Most people estimate that the cost or the value of their vehicle is significantly too low. This has consequences that go far beyond your wallet.

Everyone knows that it is difficult to keep an eye on the true costs of your car if you have a workshop invoice here because the tax or insurance pays. How drastically the Germans are wrong in assessing the cost of their vehicle is now shown in a first study on the subject, which will be published this Thursday. Scientists from the RWI-Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, as well as colleagues from the University of Mannheim and the US Elite University Yale, interviewed 6,000 German households with their cars and found that car owners underestimate the costs by an average of more than 50 percent.

While the actual monthly expenses for wear, tax, insurance, and visits to the workshop, according to the study, are around 425 euros, the Germans give their costs on average at 204 euros. The respondents would have been well off with gasoline. With the other costs, however, there were massive gaps in knowledge. This is how the authors describe it in a scientific commentary on Thursday in the journal Nature appears.

According to the researchers, this is not just a personal problem for car owners. The study also makes it clear what environmental consequences accounting has for society as a whole. Because the wrong perception is likely to be an important reason why car use in Europe continues to increase and so far it has not been possible to significantly reduce emissions in the transport sector. In Germany alone, the number of privately owned cars has increased from 37 to 42 million in the past ten years, according to the Federal Statistical Office. Private cars are responsible for eleven percent of the total CO₂ emissions worldwide.

The researchers also found that knowing the real cost would change mobility. Information about the actual cost of owning a car increases the willingness of respondents to pay for public transport by 22 percent. Would drivers be over the real one’s Informed cost of driving, could reduce car ownership by up to 37 percent, the researchers conclude.

That would be almost 18 million fewer cars on German roads. The associated traffic emissions could decrease by 23 percent. According to the paper, to achieve the same effect on car ownership by increasing fuel prices, fuel prices would have to increase by 1200 percent, which is hardly feasible. According to the researchers, sales of electric cars would also increase. According to the study, a fair financial comparison could increase it by 73 percent.

The data is said to have been collected for Germany, the paper says, but is at least transferable to the whole of Europe and probably also to other countries.

To change something, the researchers make a concrete proposal to politics. When selling, manufacturers should also be required to provide information on the total cost of maintenance. That also works with other expenses such as the energy value for real estate or electricity consumption in refrigerators – and has a significant influence on consumption.

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