel costs, thanks to its 13 MPG fuel efficiency in the city. The R8 does relatively poorly by JD Powers’ standards, scoring a three out of five for both overall quality and design. Despite this, there were 1,173 registrations for the car in 2011 — the most of any year.

> Make: Mercedes-Benz
> Style: 2dr Coupe (6.2L 8cyl 7AM)
> True cost of ownership: $245,469
> Purchase price: $210,875
> Combined (city and highway) MPG: 16

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, a luxury grand tourer, has been in production since 2010. Since that point, it has been the most expensive vehicle on the market. The automobile’s purchase price is more than $210,000, and is approximately $40,000 more expensive than the R8’s base price. After depreciation, finance interest, insurance, fuel costs and maintenance over five years, the car’s true cost of ownership during those years is nearly a quarter million dollars. This cost has not prevented the SLS AMG from being popular; total registrations of the automobile increased from 470 in 2010 to 707 in 2011.

Mike Sauter

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