AUTOMOBILES

Compiled by John O'Dell, Times staff writer

Operating Costs: The cost of owning and operating a car doesn't stop with the monthly payment--or even the price of maintenance and weekly fill-ups at the gas station.

The Automobile Assn. of America, in conjunction with Runzheimer International, a travel and transportation consulting company, says that insurance, registration, licenses, taxes, finance charges and depreciation can add from $11 to nearly $14 per day to the cost of owning a car in this country. Add to that average operational costs of 7.7-cents to 10.3 cents per mile.

The AAA report uses three 1994 models, a 4-cylinder Ford Escort LX, a 6-cylinder Ford Taurus and a V-8 Chevrolet Caprice, to arrive at its cost estimates.

Driving the Escort just 10,000 miles a year costs $3,982--or 39.8 cents per mile. The Taurus at 10,000 miles a year costs $4,665 (46.6 cents a mile) and the big Chevrolet comes in at $5,844 (58.4 cents a mile) for 10,000 miles.

Driving more costs less: at 15,000 miles a year the annual cost of the Escort drops more than a nickel a mile to 34.5 cents; the Taurus is down almost seven cents to 39.8 cents a mile, and the Caprice plummets 11 cents a mile to 44 cents.

The Auto Club report, unfortunately, doesn't factor in the Orange County driver's added cost of idling in freeway traffic jams for about half the time the engine is running.

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