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How Much Does Car Maintenance Cost?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Shopping for a new car requires lots of number crunching. From the time you pull up to the car lot to when you take the vehicle in for inspection, there will always be unavoidable expenses along the way. 

When purchasing a new vehicle, smart buyers will usually factor in the cost of the insurance, registration fees, emissions test, gas and parking. Taking a look into the cost of maintenance over time can be as important, especially when purchasing a used vehicle.

Some people might think they can save a few bucks by purchasing a used car, but if the car turns out to be a lemon, it could cost the owner much more in car maintenance costs. 

Repairs for problems like engine and transmission issues can stack up fast, so it’s essential to factor in these costs when buying a car. Some brands are more expensive to maintain than others, and there’s usually a good reason for it. 

We’ll walk through the average costs of car ownership and the costs of common maintenance issues.

How much does it cost to own a car?

There are many factors that affect the cost of owning a car, and those factors could change from person to person. A few of the common factors that determine the cost of car ownership include:

  • Brand, make and model: Some brands are fairly inexpensive to maintain, while others require expensive and semi-regular maintenance and car repair.
  • Location: In regions where there are many natural disasters or car thefts and vandalism, owners may find themselves on the hook for higher maintenance costs than normal.
  • Miles driven: People who drive long distances frequently for work, school or other activities will probably need to service their car more often. 
  • Quality of repairs: Not all auto repair shops are the same, and a good one is worth seeking. Some repair shops specialize in certain types of vehicles and are usually a good bet if you can find one that specializes in your car’s brand.

AAA studies the cost of car ownership, and the company releases the average cost of ownership for each type of car, based on new vehicles driven 15,000 miles annually.

Vehicle category Annual cost
Medium sedan$8,643
Medium SUV$10,265

How much will car maintenance cost me?

The first thing to consider when determining car maintenance costs is the make and model. Different cars require different levels of maintenance, so choosing a brand known for its low maintenance needs is a good idea. 

The year the car was built will also be a prime factor in the equation. Newer cars are usually built better than older models, so they generally last longer and require less maintenance. 

Here are  examples of new cars with low costs to own, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Car class Car type Five-year maintenance cost
Compact car2019 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S$2,029
Full-size car2019 Chevrolet Impala LS$2,562
Mid-size SUV2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport$1,761
Mid-size pickup2019 Nissan Frontier King Cab S$2,613
Minivan 2020 Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon XL$2,099
Hybrid2020 Toyota Prius Prime LE$2,098
Electric2019 smart fortwo EQ coupe Pure$3,874

Routine maintenance

Routine maintenance like changing the oil and rotating the tires is relatively inexpensive and important for the longevity of the vehicle. Here is a list of the ranges for average costs associated with common routine maintenance for cars, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Maintenance  Average cost
Conventional oil change$35–$75
Synthetic oil change$65–$125
Tire rotation$20–$120
Spark plug replacement $16–$100
Battery replacement$45–$250

Major maintenance 

Bigger issues require significant maintenance costs, which can be expensive for the owner. If these issues are unresolved, the car can become unfit to drive.

However, larger issues are also more complex, so costs vary more than routine maintenance. With this in mind, here is a list of the ranges for average costs associated with common major maintenance for cars, according to Kelley Blue Book and the Transmission Repair Cost Guide.

Maintenance  Average cost
Windshield replacement$200–$1,000
Brake pad replacement$150–$300 (per axel)
Brake pad and rotor replacement $250–$400 (per axel)
Transmission replacement$1800–$3400

Is full coverage car insurance worth it?

Although car insurance policies won’t cover regular wear and tear, there are instances where car insurance can help pay for repairs.

If the car is new or will require expensive repairs if damaged, it’s highly recommended that the owner purchase full-coverage auto insurance. While more expensive than minimum coverage, full-coverage provides enhanced protections for the driver and the vehicle.

Here are parts of full-coverage insurance that can help you save money after an incident damages your car:

  • Collision: This covers damages resulting from an accident with another car or other object while moving. 
  • Comprehensive: This covers damages resulting from other hazards such as theft, vandalism and natural disasters.

These two coverages will pay for repairs to the vehicle after you pay the deductible. When signing up for auto insurance, take a close look at the deductible and coverage limits to get an idea of your out-of-pocket costs after insurance in the event of an accident.

The takeaway

  • Newer cars usually last longer than older cars.
  • Some models require expensive repairs. 
  • Some kinds of car insurance, such as comprehensive and collision, can help save money on repairs.
  • Frequent maintenance helps cars stay on the road.

When shopping for a new vehicle, do the research first. Some cars are easier to maintain than others, and understanding which makes and models require low levels of maintenance can end up reducing the cost of repairs as the car ages.

Julian Dossett

Julian is a freelance writer for Coverage.com, where he writes about auto and home insurance with an eye toward consumer advocacy. His work has appeared at The Simple Dollar, Bankrate, Reviews.com, Blockchain Beach and MSN.com. He’s currently based in New Mexico.

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