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C3500 100K Costs

What is the actual TRUE cost of operating my 2004 Chevrolet Silverado LS C3500?  When the Project C3500 2004 Silverado hit 100,000 miles in the summer of 2014, it was time to reflect and calculate the actual “true” cost of operating this vehicle for this period.

The methodology I use is very similar to what was used for the Project 300K 2004 Subaru.  Fortunately, I have kept (at least in my mind) very accurate records using Quicken financial management software as well as a pretty decent service record.  I have tried to include everything involved with the total cost.  My calculation includes the following costs:

Depreciation, fuel; additional equipment I put on the vehicle; insurance; registration, state inspection and personal property tax; maintenance; and tires.  If anyone reading this can come up with something that I have forgotten please let me know and I will adjust my calculation as required.

Depreciation – The sticker price of the vehicle was 45,328.00.  With my military discount and a substantial rebate Chevy was offering at the time (2250!) and some negotiation, we walked (OK, drove) out paying somewhat less.  I've always loved what I call the “voodoo math” that car dealers use on sales contracts.  My interest is basically the bottom line; how they get there I really don’t care.  In this case, we traded in our 1996 C3500 for what I considered a fair value of 10,000.  Since they were giving low interest loans at the time I saw no reason to tie up any more of our money than necessary.  I made total payments on the car of 29,242.80 so basically I paid 39,242.80 for the basic truck.  To be fair, this amount included a 2,685 credit from my GM MasterCard (which I consider real money) so in reality, I paid 41,927.80 for this vehicle.  As of August 1, 2014, the Kelly Blue Book value of the vehicle in very good condition is 23,645.00.  That makes to total depreciation 18,282.80 or 18.3 cents per mile.  Frankly I think if I offered this vehicle for 23,645 it would be like practically giving it away considering its current condition.

Fuel – I remember the first time we fueled the vehicle at the Ona Exxon Little General near our home (at the time) in Milton, WV.  Surprisingly the truck was delivered with a fair amount of fuel in the tank.  The salesman told me that it was their policy to deliver the vehicle with a full tank and since they didn't have a chance he handed me a 50 dollar bill and almost begged for forgiveness.  It took 30 bucks to put 20 gallons in the tank (we ordered a pizza with the balance).  Diesel at less than a buck fifty a gallon; man those were the good old days.  While diesel fuel is running around 3.90 – 4.00 a gallon as of July-August 2014, the average cost of diesel fuel over the last ten years has been 3.05 per gallon.  According to my Quicken records, I have spent 19,550 on fuel or just over 19.5 cents per mile.  While this is an average, at current prices (3.95/gallon) and typical overall mileage (16 mpg), the current cost for fuel is just under 25 cents per mile.

Additional Equipment – Shortly after purchasing the vehicle, I has an outfit called Z-Tech in Huntington, WV install a spray in bed liner, a hard tonneau cover and step bars.  This set me back 994.20.  In August 2013, the step bars had seen better days and I replaced them with a set of Dee Zee step bars that I purchased from Summit Racing for 152.95 (including shipping).  Additional equipment has totaled 1147.15.

Insurance – Being a safe driver helps out a lot.  Neither my spouse nor I have had either an accident or ticket in over 25 years.  This really helps bring down our auto insurance rates.   I have paid 6220.00 in insurance premiums.  I carry rather high coverage limits.  Depending on your driving record and if you carry smaller maximums, higher deductibles you may either have higher or lower premiums.  Being a veteran and a 25+ year member of USAA doesn't hurt either.

Registration/Personal Property Tax/Inspections

When I bought the truck I lived in West Virginia and didn't have to pay anything but registration fees to drive the truck.  I also had to get an annual inspection.  Before moving to Kentucky in 2006 I paid the state of West Virginia a total of 248 dollars for the privilege of driving my truck.

The good news about Kentucky is that they don’t have a state inspection scheme.  The bad news is a little thing called Personal Property Tax.  It is based on the value of your vehicle.  Where they get the value from I have no idea.  No matter here but as of December 2013 (the last time I registered the vehicle (and paid my PPT) I have contributed 1725 dollars to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  This totals a cool 1973 dollars.


I do a good deal of the routine maintenance myself; there are a few jobs however that I feel are best left to the pros mostly because I just don’t have the necessary equipment to do the job.

Fuel Filter – This is a job I do not feel comfortable with due to the possibility of air getting into (and subsequently messing up) the fuel system.  The manual calls for replacement every 15,000 miles and I have been fairly religious about maintaining that schedule.  On average it has cost me 80.00 per change.  I have changed it six times for a total of 480.00.

Air Filter Element – I replaced the stock element with a K&N Filter Charger that set me back 50.00 from Summit Racing

Oil – This is an easy job to do.  Although the manual calls for 10,000 miles between changes, that just seems a bit long for me so I have averaged about 7000.  It takes 10 quarts plus filter.  I tried synthetic oil but found absolutely no change in fuel economy or performance.  I use Shell Rotella T and K&N Filters.  A total of 12 changes have set me back 575.00.

Transmission Fluid and Filter – This is another easy DIY job with a spin on external filter.  The manual calls for changing it at 50,000 miles but since I do a little hard work I change it at 30.  I have changed it three times for a total of 80 dollars.

Batteries – I probably pushed it a little too far and was forced to change my batteries while on vacation in Florida in July 2011.  I replaced both batteries with Sear Diehard’s (not my first choice, but when you are on vacation you don't always get to do what you want to) which set me back 405 dollars.

Shocks – Another item I somewhat neglected until I hooked up by trailer and it bounced all over the place.  In July 2014 I replaced the shocks with some heavy duty Monroe Shocks which set me back 400.00.  I made the mistake of having the shop do the installation and got whacked with 2 hours of labor at 99.00 per hour.  I was unsure if I could sufficiently lift the vehicle to do the job myself as well as if I could loosen the existing shocks without damaging something.  This was a bit of an "ouch" moment for me and it won't happen again.

Wipers – I replace the wipers when they don’t work anymore.  In the 10 years it took to get to 100,000 miles, I spent 242.00 on wipers.

Coolant – I had to cooling system serviced in June 2013 by my Chevy dealer in Shelbyville, KY.  It set me back 116.00.

Alignment – I had the truck aligned once (other than as part of new tires or as part of a tire protection package.  It set me back 50.00.

Total – 2398.00

Tires – I have replaced the tires twice.  In August 2007 I spent 1015.84 on what turned out to be cheap commercial tires that we never liked.  I dropped 2056.15 in Jan 2014 on a set of Michelin’s that ride like a dream.  Overall I have spent a total of 3072 dollars on tires.

When you add it all up it comes to 53,042 to reach 100,000 miles or 53.0 cents per mile.  While I may have missed something since no one is perfect, I certainly believe this number to be within ± 1 cent.

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