Vehicles that will drive your dollar further

Annual RACQ report reveals cheapest cars to run in Queensland.

It should come as no surprise that the car you drive can have a big impact on your financial wellbeing.

The RACQ’s annual Vehicle Running Costs report is designed to help members navigate the crowded new car market, providing practical guidance on the most cost-effective options.  

This year we have again crunched the numbers to identify the best makes and models across 11 different vehicle categories but we’ve also introduced some changes to our methodology.

We’ve looked at a wide range of factors to provide a better idea of the actual outgoings required to own and operate a new motor vehicle on a monthly, annual and five-year basis.

Below we have analysis on nine of the most popular car categories. Click here for full details on the methodology used, along with the costing for all 79 new models reviewed.

Light Car 

Model: Suzuki Baleno GL hatch 
Drivetrain: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, four-speed automatic   
Price: $19,938 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $665
Annual: $7979
Residual:  $6000
Suzuki’s roomy Baleno hatch is officially this year’s least expensive car to own and operate – but there’s a catch. The Baleno doesn’t have an ANCAP safety rating, so if a five-star ANCAP rating is important to you (and it should be), the silver medallist is Kia’s five-star-rated Rio S automatic. And, if ever you needed confirmation of the ownership-cost differential between cars, compare the thrifty Baleno with its polar opposite Nissan Patrol which costs a whopping $19,326 per annum more. 

Suzuki Baleno

Small Car 

Model: Kia Cerato S hatch 
Drivetrain: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, six-speed automatic
Price: $23,490 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $778
Annual: $9331
Residual: $9100
Having claimed silver in the Light Car category, Kia went one better to edge out Hyundai’s i30 Go and claim top step on the Small Car podium. The Kia’s circa-$2400 lower purchase price and better retained value proved the difference in a tightly contested race. With its seven-year warranty the roomy and practical compact Kia is decently appointed, keenly priced and a respectably engaging drive by category standards.     

Kia Cerato S

Medium Car 

Model: Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid 
Drivetrain: 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid, CVT
Price: $34,413 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $949.87
Annual: $11,398
Residual: $11,200
Toyota’s ever-popular Camry is accustomed to winning gongs having topped its class in the 2019 Australia’s Best Cars Awards. In this value-focused environment the Camry Hybrid’s combination of low price, good resale value and thrifty fuel consumption, albeit on premium petrol, was enough to see off a concerted challenge from its less expensive in-house rival, the second-placed Camry Ascent 2.5-litre petrol auto. In general, our survey found that hybrids remain the most affordable and practical alternative if an electrified powertrain is desired.

Toyota Camry Ascent.

Electric Car

Model: Hyundai Ioniq Elite Plug-In Hybrid 
Drivetrain: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, plug-in hybrid, six-speed dual clutch   
Price: $46,468 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $1130
Annual: $13,555
Residual: $18,200
Full battery electric cars may be garnering plenty of media attention and slowly becoming both more common and affordable but their higher purchase price versus a similar-size conventionally powered, hybrid or plug-in hybrid still makes them more expensive overall. Hence how Hyundai’s keenly priced Ioniq plug-in hybrid was able to steal a category victory from its stablemate, the silver-medallist Ioniq EV. The circa $6500 price differential between the Korean hatches was a bridge too far, even for the car that wears the mantle of Australia’s cheapest EV. 

Hyundai Ioniq

Small SUV 

Model: Hyundai Venue Go 
Drivetrain: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive  
Price: $25,309 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $819 
Annual: $9828
Residual: $8600
In what is widely regarded as one of the most competitive categories on the Australian new car market, the monthly running cost difference between the least and most cost-effective of the 10 SUVs reviewed was a narrow $191. While Subaru’s XV 2.0i proved the most expensive of the small SUVs, it was the Hyundai Venue Go that won the ribbon for best value, its lower purchase price and servicing costs helping edge out Mazda’s CX-3 Neo Sport 2.0, which claimed silver. Third place went to the Hyundai Kona Go which costs less than a dollar per month more than the Mazda, 

Hyundai Venue Go.

Medium SUV 

Model: Mazda CX-5 Maxx 
Drivetrain: 2.5-litre four-cylinder, six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive 
Price: $38,240 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $1092 
Annual: $13,100
Residual: $15,900
Mazda may have been pipped for the silverware in the Small SUV category but it wouldn’t be denied here with the CX-5 fighting off a strong challenge from its Korean and Japanese rivals. The Mazda’s win was built on its keen sub-$40k purchase price, impressive but not best-in-class fuel efficiency and affordable replacement tyres. Compared with the Mitsubishi Outlander ES and Hyundai Tuscon Elite, which wear the most expensive tyres, the Mazda will save owners an impressive $30 per month on footwear alone. Toyota is never far from the action in any cost-of-ownership analysis and that’s also true here, with the RAV4 GXL 2.0 two-wheel drive claiming silver and the RAV4 GLXL 2.5 hybrid taking bronze.

Mazda CX-5

Large SUV 

Model: Subaru Outback 2.5i 
Drivetrain: 2.5-litre four-cylinder, CVT, all-wheel drive  
Price: $41,388 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $1214
Annual: $14,563
Residual: $15,200
Boasting all the comfort and refinement of the classy Liberty wagon on which it’s based, the Outback’s extra ground clearance and mild off-road capability help ensure its enduring popularity. In a category also populated by some larger-bodied seven-seaters, the Outback strikes a relatively compact pose but doesn’t stint on value. In fact, this petrol-powered model’s closest competition comes from the second-placed Subaru Outback 2.0D with the former winning the day by dent of its lower purchase price despite having more expensive replacement tyres and consuming a little more fuel.   

Subaru Outback

All Terrain 

Model: Toyota Fortuner GX 
Drivetrain: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, six-speed automatic, 4x4 
Price: $50,015 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $1389
Annual: $16,671
Residual: $19,700
Toyota’s rugged HiLux-based off-roader is not just a handy companion when the going gets rough, it’s also less demanding on the hip pocket than other off-roaders. The Fortuner narrowly edged out the second-placed Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX in what is the most expensive category to own and operate a vehicle. It’s worth noting that here, as in other categories, switching to another vehicle in the same class can still offer a decent saving. For instance, switching from the Nissan Patrol to the Toyota Fortuner 4x4 saves more than $10,600 per annum.

Toyota Fortuner.

Light Commercial 4x4

Model: Mitsubishi Triton GLX Dual Cab Pickup
Drivetrain: 2.4-litre turbo-diesel, six-speed automatic,  4X4 
Price: $44,168 (estimated on-road) 
Monthly: $1275
Annual: $15,300
Residual: $13,600
If ever there was a category where cost of ownership might come into sharp focus it would be Light Commercial 4x4, which encompasses popular dual cab 4x4 utes. The common perception is these vehicles are often purchased by small-to-medium business owners who use them for work, play and as a family hack, so the bottom line should be a strong consideration. With that in mind, the Mitsubishi Triton GLX dual cab pips the just superseded version of Isuzu’s D-Max SX3.0 Crew Cab based largely on its lower purchase price and slightly better resale value. It’s worth noting that the cost of ownership gap between the Triton and its least cost-effective rival, the Toyota LandCruiser Workmate V8, represents a significant $763 per month, which blows out to $9155 per annum or $45,776 over the five-year term. 

Mitsubishi Triton.