Car maintenance costs

How to save on car maintenance and repairs

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How much does maintenance cost?

Knowing the average costs of car maintenance can help you save for future repairs. According to a 2017 AAA cost of ownership study, the average cost for maintaining a new car is $1,186 per year.

That number factors in the recommended maintenance for your car, including tire replacement and extended warranty costs. According to this average, you should plan roughly $100 per month for maintenance.

Common car repairs and costs

Maintenance or repairAverage costWhen to repair
Oil and filter changes$20–$100Every 5,000 to 7,000 miles
Tire rotation$20–$50Every 3,000 to 7,000 miles
Tire replacement$50–$300 per tireAt 4/32” tread, about 25,000 to 50,000 miles
Brake pad replacement$100–$350Every 30,000 to 50,000 miles
Brake fluid flush$70–$100About every 3 years or 24,000 miles

Prepare for the most common winter repairs

Cars with the lowest maintenance costs

Save on future maintenance by comparing the cars that are the cheapest to fix and maintain.

  • Chevrolet Spark. Features a compact size with high gas mileage, reducing basic travel costs.
  • Toyota Corolla iM. Requires low maintenance, allowing you to add miles by the tens of thousands before addressing most maintenance needs.
  • Hyundai Sonata. Includes a low-fuss maintenance schedule. Hyundai also offers eco and hybrid models.
  • Chevrolet Impala. Features stop and start technology to reduce fuel costs. Also comes in a V6 version.
  • Chevrolet Camaro. Comes in a V6 and a V8 model with high-performance engines.
  • Dodge Challenger SRT. Includes four-wheel drive and V8 versions. One model also features fuel-saving technology, offsetting its high-speed performance.
  • Acura ILX. Low sticker price compared to other entry level luxury cars. Features a lightweight engine and dual-clutch transmission for smoother automatic shifting. Also comes with optional backup sensors and road navigation assistance to minimize accidents.
  • Nissan LEAF. An electric vehicle with a low entry price, moderate range of distance and driver safety assistance. Owners may also receive tax cuts for using a green vehicle.

Cars with the highest maintenance cost

Watch out for these cars and their high maintenance and repair costs.

  • Chrysler Sebring. Low fuel economy and a low-power engine.
  • Nissan Murano. Lacks rear visibility and controlled steering for safety.
  • Mercedes-Benz E350. Hefty ticket price, low fuel economy and low reliability ratings. These ratings could mean more repairs.
  • Dodge Grand Caravan. Average fuel economy and below average crash test safety ratings in some categories. This van may require more repairs for maintenance and in accidents.
  • Audi A4 Quattro. Average reliability and highway gas mileage, more expensive repairs.

How do maintenance costs affect insurance rates?

In some cases, your car’s maintenance costs can influence your insurance premium. For example, if you own a standard model sedan, your insurance rates will likely be cheaper than a luxury sports car.

Insurance companies know that a luxury sports car will cost more to repair due to its specialized, imported parts, while standard sedans may have simple repairs with parts found all across the country.

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What factors go into maintenance costs?

Maintenance costs will differ between vehicles for a variety of reasons. Main factors that influence the cost include the type of repair, the vehicle’s make and model and the service provider.

  • Type of repair. Some repairs involve more work, require special equipment or carry more importance to the car’s upkeep than others.
  • Amount of work. Due to the level of expertise involved, car mechanics charge a high hourly fee.
  • Vehicle make and model. The kind of car can influence where or how repairs are done. A mechanic may need to remove parts to access another. In other cases, the car might require special parts or equipment to do the repair.
  • Service provider. Local mechanic shops may cost less for repairs than larger ones, who have more business overhead. And specialty mechanics generally charge higher fees.
  • Replacement parts. Some parts cost more than others due to safety features or its importance to the car’s upkeep.

What’s the best way to cover maintenance and repair costs?

There’s more than one way to cover car repairs. You’ll need to weigh the options based on your car and financial situation.

  • Vehicle warranty. New cars come with a basic manufacturer warranty, typically for three to five years. After that, you can purchase an extended warranty from the manufacturer, and its cost is usually added into your car loan. Choose a warranty that covers your car from bumper to bumper or covers only certain parts like the engine.

The downside is that your warranty will eventually run out and vehicle warranties don’t normally cover the cost of maintenance or wear and tear.

  • Breakdown coverage. This coverage comes from a separate breakdown insurance company. It can sometimes be added onto your car insurance, although breakdown coverage isn’t the same as car insurance.

The coverage works similar to a warranty, covering certain repairs. And breakdown coverage can often include more repairs not covered by a warranty. You can also choose to extend or remove coverage at any time.

  • Prepaid car maintenance. Some dealers will offer prepaid car maintenance plans on new cars. With this option, you would pay a set amount upfront and then take your car to regularly scheduled maintenance visits.

However, one downside is that the car dealer’s maintenance schedule might not align with manufacturer recommendations — and you might already be covered for certain maintenance with your car warranty.

  • Out of pocket. You can choose to pay maintenance expenses out of pocket. This option works best for those who keep a regular car expense savings account or emergency fund.
  • Car repair loan. If you’re stuck with an emergency car expense that you can’t pay for, a car repair loan can help you get money quickly to pay the mechanic. These often take the form of a payday loan or personal loan, though a small repair could be put on your credit card.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to pay interest on any loan or credit charge, which can be pricey. It’s a good backup plan if you don’t have any other way to cover car repairs.

Bottom line

Car maintenance and repairs don’t have to take you by surprise. By knowing average costs and understanding your car’s maintenance schedule, you can prepare ahead of time to choose the best financing option for your budget.

Compare car repair financing and cheap car insurance to save on your total costs.

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