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How Much Does Car Maintenance Actually Cost?

If you’re breaking it down into dollars and cents, you’d better take a seat. It won’t be a surprise anymore why your Visa card has a racing stripe on the back from use. For the typical household in the United States, car maintenance costs alone chew up a solid 5 percent of their income. For a lower middle-class two-income household with an annual net income of $75,000, it adds up to $3,750 every year.

Break it down further. The average maintenance cost per month is $312. That’s probably for two vehicles, though, so it’s not so bad…right? Wrong. It’s still $156 per month. Since you only take your car in for maintenance every three months, your average bill is somewhere just shy if $500 per visit!

That’s crazy, isn’t it? And once a car breaks down from lack of maintenance your only options might be selling it or trading in your non running car.

Why So Expensive?

Car maintenance costs have seemingly increased over the years, but it’s really not that bad. Prior to the mid-eighties, an engine rebuild would be expected every three to five years. Common maintenance included wheel bearing repacks and belt replacement every few months. 

Highest & Lowest Maintenance Costs

Today’s repair shops charge exponentially more per hour. Even though there are fewer maintenance items, the labor and car parts costs are higher.

Add to that some special items that sway the balance. A timing belt replacement is often required now, and synthetic engine oil is commonplace in many cars. The effect? Increased average car maintenance costs. And you either have to suck it up and pay it, do it yourself, or stop driving.

Which Maintenance Items are Most Expensive?

Timing Belt – Depending on the make and model you drive, a timing belt replacement could be around $300 or over $1,000. It’s one of the unexpected maintenance items that gets skipped and can cause even more expensive car repairs when the timing belt breaks.

Transmission Service – On some models, a drain and refill might run you just $100 or so. On others, like a Chevrolet Silverado HD Duramax with an Allison transmission, fluid, filters, and labor could creep up to $750 or so. If this goes bad a transmission replacement can cost a pretty penny.

Spark Plugs – Changing spark plugs is less frequent than ever, but still as important to do on time. For a basic 4-cylinder engine, it might be as low as $150. For a V8 HEMI in the Ram 1500, there are two spark plugs per cylinder and it’s reasonably priced around $500.

Tires – Tire rotations are cheap, tire replacement is not. An average set of tires is no laughing matter at $400 to $2,000, depending on the size, model, and style.

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Cars with Lowest Maintenance Cost

You can mitigate some of the maintenance costs by purchasing a vehicle that’s notably less expensive to maintain. Car maintenance costs by brand can be misleading, but it’s an indicator of what you might expect.

Toyota – Tried and true Toyota has always been one of the cars with lowest maintenance cost. It’s not that there’s anything special – on the contrary. They don’t break down as often, are efficient, and still cost the least to maintain.

Honda – Like Toyota, Honda vehicles have a reputation for dependability. Do the minimum maintenance and it’s going to last for years. Plus, they’re manufactured for easy accessibility to repair and maintain.

Mitsubishi – Less common on the streets than its Japanese competitors, Mitsubishi vehicles are known for reliability and the same low cost of ownership.

But if you buy a Chrysler, Ford, Kia, or Chevy, you’ll be paying among the top car maintenance costs by brand…

Luxury Cars with Lowest Maintenance Cost

That changes for luxury cars, though. The highest maintenance costs are in luxury vehicles. Typical Mercedes maintenance costs are higher than any domestic brand and lower than just BMW. Audi car maintenance costs trail Mercedes-Benz, but by only $100 per year.

The lowest maintenance costs for luxury cars will be from Land Rover, Infiniti, and Acura. But take note: all three of these cars have higher annual maintenance costs than a non-luxury brand! Keeping up with maintenance will be better than getting engine knock which will leave you with selling a car with a blown engine though.Luxury Car Maintenance Costs

Cost of Luxury Parts

Trying to avoid the high costs of maintenance? You could do your own servicing, but that’s IF you have the right technology and tools to do the job.

Are BMW Parts Expensive?

Working on a BMW? Expect a major parts bill. One leading factor for the ultra-high maintenance costs on a Bimmer is the cost of parts, which can be just as much as the overall costs on a Toyota.

Are Infiniti Parts Expensive?

Like BMW, parts are costly for an Infiniti, but not quite as high. As a sister company to Nissan, Infiniti parts are more widely available and might even cross over with some economy models.

What You Can Do

If paying high maintenance costs isn’t your idea of a good time, buy an electric car. Electric car maintenance costs are expected to be much lower than even domestic car costs, but it’s going to be a while until EVs are flooding the road.

But if high repair bills and service costs are getting to be too much, we’ll take your car off your hands. CarBrain buys cars of all kinds, whether new or old, in good shape or wrecked, and for cash. We’ll put good money in your pocket in as little as 24 hours. Get a quick offer for your vehicle now!

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