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What are the Average Costs of Car Maintenance?

vehicle maintenance schedule you should follow

Making a solid budget for automobile maintenance is an important part of creating a financial plan. The year, make, and model of your vehicle are important factors in this equation. The way you drive your car also has an impact on how much maintenance costs can be year to year.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

These days, a lot of people are worried about the cost of maintaining their car. It's an important topic. How much are the average maintenance costs for a vehicle? the problem is that this is a tough question to answer.

Think of it this way. You already have a car payment most likely. On top of that, there's insurance to be paid. Then, you must fill up the gas tank every week. And of course, there are oil changes, tire rotations, and brake replacements to be considered.

The amount of money you will spend on car maintenance month to month or year to year will largely depend on the type of vehicle you are driving. 

For example, if you are driving a 1995 Dodge Neon, you should budget for a large amount of funds for car maintenance. These cars often have expensive head gasket issues. With a car this old, you can expect there to be many problems down the line (including head gasket issues!). 

Of course, newer cars often cost less in the maintenance department. This is due to better engineering, warranties and extended warranties, and recalls that often pay for unexpected factory-caused issues. 

The average lifespan of a car is about 12 years. This means that if you're driving a car that is approaching this 12 year or older, you could be shelling out some serious cash for car maintenance soon. 

Today's post will cover the average maintenance costs for most vehicles, and we'll pinpoint some common trends when talking about this topic. For example, we will list the average cost for services such as oil changes, tire rotations, and a new car battery. 

How Much Should Car Maintenance Cost per Year?

Although people spend about $1200 on car maintenance each year, the actual anticipated cost of car maintenance depends on various factors. 

You must consider the year, make, and model of the car. Older cars, in general, cost more to maintain each year. 

The annual car budget will include maintenance costs as well as prices paid for gas, insurance, tolls, and even licenses and parking permits. Note how driving a car can become expensive fast if you're not prepared! 

Many people don't realize how much cars cost to own.

However, taking care of your car can save you a lot of money in the long run. For example, if you get regular oil changes, you most likely will not be surprised with problems related to not getting your oil changed like engines that lock up or blown head gaskets. In other words, change your oil filter!


Another way to think about the average cost of car maintenance in the 21st century is to remember a statistic often cited: the average cost for car maintenance is just under $0.10 per mile.

There are some car maintenance topics that are common these days:

  • Car batteries 
  • Windshield wipers 
  • Engine oil 
  • Brake pads 
  • Tire rotation 
  • Detailing your vehicle 
  • Changing the transmission fluid 
  • Timing belt replacement 
  • Flushing the radiator 

The Total Annual Average Cost of Owning a Vehicle

On average, car owners are reportedly paying roughly $6,350 for small cars and over $10,000 for larger vehicles (SUVs, pickup trucks, etc.). Per mile, that comes out to $.09 (about a dime) per mile.

Rule of thumb: if you’re driving about 10,000 miles in 365 days, you’re racking up $900 of maintenance costs around the way. Double the distance, double the cost.

Remember that your car’s user manual is the supreme source for car maintenance schedules. Some vehicles need oil changes at every 3,000 miles. Others only need oil changes once a year.

If you observe anything odd with your car, such as a strange smell, a crunching or grinding noise, or a series of loud squeaks, you should call the mechanic right away. 

There are many car problems that can be resolved easily if caught right away but detrimental if left unchecked for long periods of time.

How Often Should I Change my Car’s Oil?

The bulk of your average car maintenance costs will come from oil changes, especially if you’re driving a newer vehicle.

Professional mechanics believe that an oil change should be completed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. As far as budgeting goes, you can calculate how many oil changes you need in a year and throw that into your car maintenance budget.

The average price for an oil change can be as low as $30 and as much as $120. If your getting two a year, that means $60 to $240 for oil changes alone. 

At minimum, you’ll be getting a car’s oil changed at least once a year. 

Older cars are a different story, though. They usually require oil changes at the 3,000-mile mark. Newer models can last longer, especially when filled with fully synthetic oil.

Changing the Car Windshield Wipers on Your Own

Planning for windshield wiper replacement can help you determine how much to budget for car maintenance costs.

Windshield wiper blades need to be changed regularly, usually once a year. You can expect to pay $50 for new blades. If you choose to let the mechanic take on the work, it will cost an additional $35.

Some cars have easy-to-find windshield wiper blades that basically snap on and off, so doing the change yourself at home is easy. Other cars require specialty blades or a whole set of tools to do the project. In this case, you might be better off letting the pros handle the work.

