How much does car maintenance cost?

You’ve budgeted for the purchase price, but how much does it cost to maintain a car?

Anna Swartz 1600

Anna Swartz

Published October 11, 2019

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Maintaining a car adds extra expenses to car ownership, on top of insurance and any car payments

  • The cost of routine maintenance will depend on the make, model and age of your car

  • Before buying a car, budget out the cost of regular upkeep to make sure you’re prepared for the extra expense

Buying a car is a big financial decision, whether you’re taking out a car loan, paying cash or leasing a new car. You may have budgeted for the upfront cost and any recurring car payments, but how much will monthly maintenance cost you?

It’s important to factor in expenses like oil and fluid changes, fuel, repairs and tires too. Then there are other ownership costs like your car insurance premium, yearly registration fees and parking.

All in all, the monthly and yearly costs of owning a car are much more than just the price you pay at the dealership. It’s important to understand all the regular costs of car ownership before you jump into a bigger financial commitment than you anticipated. Let’s break down the costs.

In this article:

How much does it cost to own a car?

The annual cost of car ownership for any given driver will depend on multiple factors, like where in the U.S. you live, how much you drive and how old your car is. But the make and model of your car will play a large role in determining yearly costs.

AAA’s 2019 Your Driving Costs study broke down the average annual costs associated with nine different types of vehicles, factoring in the costs of gas, maintenance, repairs, tires, car insurance, fees, car payments and depreciation, in order to calculate the annual cost of ownership for different types of vehicles.

Their study included nine categories: small sedans, medium sedans, large sedans, small SUVS, medium SUVs, minivans, pickup trucks, hybrids and electric cars.

Based on a driver with regular car payments who drives 15,000 miles a year and has what’s referred to as full coverage car insurance — meaning it includes comp and collision coverage — here are the annual ownership costs for each type of vehicle.

Type of carAnnual cost of ownership
Small sedan$7,114
Hybrid$7,736
Electric$8,320
Small SUV$8,394
Medium Sedan$8,634
Minivan$10,036
Medium SUV$10,265
Large Sedan$10,403
Pickup$10,839

How much will car maintenance cost me?

We looked at total ownership costs per type of vehicle, but let’s say you don’t have car payments, you’ve already figured out how much insurance will be, and you just want to know how much you’ll be paying for maintenance and upkeep.

One way to estimate the cost of maintaining your car is by considering the routine costs. Consider that most cars will need some attention every 5,000 miles or every 6 months, whichever comes first. Routine maintenance can include:

  • Oil changes - $25-$65
  • Tire rotation - $15-$35
  • Coolant flush - $55-$150
  • Transmission flush - $124-$250
  • Brake pad replacement - $100-$30.

Along with these regular costs, there are other common car issues that can come up, like leaks, alternator replacements, issues with windows and fuel pump replacements.

The newer the car, the less attention it will need — conversely, the older it gets the more often you’ll likely have to see your mechanic. Of course, some car makes tend to be more reliable than others, and some car brands tend to have certain mechanical issues over time.

The website YourMechanic.com analyzed its data to estimate the cost of maintaining a new car over the first 10 years of owning it and found that the most expensive car brand to maintain was BMW, with a total estimated cost of $17,800 in maintenance over the first 10 years, and the cheapest was Toyota, with a total estimated cost of $5,500 over the first 10 years — a dramatic difference in upkeep.

MakeCost to maintain over 10 years
BMW$17,800
Mercedes-Benz$12,900
Cadillac$12,500
Volvo$12,500
Audi$12,400
Saturn$12,400
Mercury$12,000
Pontiac$11,800
Chrysler$10,600
Dodge$10,600
Acura$9,800
Infiniti$9,200
Ford$9,100
Kia$8,800
Land Rover$8,800
Chevrolet$8,800
Buick$8,600
Jeep$8,200
Subaru$8,200
Hyundai$8,200
GMC$7,800
Volkswagen$7,800
Nissan$7,600
Mazda$7,500
Mini$7,500
Mitsubishi$7,400
Honda$7,200
Lexus$7,000
Scion$6,400
Toyota$5,500
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How much is car insurance?

We’ve touched on car insurance costs already, but when you’re buying a car, it’s important to consider the regular cost of car insurance that will come along with it.

Car insurance is required in most states in the U.S., and even where it’s not required, drivers are responsible for paying for any damage they cause with their vehicle, so car insurance is still important.

Estimating the cost of car insurance for an average driver is difficult because car insurance is based on individual factors like the driver’s age, address, driving history, credit score, coverage limits and the make and model of car they drive. But a 2017 report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found that the average annual cost of auto insurance in the U.S. was $1,099 in 2015.

That national average broke down very differently state-to-state, however. According to the NAIC, the most expensive state for auto insurance was Louisiana, with an average cost of $1,405 per year, and the least expensive was Indiana, with an average annual cost of $755.03.

The best way to find affordable car insurance is to compare quotes through an independent broker like Policygenius, so you can choose affordable coverage that meets your needs.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.