What does maintaining a vehicle really cost?

Written by Chris Dekker, former co-owner at Tools in Motion.car repair

 

“This vehicle is costing me too much money.” It’s a phrase that we hear from customers quite often, and sometimes we agree with them! Often, though, we feel that the customer doesn’t have a realistic expectation of what (properly) maintaining a vehicle should cost.

Driving costs money. It’s an expense that never goes away, and most drivers are faced with a choice between making payments on a new vehicle, or paying for repairs on an older one. With today’s longer 60, 72 or 84 month financing terms, many car owners will actually find themselves doing both. Maintaining your older, paid-for vehicle is always cheaper, how much cheaper is it? How do you know if your car is “costing you too much money”?

We feel that the average car owner should fully expect and budget for $2500 per year in maintenance and repair expenses. This increases to around $3000 annually for full-size trucks, and $4000 for 3/4-ton and larger diesel trucks, especially if they are driven a lot. Automotive industry groups like AIA Canada come up with similar numbers. This will vary a bit based on vehicle model, as a more expensive vehicle will usually also cost more to own over time. (Maintaining an Audi Q5 will obviously cost more than maintaining a Kia Sorento.)

 

Is $2500/year worth it? How much cheaper is maintaining your older vehicle?

Maintaining your older vehicle usually cuts your cost of driving in half vs making payments on a new car, but numbers vary depending on model. Here are a couple examples:

  1. A mid-level Honda Odyssey EX without navigation costs $43,000 after taxes and fees, and would cost around $766 per month at 2.9% interest over 5 years; or about $9200 per year. In this case, spending our recommended $2500 annually on your older minivan would cost you 73% less than purchasing the new van, even before considering that the new van will still require some maintenance as well.
  2. Here’s another example with a less expensive vehicle: a new Chevy Cruze. A mid-range Cruze LS with an automatic transmission costs around $25,000 after taxes and fees, or $420 per month/$5000 annually over five years. Even though Chevrolet kicks in a few free oil changes at the beginning, you’ll probably spend a few hundred bucks per year on maintenance, meaning our $2500 investment in your older car would still cost you 53% less.

This illustrates that while spending $2500-$3000 per year maintaining your older vehicle might sound like a lot of money, it actually represents a very good value when it comes to cost of driving.

 

What about a really cheap vehicle, like one you paid $2000 for?

We’ll often hear from people that they don’t want to put $1000-$2000 of work into their older car, because they only paid a couple thousand dollars for the vehicle. While there definitely comes a point in every car’s life where it becomes no longer worth fixing – and we’ve actually talked many folks out of fixing their vehicles before – we don’t feel this is a valid reason not to maintain most vehicles properly.

It’s important to remember that while auto manufacturers will refer to your vehicle as an investment, it’s really just an expense. Keeping the car you rely on safe and reliable is an on-going life expense, just like heating your home or feeding your family. That expense doesn’t change much based on what you paid for the vehicle – just like it takes the same amount of food to fill a $5000 brand-new fridge from The Brick every week as it does a $100 used fridge from Kijiji. It takes the same amount of natural gas to heat a 1,500 square foot home whether you paid $50,000 or $400,000 for it. We should view the cost of reliable transportation the same way.

 

airdrie car mechanic

 

 

Leave a Reply