The Real Cost of Owning a Car: Average Maintenance Costs

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average maintenance cost for a car

Owning a car comes with the occasional pit stop at the maintenance station, and it’s important to know the average cost of keeping your vehicle running smoothly. Maintenance expenses include routine services, repairs, and part replacements, which can vary based on your car’s make, model, age, and mileage. Budgeting for these costs ensures you’re prepared for regular maintenance tasks and unexpected repairs. Staying proactive with maintenance not only keeps your car in good shape but also prevents costly breakdowns. 

Read on to learn the average maintenance costs associated with owning a car. 

What is the average maintenance cost for a car?

The average maintenance cost for a car can vary depending on various factors such as the make and model of the vehicle, its age, and driving conditions. However, you can expect to spend up to $1,000 per year or more on car maintenance. This includes routine services like oil changes, tire rotations, and filter replacements, as well as unexpected repairs or part replacements that may arise. Keep in mind that luxury or high-performance cars may have higher maintenance costs due to specialized parts and servicing requirements. Older cars or those with higher mileage may require more frequent maintenance and repairs, potentially increasing the average cost.

According to a 2022 case study conducted by AAA, which analyzed average maintenance costs for drivers covering approximately 10,000 miles per year, here are the annual maintenance cost estimates by vehicle type:

  • Small cars: $887 per year
  • Medium cars: $1,064 per year
  • Midsize SUVs: $1,020 per year
  • Midsize pickups: $1,013 per year
  • Half-ton crew cab pickups: $933 per year
  • Hybrid vehicles: $888 per year
  • Electric vehicles: $794 per year

These figures provide an overview of the average annual maintenance costs for each vehicle type, serving as a general guideline for budgeting purposes. However, it’s important to remember that individual driving habits, vehicle conditions, and regional factors can influence these costs. 

Common types of car maintenance costs 

Several common types come into play when it comes to car maintenance costs. Let’s explore these maintenance tasks and provide some insights into their associated expenses.

1. Oil changes

Regular oil changes are essential for maintaining engine health. On average, an oil change can cost between $35 and $75, depending on factors like the type of oil used and the service provider.

2. Tire rotations or replacement

Rotating tires helps ensure even wear and prolong their lifespan. Costs for tire rotations typically range from $20 to $50. In the case of tire replacement, prices can vary significantly based on the brand, size, and quality of the tires, you might have to pay up to $400.

3. Brake replacements

As brake pads wear out over time, they need replacement to maintain optimal braking performance. Brake replacement costs can vary based on the vehicle type, but you can expect to spend around $150 to $300 per axle for brake pad replacement. Additional costs may arise if other components like rotors or calipers need attention.

4. Basic inspection

Periodic inspections ensure your vehicle meets safety standards. The cost of a basic inspection can range from $50 to $100, depending on your location and the depth of the inspection.

5. Wiper replacement

Worn-out wiper blades can hinder visibility during inclement weather. Replacement wiper blades typically cost between $15 and $30, depending on the brand and type.

6. New battery

A failing battery can lead to starting issues. Battery replacement costs range from $100 to $200, depending on the battery type, brand, and labor charges.

7. Air filter replacement

Regularly replacing the air filter helps maintain clean airflow to the engine. The cost of an air filter replacement is typically between $10 and $50, depending on the type of filter and the vehicle model.

Factors that influence the costs of car maintenance 

The costs of car maintenance can vary from one vehicle to another.

1. Vehicle type

The type of car you own plays a significant role in determining maintenance costs. For example, luxury or high-performance vehicles often require specialized parts and servicing, leading to higher maintenance expenses. On the other hand, compact or economy cars may have lower maintenance costs. 

Specific models within each vehicle type can also have varying maintenance requirements and associated costs. For instance, a sports car may have higher-priced components compared to a sedan. That said, you’ll need to consider the unique characteristics of your vehicle type when estimating maintenance expenses.

