How Much to Budget for Car Maintenance and Repairs?

We’ve all been there: you’re cruising along on your daily commute, feeling good that you’ve got a few bucks left over in your savings account, and then suddenly—BAM! Your car breaks down. You scream, “I need my car fixed, but I have no money!”

Though it happens to everyone, it’s still frustrating. However, you can avoid getting stuck in this situation if you plan and budget for car maintenance and repair costs.

This blog post will share tips on how much to budget for car maintenance and unexpected repairs during the year.

Why Should You Have a Car Repair Budget?

You always are advised about why you should have a budget. Well, it’s not just to help you stay on top of your bills and make sure you can pay them. It’s also suitable for your car.

A car repair budget is a way to make sure that when (not if) something goes wrong with your car, you’re prepared for it. You can plan for the cost of repairs or routine maintenance and avoid getting stuck with a hefty bill at the last minute. Plus, having some money aside means that you won’t be left in the lurch if something like a transmission failure happens—which can cost thousands of dollars.

Key Car Maintenance Statistics

Did you know that, on average, a new car will last between 15 and 20 years? That’s a long time. But it’s also the reason why routine car maintenance is so essential.

Here are some key car maintenance budget statistics you should know:

  • The average cost of regular car routine maintenance is $1,700 per year.
  • If you don’t make the regular upkeep of your vehicle, it could cost you an extra $500 in repairs yearly, not even including the potential breakdowns.
  • An oil change costs about $50 and should be done every 5,000 miles (depending on your type of vehicle). So it means $200 per year if your car only needs one oil change per year.

How Much to Budget for Car Maintenance and Repairs?

Luxury vehicles are great. They’re shiny and new and smell like a freshly-opened box of crayons. But the fun of that fresh car smell doesn’t last forever, and the cost of keeping your car running smoothly can be pretty steep.

So how much should you put aside for your car maintenance budget? Of course, it depends on your driving habits, but here are some general guidelines:

  • If you commute daily in heavy traffic, expect to pay $300-$500 per year for repairs.
  • If you have a sports car or SUV driven hard on weekends, expect to pay $500-$1,000 per year for larger repairs.
  • If you have an older car with high miles that isn’t driven often, expect to pay $100-$200 per year for vehicle ownership repairs.

Steps to Creating Monthly Car Maintenance

If you’re a car owner, chances are you’ve got your vehicle maintenance and repairs on the brain. But don’t worry; we’re here to help!

We’ve created a simple checklist of steps to help you keep track of your car’s current condition. Here’s what you’ll want to do:

1. Set Aside $100 a Month, Per AAA

The first step to creating a routine maintenance budget is to set aside $100 a month. A good rule of thumb is to budget for repairs between $50 and $150, which is what AAA (American Automobile Association) recommends. Your car may not need that much work every month, but you’ll want to keep some cash in your pocket.

2. Use Last Year’s Expenses to Build This Year’s Budget

One of the best ways to figure out what you should budget for your monthly car maintenance is to look at the previous year expenses. If you remember them, you can still use that information to help create a budget for this year. You can add up all the previous year’s costs and divide by 12 months, then multiply that by the number of months in the current year. It will give you an idea of what you should expect to spend each month on car maintenance records.

3. Treat It Like a Car Payment to Yourself

Do you know what happens when you don’t make your car payments? Your car gets repossessed and taken away from you. That’s no good!

The same thing can happen if you don’t take care of your car. So make sure to treat your car like its investment (and let’s be honest, it’s probably the biggest one you’ll ever make). So, we recommend that you always follow your vehicle’s suggested maintenance schedule, which can be found in your owner’s manual. 

4. Get Cheaper Auto Insurance

You may think you’re saving money by not taking your car to the mechanic every month, but you may pay more in the long run if you’re not doing basic maintenance on it. In fact, according to a recent study by AAA, driving an uninsured vehicle can cost you hundreds of dollars per year in car repairs and fees (be it brake pads or new tires).

To avoid costly repairs, consider getting a separate policy for your car that covers monthly maintenance costs. Not only will this help keep your vehicle running smoothly and safely, but it will also help get your insurance rates low.

How to Save Money on Auto Services?

It’s a good idea to do an oil change on your car every 3,000 miles. 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. And it means you’re throwing money down the drain by not taking care of your car.

But don’t worry! We’ve got some tips for you to make your next oil change feel less like a chore and more like a way to save money:

  1. Check out the auto repair coupons in your area. There are many online sites where you can find discounts on everything from oil changes to brake pad replacement.
  2. Buy used parts instead of new ones. You might have to wait longer for delivery, but it’s worth it if it saves you money from the budgeted amount.
  3. Shop for the best price on basic services like tire rotations or transmission flushes. You might be surprised at how many places will compete with each other on prices. So you can be sure you’re working with Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technicians when getting your car serviced or repaired.
Bottom Line

With all the steps you’ve taken to keep your car running smoothly, you might be wondering how much it’s going to cost you to keep it on that regular car maintenance budget. The answer to this question is quite simple: no matter what kind of car you have or how old it is, you should set aside about 5% of the purchase price each year for preventative maintenance costs and surprise repairs, such as brake pads and tires.

It includes oil changes and tire pressure (which will reduce your risk of a blowout) to major engine work like engine replacement.

If you do this consistently, even if something goes wrong with your vehicle, you’ll have enough money in the bank—or at least enough leeway in your budget—to quickly cover unexpected labor costs.

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