The price of vehicle ownership adds up. When it comes time to buy your next car, you need to consider the true cost of ownership of the vehicle — including trips to the mechanic. While changing the oil or changing tires both incur costs, AAA found that drivers will spend an average of $9,666 on their cars in 2021. That’s an increase of $279 from last year, and with gas prices rising, it’s important to prepare for vehicle costs when budgeting for which car is right for you.
Important car maintenance statistics
- The average cost of running a new car in 2021 was $9,666
- The average driver spends $1,771 per year on comprehensive car insurance
- License, registration and vehicle taxes are $699 per year
- Drivers of newer vehicles should have their oil changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles
- 1 in 3 drivers cannot afford unexpected vehicle repairs
- 7.9 percent of drivers have delayed routine maintenance on their vehicle
Arranging routine vehicle maintenance keeps your car running as it should and keeps you and your passengers safe. Maintenance costs vary by vehicle type and age, but there are some basics that almost every car needs.
Typically, your vehicle will need to be taken to the mechanic for general maintenance about every 5,000 miles. However, it is wise to do your own research and consult your owner’s manual for details on your car’s requirements.
While auto mechanics are there to help you, they also aim to make money. So while much of the maintenance requires professional help, consider what you can do at home to save money.
|oil change||Every 5,000 to 7,500 miles||$35 to $75|
|basic inspection||Every 5,000 km||$150 to $250|
|tire rotation||Every 5,000 to 8,000 km||$24 to $100|
|wiper replacement||Every six months||$10 to $45|
|Brake pad change||Every 10,000 to 20,000 km||$115 to $300|
replacement of parts
Throughout the life of your vehicle, it is likely that you will need to replace certain parts. This may be due to general wear and tear or major issues.
Regardless of the reason, the price of a replacement will depend on the part that needs to be replaced. These costs are based on a number of factors. Two of those factors are vehicle type – luxury vehicles with higher cost of parts – and market cost. Consumers are also directly affected by increases in costs due to inflation and the availability of vehicle parts.
Mechanics often do not simply have extra batteries, transmissions or brakes on hand, but have to order them. Unfortunately, due to an increase in the price of vehicle materials, you should be prepared for above-average replacement costs. Just as pandemic-related supply chain issues have resulted in fewer available cars, so are parts.
|vehicle part||frequency||Expected costs|
|New tyres||Every six years or 25,000 to 80,000 miles||$45 to $250 each|
|Air filter change (engine and cab)||Every 15,000 to 30,000||$35 to $80|
|Brake pad change||Every 10,000 to 20,000 km||$115 to $370|
Delays were commonly reported for brake pads, batteries, filters and some tires. With fewer parts available, you have to pay more — a 20 percent increase from 2021, according to Michael Chung, market intelligence director at the Auto Care Association. Over time, the prices of vehicle parts have also increased.
Surprise costs are inevitable when owning a vehicle. This could be an unexpected spill that soils the interior of your car, or something more serious like a fender flare. In any case, it is important to save extra money in case unexpected repairs occur.
AAA found that nearly one in three drivers cannot afford to pay a bill for an unexpected repair. While these costs are largely out of your control, you can save yourself future stress by budgeting for the worst-case scenario.
It is also advisable to shop around and find a workshop with a good reputation and fair prices. Contact your insurance company and check what’s covered before spending any money on a repair. Here is an overview of common repairs that can occur and the costs involved.
|Unexpected repair||Expected costs|
|Tires flat or burst||$10 to $250|
|transmission problem||$1,200 to $6,000|
|Weather-Related Damage||$1,000 to $3,500|
|Minor collisions||$50 to $3,000|
|Engine overheating||$100 to $1,500|
|Dead battery||$45 to $350|
|Defective starter||$80 to $1,100|
cost by brand
The selling price of a high-end vehicle is higher than that of a standard car, and the associated maintenance also has a higher cost. You’ll also likely need to do the servicing at a specific dealer when it comes to repairing a luxury vehicle, rather than a more local, privately opened option. The dealership experience tends to be more expensive but offers the convenience of mechanics who specialize in your car’s make and model.
While it may seem obvious that mid-range and high-end vehicles require high-end maintenance, this is not always the case. Take Dodge, for example – although it’s a mid-range option, annual maintenance costs almost reach the level that Mercedes drivers have to pay.
Consider the value that comes with a vehicle, which can add up to how often you need to take it to the body shop. And look at the average annual costs across different vehicle brands to best understand how much a car will cost you over the lifetime of the owner.
|vehicle brand||Annual maintenance costs for a 10 year old car|
Consumer Reports 2020 Annual Auto Survey
Cost by vehicle type
Although the make of the vehicle clearly affects maintenance costs, the type of vehicle is also a determining factor. Broken down below is the average cost of ownership for a vehicle over five years and 75,000 miles.
AAA determined these costs by calculating depreciation, finance, fuel, insurance, licensing, registration, taxes, maintenance, repairs, and tires. Electric vehicles have the lowest vehicle maintenance costs, while the 50-ton pickup truck is the most expensive to maintain.
|vehicle type||Operating costs in cents per mile|
|Half a ton pickup||77.25|
AAA 2021 Your travel expenses
As these prices illustrate, vehicle maintenance is based on a number of factors, and there is no perfect recipe for finding a cheap car. But an EV or a smaller vehicle tends to cost less. Electric vehicles are becoming more and more available in the market and can be a great option for drivers looking for lower maintenance costs.
The final result
Vehicle maintenance is an unavoidable reality that comes with vehicle ownership. But if you understand the average costs associated with routine maintenance and repairs, vehicle part replacements, and the price fluctuations by make and vehicle type, you can accurately budget for those costs. This is especially true in the current car market, which is saturated with inflated costs and expensive parts. Do some mechanical research and always consult your owner’s manual to confirm you meet the specific needs of your vehicle.