What Do I Do if My Battery Dies?

Dead batteries need to be listed in your budget if you are worried about the average cost of car maintenance.

Although many car batteries last a lot longer, the anticipated replacement timeline for the part is about three years. In other words, don’t be surprised if your car battery doesn’t give enough juice on a cold winter day if it’s been more than three years since it has been replaced.

How much does car battery replacement cost? Expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $200 depending on the type of vehicle you own. 

The Average Cost of Brake Pad Replacement

The cost to replace the brakes on a vehicle, like most car parts, varies based on the year, make, and model of your ride.

The maintenance is expensive because it is difficult. Expect to pay up to $150 for new brake pads all around the car. If there’s more that needs help than just the brake pads (rotors, etc.), then the cost will be higher.

Fun fact: city drivers replace their brake pads more often because of all the stop and go driving they do.

If you are an unsafe driver who regularly participates in risky activities, like tailgating and slamming on the brakes, you will need brake pads more often. Additionally, if you’re overly cautious, riding the brakes all the time, you are wearing out those pads, too.

When you hear a squeaking sound when you apply the brakes, they are telling you that it’s time to call a mechanic. They are designed to make a noise so that you know they need to be replaced. If the noise “suddenly goes away,” the brake pad has worn all the way through.

Is Tire Rotation and Replacement Expensive?

Good drivers know to check on the tread of the wheels on the car so that they don’t drive around something that has no grip on the road. Tires without tread require more distance to stop, which is dangerous.

Sources say that tires should be changed at least every six years regardless of how many miles have been put on them. This can run as much $1,800, but cheaper deals as low as $400 have been reported. It’s not a repair you’ll make every year, but it’s one that needs to be included in the budget!

Pro tip: keep your tires properly filled, especially when the first cold snap hits. Having properly inflated tires extends their lives, saving your money.

Tire rotation is something some people try to skip, but it’s an important maintenance task. It doesn’t cost that much ($35-$45). Consumers are advised to keep an eye out for deals and promotions. Often, a tire rotation is included with other maintenance packages.

How Do I Save Money on Car Maintenance Costs?

These days, everybody is trying to stretch their dollar, even when talking about the average cost of car maintenance.

The first step is to perform maintenance on schedule. Although it can be frustrating to have to pay for oil changes, brake pad replacement, and new car batteries, the costs of not doing the maintenance are higher.

If your car battery dies on the road, for example, you’ll also have to pay for a tow truck. You’ll also run the risk of being stranded on the side of the road for hours on end.

Other tips:

  • Rely on licensed and certified mechanics. Consider only using dealership mechanics. The bill may be higher, but you can rest assured the work is done correctly and logged accurately. Later, if you choose to sell your car, this can add value to the vehicle.
  • Make friends with a mechanic. If you have a professional mechanic in your friend group or in your family, you can ask them for advice or to do the work for a discount. Don’t expect them to do the work for free, but they’re often happy to cut a deal or make a referral.
  • Ask around. Speaking or referrals, why not ask your friends, family, or strangers on the Internet for a recommendation?
  • Look for coupons and promotions, especially for routine maintenance tasks like oil changes, tire rotations, and brake pad replacement.
  • Don’t be afraid to use roadside assistance if it’s part of your insurance policy. Sometimes the roadside assistance is covered but a visit to the garage is not. For example, if you must replace your batter on side of the road, that could be covered. Doing it at the garage is not.

Send Your Car to the Junkyard If you are Sick of Car Maintenance Costs

If you are tired of paying car maintenance costs for a vehicle that is constantly breaking down, consider replacing the vehicle. 

To start, you might consider scrapping the old car. Automobile recycling gives you a path toward cash payment for your used and constantly breaking vehicle.

This isn’t the best path in all cases, though. For example, if you drive a newer car, maintenance plans and warranties can save you a lot of money. If you are buying a used car, you could purchase an extended warranty (although they do not typically cover maintenance costs, just big repairs).

If you have an old car, what someone might call a beater, on your hands, it’s time to consider the junkyard as an option. Older cars require a lot more maintenance, and the constant additional costs of unexpected car maintenance add up quickly.

The average budget for car maintenance should be $1,190 or .09 per mile. If you’re spending a lot more than this, you need to reconsider your vehicle selection before it breaks the bank!

No matter what, keeping enough cash on hand to cover car maintenance and repair is an important step to ensuring your own financial success.

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