How Much to Budget for Car Maintenance?

How Much to Budget for Car Maintenance

The amount you need to budget for car maintenance depends on the car you have as well as your financial situation. 

What is the importance of budgeting for car maintenance? 

Car maintenance is crucial to the health and lifespan of your vehicle. Budgeting makes sure the cost of those maintenance fees do not damage your bank account when it comes time to take your car to the shop. Plus, if you have money set aside specifically for car maintenance, you won’t be as likely to put off maintenance and repairs. 

Waiting longer to get maintenance work done can lead to worse problems in the long run that wind up costing you even more. Saving money to opt for a quality repair shop also may save time and money in the end. 

What to factor into your car maintenance budget

When you’re figuring out how much money to set aside each month, keep in mind what work cars need to have done on a regular basis and the types of things that break down every once in a while.

1. Oil change 

Oil changes are one of the most common maintenance requirements. This is an easy step you don’t want to skip. Regularly switching out the motor oil keeps your engine performing at its best, extending the engine’s life. It also ensures you’re getting the best gas mileage. The cost will vary depending on whether you’re using conventional or synthetic oil, but you’ll likely be paying around $60 for this service. 

2. Wiper blade switching

You should replace your wiper blades every year or so. Windshield wipers cost around $50 or $60 to replace, but you can cut that cost in half by installing them yourself. 

3. Tire rotation

The four tires on your car don’t all hit the road in exactly the same way, and they wear down unevenly. Every 5,000 miles or so — or every six months — you should shell out the $45 to have the position of each tire switched around. 

4. Brake pads replacement

Brake pads create friction that helps your car come to a stop. When they wear down, metal grinds against metal, resulting in high heat and damage to the rest of the brake system. Plan to replace your brake pads every five years and know you’ll pay around $200 to $600 when doing so. 

5. Tire change

Tires wear down, eventually losing their tread and becoming slippery and unsafe. If you already have tires that you can switch out with your old ones, the cost of removing them and putting on different ones will cost between $15 and $45. If you have to buy all new tires, that expense can reach up to$300 or more for each. 

6. Battery replacement

Anything electrical in your car needs the battery to run. These days, that affects quite a bit, including your lights, GPS, stereo, and wipers when the engine is off. It also allows your car to start and works as a surge protector. Replace it every four to five years and expect to pay between $45 and $200 to do it.

How to create a budget for car maintenance

Not everyone’s budget for car maintenance is going to be exactly the same. Your budget will depend on your needs and how much you’re capable of setting aside. 

1. Collect your previous maintenance records

Going over your previous maintenance records will give you a good idea of how much you typically spend on car work over the course of a year. Knowing that lets you break down how much you should set aside from your paycheck to save up for when you do need to take a trip to the auto shop.

2. Assess your car maintenance needs

Your car maintenance is going to include regular care like oil and filter changes, along with things that will need to be replaced as they wear down. If you know your brake pads are getting less efficient, for instance, you may need to add a couple of bucks to your budget to account for their replacement.

3. Determine your budget

Once you know how much you’d spend on car maintenance in a year, then factor in bigger fixes or replacements you may need soon and add everything up. Divide that by 12, and you’ve got your number for how much to budget for car maintenance each month. 

4. Create a schedule for maintenance and repairs

Writing yourself a clear schedule for when to get certain maintenance work done can come in handy so you don’t have any unexpected expenses. For instance, if you know you’ll need an oil change in 4 to 6 months, put that down on your calendar. If you know a piece of the car is wearing down, don’t wait till it breaks; put it on your schedule to fix it when your budget allows. 

5. Prioritize the most important maintenance expenses

Some maintenance work is more crucial or more pressing than others. If the work is something that will affect your safety or take away from the life of the car if you put off getting the repair, that’s going to take precedence. If you know you need new wiper blades, but you’re in the desert and it isn’t likely to rain for a while, you might be able to delay that maintenance for a few weeks. Prioritizing the more important work will help you spread your money around better. 

6. Shop around for better maintenance shops

Not all auto shops are created equal. Pick one that will take good care of your car, doing thorough work. It’s best to look around for good mechanics before you actually need them.

7. Find ways to save money on car maintenance

Car maintenance doesn’t always have to break the bank. Simple jobs like oil changes and wiper blade exchanges can be done at home. You can also search around for deals and discounts and different auto shops. If you go to the dealership where the car was purchased, you may be able to get free diagnostics done so you know what to budget for next. 

Save Smart for Car Maintenance

Budgeting for car maintenance is essential for every car owner. It ensures that you are prepared for unexpected repairs and regular maintenance tasks, helping you avoid financial stress and inconvenience. By setting aside a specific amount each month for car maintenance, you can maintain the performance and longevity of your vehicle while also preventing larger, more expensive issues from arising. Remember, a well-maintained car not only helps save you money in the long run but also helps keep you and your passengers safe on the road.


Does the make and model of my car affect car maintenance costs?

Some cars break down more than others. Some, especially higher-end brands and luxury vehicles, also have parts that are more expensive to replace. 

Is it necessary to follow the manufacturer’s recommended car maintenance schedule?

The manufacturer will have recommendations, but your maintenance requirements will depend on your driving habits. If you drive often on city roads, or infrequently and mostly on highways, you may have different needs than average.

Do I need to budget for emergency car repairs on top of regular maintenance costs?

Yes, you should set aside extra money in your budgeting habits to be prepared in case you get an unexpected car repair bill.  

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