Recent research data released by AAA Utah indicated that the average annual cost of driving has jumped nearly $300 compared to last year.
Skyrocketing gasoline prices are primarily to blame for the increase, according to AAA Utah.
The 2008 study estimates the overall cost of owning and operating a new vehicle at 54.1 cents per mile, up 1.9 cents from 2007.
For a motor vehicle driven 15,000 miles at the higher rate, the estimated cost amounts to $8,121 per year, note the AAA Utah researchers.
Costs have increased $298 from last year's estimate of $7,823.
AAA estimates driving costs based on an extensive list of factors including gasoline, maintenance, tires, financing, depreciation and insurance.
The study found that costs for maintenance, full-coverage insurance and depreciation have dropped slightly from one year ago.
However, increases in the costs for tires, financing, license, registration, taxes and, especially significantly, the price of gas, offset any savings consumers might have realized from other, lower costs.
Gas prices in the study are based on the late 2007 AAA Fuel Gauge Report price per gallon of $2.94.
The average price in Utah last month was $3.13.
In Carbon County, motorists are currently paying an average of $3.25 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline at local pumps.
Drivers may experience regional differences in overall costs of driving based on varying fuel prices and other factors.
AAA's study looks at operating and ownership costs of five top-selling models in three popular size classes: small, medium, and large sedans.
Research shows that the annual average cost of driving a small sedan is $6,320 per year, while a large sedan costs $9,769 per year.
Similar savings can be realized by driving a minivan instead of a larger and less-fuel efficient sport utility vehicle.
AAA estimates the annual expense of owning and operating a typical minivan at $8,644 per year versus $10,448 for a four-wheel-drive mid-size SUV.
"According to these results, consumers can save a lot of money by choosing smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles when it's time to buy a car," pointed out Rolayne Fairclough, spokesperson for AAA Utah. "Another way to reduce costs is to shop aggressively for lower gas prices by using AAA's free Fuel Finder at aaa.com/gasprices."
More consumers are also choosing hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles as a way to cut down on gasoline bills, indicated the AAA Utah representative.
Motorists are also spending more time shopping for lower prices at the gas pumps.