When budgeting for the cost of a car, you’ll likely consider your car payment, the cost of gas, tolls, and auto insurance. But don’t forget to factor in how much you’ll spend on routine car maintenance when calculating the true cost of owning a car.
While probably not top-of-mind when setting your transportation budget, routine car maintenance is necessary for the health and longevity of your vehicle. It can help you avoid costly repairs down the road (and paying for a rental while your car is in the shop).
Here’s what the average car maintenance cost looks like, including how much each service item should cost and how often you should have these services done.
- Routine car maintenance is necessary for the health and longevity of your vehicle, helping you avoid costly repairs down the road.
- According to a study by AAA, a new car’s routine maintenance and repairs could cost an average of $0.09 per mile.
- Routine car maintenance includes oil changes, windshield wiper replacements, new batteries, brake pad replacement, tire rotation, and more.
- Remember to add the average car maintenance cost to your annual budget to help you prepare and save.
While the average cost of owning a car ranges from $6,354 annually for a small sedan to $10,054 annually for a pickup truck, the expected cost of routine maintenance may surprise you. According to a study by AAA, a new car’s routine maintenance and repairs could cost an average of $0.09 per mile.
If you drive 10,000 miles in a year, that comes to $900. If you drive 20,000 miles, that figure jumps to $1,800 annually. That’s why it’s important to budget for these expenses.
Generally, you should plan to review the following items for potential maintenance each year:
- Oil change
- Windshield wiper replacement
- New battery
- Brake pad replacement
- Tire rotation or replacement
Check your car’s manual for the type of routine maintenance that needs to be done for your specific vehicle.
Of course, don’t forget to pay attention to those little signals your car sends you when something might need attention. For example, squeaking brakes, abnormal noises from the engine, and a flashing check engine light are all signs that you may need to have your car serviced.
Experts suggest changing your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles on most newer cars, though older vehicles may require more frequent changes. How often you’ll need to take care of this routine maintenance item will depend on how much—and how far—you drive.
If you don’t reach the minimum mileage threshold, you should still have your car’s oil changed every 12 months to keep it in working order.
The benchmark for oil changes used to be every 3,000 miles, but due to new automotive technology, that amount has increased. A car engine that requires fully synthetic oil may be able to go 10,000 miles or more in between oil changes.
A standard oil change should cost between $25 and $55. Using synthetic oil can increase the price to between $45 and $75.
Windshield Wiper Replacement
There’s nothing worse than driving on a rainy day and realizing your car’s windshield wipers no longer work as well as they should. That’s why you should replace your wipers every six to 12 months or as soon as you start to notice problems.
Wiper replacement will likely cost under $85 if you pay for labor. If you buy the blades and install them yourself, you can save $25 or more.
Your car’s battery should be replaced every three to five years or so, but this timeline depends on various outside factors, such as whether your vehicle is subject to extreme heat or cold weather or whether you leave your car unused for a long period of time. If you frequently leave your car’s interior lights on, that can also drain your battery.
Replacing your car’s battery can cost anywhere from $60 to $200, depending on the make and model, the quality of the battery you buy, and your location.
Brake Pad Replacement
This bit of routine maintenance is a bit trickier from a timeline perspective. How often you need to replace your brake pads depends on how often you use your brakes.
For example, it could depend on how many city miles you drive vs. how many miles you log on the freeway. Generally speaking, city drivers will need to have their brake pads replaced sooner than those driving in rural areas or those who drive primarily on freeways.
Your personal driving habits will also impact these repairs. If you tend to stop suddenly, tailgate, or ride your brakes while driving, you will need to replace your brake pads sooner than a driver who is in the habit of leaving more distance and braking gradually.
There will be a few signs when you need to repair your brake pads. First, your car may make a screeching sound when you apply the brakes. Or, if you drive a newer vehicle, your car’s indicator light will come on, telling you it’s time to visit your local auto servicer.
Brake pads generally cost between $35 and $150 for all four wheels; when you include labor costs, that number climbs to a total of $115 to $270 per axel. The total you will pay depends on your location, your car’s model and year, the type of brake pads you use, and whether you need to replace the pads on both axles or only one.
Rotate or Replace Tires
Did you know that if your car’s tires are too worn (to a tread depth of 4/32 inches), it can increase your stopping distance in wet highway conditions by 87 feet? If your tire treads reach that depth, you should get them replaced.
If you need more of a timeline, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that you replace your tires every six years, no matter how many miles you’ve driven. Replacing all four tires can cost between $400 and $1,800, depending on the quality of tires you buy and the type of car you own.
Keeping your tires properly inflated can increase your tires' lifespan by thousands of miles.
Tire rotation is another important maintenance item. It should be done every 5,000 to 8,000 miles and costs between $35 and $45, though some mechanics or dealers offer it for free when you have other services performed on your car. You should also keep in mind that you'll need to perform tire balancing and alignment on your vehicle every so often to maximize the life of your tires.
Saving Money on Car Maintenance
When considering the cost of the necessary maintenance for your car, you may be wondering how you can (safely) cut corners. The good news is that there are several ways to save money on car expenses.
While it may be tempting to go to the dealer for your car’s routine maintenance needs, it may not always be the most economical choice. Shop around for the best rates on these routine maintenance items, and keep an eye out for coupons.
AAA offers a list of approved car repair facilities so you can be sure you’re working with Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technicians when getting your car serviced or repaired.
If you’re handy, you may consider doing some of your car’s maintenance yourself. For example, you can change the oil and oil filter in your car at home to cut some of the costs associated with this routine maintenance item.
Whatever you do, remember to add the average car maintenance cost to your annual budget to help you prepare and save.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How often do I need to perform car maintenance?
Your maintenance schedule depends on how much you drive, how you drive, conditions in your area, and your manufacturer's recommendations. Review your owner's manual for all recommended maintenance intervals and plan your visits to the mechanic (or your own garage) accordingly.
Why is maintenance on your car important?
Vehicle maintenance is important because it prevents larger problems, bigger repairs, and even dangerous issues down the road. For instance, neglecting oil changes can cause major engine problems, and worn-out tires or brakes are a major safety hazard. Your car will also depreciate more quickly if you don't take care of it, which means it will be worth less when you try to sell it.