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Dear Tom and Ray: So many of my friends evaluate the cost of a car trip only by the cost of the gas. But I know that the cost, given wear and tear on the engine, oil changes, tires wearing out, alignment, etc., is actually much, much higher. I know this depends on the car, but how much, on average, does it cost per mile to run a car? – Rachel

Tom: Well, every year, the Internal Revenue Service answers that question. They want to know the value of one mile driven in the average car so they can let taxpayers know how much they can deduct for business use of their personal vehicle.

Ray: The number they came up with for 2014 is 56 cents a mile.

Tom: Now, let’s say the average car gets 25 miles per gallon today, and the average price of gas per gallon is $3.50. That means that gasoline represents only 14 of that 56 cents.

Ray: And the rest – the other 42 cents – covers wear and tear and insurance.

Tom: In reality, that maintenance-and-repair figure will be even higher on pricier cars. Because if you’re driving a Lexus or a Lincoln, the price of your maintenance, repairs, tires and even insurance is going to be even higher.

Ray: But that 56-cents-a-mile number gives you an idea of how much people underestimate the cost of operating a car when they factor in only the 14 cents’ worth of gas, Rachel.

Tom: So next time you drive your friends to the mall, you can try hitting ‘em up for the full IRS reimbursement. See how that goes over. And be prepared to settle for a grande cappuccino.

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Dear Tom and Ray: Is it possible for a 2013 Chevy Impala that has only 7,550 miles on it to malfunction mechanically without operator error? When I got the car back after loaning it out, here’s what I found: (1) Check engine light comes on. (2) Vehicle is slightly jerking. (3) Check oil light comes on. (4) Check windshield washer fluid light comes on. (5) Oil, washer fluid and one other mystery fluid (for now) are all leaking. I asked if they ran over something or hit a bump in the road, and they say they did not. I think they did. So, is it possible that the vehicle could have all those lights on and be leaking fluids with only 7,550 miles without some kind of operator error? – JamieLee

Ray: No. Whoever you lent the car to ran over a buffalo. Or maybe a brontosaurus.

Tom: You don’t say who had the car, JamieLee. My experience suggests it probably was a brother!

Ray: That would be my guess. In any case, at 7,550 miles, nothing should be leaking on this car, and none of the warning lights should be coming on.

Tom: So I’d suggest that you have the car towed to the dealer as soon as possible, and ask them to take a look at it. You really shouldn’t even drive it there if the oil light is on.

Ray: My guess is that the service manager will come find you in the waiting room and say, “What the heck did you run over?”

Tom: And if you get confirmation from the dealer that there was an impact of some kind on the underside of the car, then you can call your insurance company and report that the car was in an accident. Which it was.

Ray: If you lend your car to somebody, your insurance policy still covers the car.

Tom: Then your insurance company can negotiate with the dealer about what can be repaired and what needs to be replaced.

Ray: And then you, personally, can negotiate with the knucklehead who borrowed your car about paying the deductible for you.

Tom: And, obviously, that person will have his or her borrowing privileges summarily revoked. Possibly along with Christmas card privileges. Good luck, JamieLee. And sorry about what happened to your new car.

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Don’t get stuck with a lemon. Be an informed shopper. Read Tom and Ray’s guide “How to Buy a Great Used Car: Secrets Only Your Mechanic Knows.” Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Used Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.