2. Car brand

Different car brands have their own maintenance costs and part prices. Luxury brands tend to have higher-priced parts and servicing compared to mainstream brands. This is due to factors such as specialized technologies, higher-quality materials, and brand-specific maintenance standards. As a result, maintenance costs can differ significantly between car brands. Research and consider brand-specific factors when estimating maintenance expenses for your vehicle.

3. Age of the car

The age of a car can affect maintenance costs. Older vehicles may require more frequent repairs and part replacements due to wear and tear. As cars age, critical components like the engine, transmission, and suspension may need attention, potentially increasing maintenance expenses.

4. Mileage

The number of miles a car has traveled, or its mileage, is another factor influencing maintenance costs. Higher mileage vehicles typically require more frequent maintenance and may experience increased wear on components like brakes, tires, and suspension. These additional maintenance needs can contribute to higher overall costs.

5. Driving habits

Your driving habits and style can also impact maintenance expenses. Aggressive driving, such as sudden acceleration or hard braking, can accelerate wear and tear on various parts of the vehicle. Frequent stop-and-go traffic or driving on rough roads can also contribute to increased maintenance needs. Maintaining a steady driving style and adhering to recommended maintenance schedules can help minimize unnecessary wear and reduce overall maintenance costs.

Tips for reducing car maintenance costs 

Reducing car maintenance costs is a goal for many car owners. Here are some tips to help you save money on both routine maintenance and repairs.

1. Regular maintenance

Following a regular maintenance schedule is key to preventing costly repairs down the road. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for oil changes, filter replacements, and other routine services. By addressing minor issues promptly, you can stop them from escalating into more significant and expensive problems.

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2. DIY repairs 

If you have the knowledge and skills, consider tackling some minor repairs yourself. Simple tasks like replacing wiper blades, air filters, or changing the car battery can be done with basic tools and DIY guides. By doing these repairs on your own, you can save on labor costs associated with taking your car to a professional mechanic.

3. Purchasing a reliable car

Investing in a reliable and well-built car from the start can save you money in the long run. Researching vehicle reliability ratings, reading consumer reviews, and considering the track record of specific car models can help you make an informed decision. Reliable cars tend to have fewer maintenance issues.

Saving money and making informed auto decisions

Understanding the real cost of maintaining a car is a must for making informed decisions and managing your vehicle’s overall expenses. If you prioritize regular maintenance, embrace DIY repairs, opt for a reliable car, and practice good driving habits, you can effectively reduce maintenance costs and save money in the long run. 

Remember that maintenance expenses vary based on factors such as the type of car, its age, and your specific driving habits. By taking charge of your car’s maintenance, you can calculate the total cost of ownership beyond the initial price tag and consider factors like car payments, car insurance, and fuel costs. Being proactive and mindful of these aspects helps ensure the health of your vehicle and your financial well-being.


How often should I schedule maintenance for my car?

It’s generally recommended to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for scheduled maintenance, which can typically range from every 5,000 to 10,000 miles or every 6 to 12 months. Regular maintenance intervals help ensure optimal performance and longevity for your vehicle.

Should I take my car to a dealer or a mechanic for maintenance?

The choice between a dealer and a mechanic for maintenance depends on various factors such as the warranty, specific car needs, and personal preference. While dealerships may have specialized knowledge and access to manufacturer-specific parts, independent mechanics can often provide quality service at lower prices. It’s important to find a reputable and trustworthy service provider who can meet your car’s maintenance needs.

Can skipping car maintenance tasks harm my car’s performance?

Yes, skipping car maintenance tasks can potentially harm your car’s performance and lead to more significant issues in the long run. Regular maintenance tasks such as oil changes, filter replacements, and fluid checks are essential for the proper functioning of various components. Neglecting maintenance can result in reduced fuel efficiency, decreased performance, and costly repairs due to neglected issues. It’s best to stay on top of maintenance to keep your car running smoothly.

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