Vehicle owners in the New England states spend more per mile to own and operate their vehicles than anywhere else in the U.S., according to a cost analysis prepared for the AAA by Runzheimer International, the Rochester, Wisconsin-based consulting firm.

Based on the combined costs of owning and operating a typical compact, intermediate and full-size vehicle, New Englanders pay 52.2 cents per mile. Drivers in the Western states pay nearly as much, 52.0 cents per mile.

These costs are based on operating costs: fuel, oil, tires, maintenance; and ownership costs:insurance, depreciation, license and registration fees, taxes, and financing. It is assumed the vehicles are driven 15,000 miles per year and traded in after four years.

The least expensive region of the U.S. to drive is the Southeast where it is only 49.4 cents to own and operate these same vehicles. the national average, according to the Runzheimer calculations, is 51.2 cents per mile. The Mid-Atlantic states most nearly mirror the national average at 51.8 cents per mile.

"We often think of the rate established by the IRS as the national standard," says John McGrath, Runzheimer consultant and car cost expert. For 2001, the national per-mile rate that the U.S. taxpayer can deduct for non-reimbursable business driving expenses is 34.5 cents.

"There are significant differences," McGrath notes. "The per-mile rate established for the AAA includes both vehicle taxes and finance expense, has different insurance assumptions, and is based on three size categories of vehicles rather than a national weighted average which includes all size categories of passenger vehicles. The IRS rate is intended to be a safe-harbor tax deduction for people who don't keep accurate expense receipts."

For further information on vehicle costs and managing business vehicle programs, contact Runzheimer International, Runzheimer Park, Rochester, WI 53167. Telephone: 262-971-2200. Fax: 262-971-2476. Website: