What to budget for when buying a car?

Written by 
Bill Tsouvalas
Bill Tsouvalas is the managing director and a key company spokesperson at Savvy. As a personal finance expert, he often shares his insights on a range of topics, being featured on leading news outlets including News Corp publications such as the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, Fairfax Media publications such as the Australian Financial Review, the Seven Network and more. Bill has over 15 years of experience working in the finance industry and founded Savvy in 2010 with a vision to provide affordable and accessible finance options to all Australians. He has built Savvy from a small asset finance brokerage into a financial comparison website which now attracts close to 2 million Aussies per year and was included in the BRW’s Fast 100 in 2015 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. He’s passionate about helping Australians make financially savvy decisions and reviews content across the brand to ensure its accuracy. You can follow Bill on LinkedIn.
Our authors
, updated on June 9th, 2023       

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Buying a car is much more than paying the sticker price. If you’re looking to upgrade, downsize or find your first ever car you’ll have to set a good budget. A good budget includes not only how much you can spend upfront, but also how much you’re prepared to spend over the life of the car. Here’s a comprehensive guide to all the bits and pieces that all add up.


Your first cost to budget for is finance. Unless you can buy a car outright, you have to know how much you can comfortably afford in repayments each week, fortnight or month. We have a range of loan calculators so you can find approximates out before you buy. Read our comprehensive guide about car loan factsheet here.


The sticker price on a car is usually the base model. If your heart’s set on satellite navigation or rear parking sensors that don’t come standard, you have to ask the dealer how much this will cost to install. These gadgets or must-haves might add hundreds or even thousands to the cost.

Stamp Duty

It’s unavoidable – every car sold will attract stamp duty. Stamp duty varies individually from state to state and the value of your car. In some parts of Australia, it’s dependent on the number of cylinders of the car or the vehicle type. It usually ranges from about 2% to 5% of the total sale cost.

Dealer Delivery

If you’re buying new or certified used, you might have to pay for dealer delivery. Some dealers might slug you with a charge ranging from $1000 to $3000. Note you can also negotiate this price down in some cases.

Insurance and roadside assistance

If you want to drive a car, you’ll need insurance. Before you start driving, you’ll have to decide if you wish to pay your insurance up front for a year or on an incremental basis (month by month, etc.) Sometimes the part option attracts loading, which costs you more over time.


Registration or “rego” is mandatory. Know how much registration costs and add this to your yearly calculations.


A huge part of buying a car is knowing how much it will cost to run. This is as important as finance or insurance in your budget. You will need to find out the estimated fuel economy, usually expressed in L/100km, how often or far you’ll drive in a week to calculate how much fuel may cost per average week. Read our guide on ways to save fuel here.

Maintenance and Servicing

Keeping a car in top shape requires routine maintenance and scheduled servicing. Larger cars take longer to service and attract higher servicing costs. Some dealers offer fixed price servicing or free servicing for limited periods. This can make a lot of difference in deciding which car fits your budget.

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