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It’s no secret that cars require maintenance.
But maintaining your car is important if you want it to last for a long time.
And while it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, budgeting for car maintenance expenses and repairs is important so these costs don’t break the bank.
But how much should you budget for car maintenance?
And where should the money go?
In this post, I will provide tips for budgeting for car maintenance, as well as a breakdown of common expenses you can expect and estimated costs.
In the end, you will be able to handle any car repair you need with ease, knowing you have the cash for it.
Table of Contents
How Much To Budget For Car Maintenance
Determining How Much To Budget
The bad news when it comes to budgeting for car maintenance is that no one can tell you exactly how much money you need to save.
But there are some ways you can closely estimate the amounts.
The most common methods are based on past experience and real-world data.
Based On Past Experience
If you previously owned a car, one way to estimate maintenance and repair costs on your current car is to look at what you paid in the past.
Ideally you have the car maintenance records for that car that allow you to total up the expenses.
If you don’t, but you paid using a credit card, then review old credit card statements.
You can also use old bank statements if you paid using check or debit card.
The next question is how do you get an annual amount for car repairs and vehicle maintenance?
For starters, I wouldn’t break the two out.
I would simply combine them together.
As for the annual cost, you could take the total amount you paid and divide this by the time period you owned the car.
For example, if you have $5,000 worth of car repairs and maintenance costs, and owned the car for 7 years, your annual amount is roughly $715 a year.
Divide this by 12 to get about $60.
This is the amount you need to save monthly in your car repair fund.
By far this is the easier option.
Early on, when you are not as likely to have car repairs or costly routine maintenance, your balance in your savings account will be high.
But you will have comfort knowing the money is there later on when more costly repairs are needed.
Another option is to organize the bills by year, total up each year individually and divide this by 12 to get the amount you need to put in your car maintenance fund.
The issue here is every year, you are going to have to adjust the amount of money you save.
The other option if you don’t feel like doing the work above, is to come up with a conservative estimate for car maintenance costs and repairs.
According to AAA, the average annual cost of maintenance and repairs is $792 or $66 a month.
To be conservative, you could round this number to $75 a month.
Of course, you should take into account your car’s current condition as well.
If you have an older car, you might want to increase this budget for car repairs to $100 or $125 a month, simply because chances are you will need more money for repairs.
On the other hand, if you have a new car, you could stick closer the $66 figure for two reasons.
First, chances are you won’t have costly repairs, and second, new cars are covered by a warranty where most vehicle maintenance and car repairs are done at no cost to you.
Where To Save Money For Car Maintenance And Repairs
Now that you have a better idea of how much money to save, the next question becomes where should you save it?
Ideally you want to put the budgeted amount for car repairs and maintenance in a separate savings account.
This allows you to see how much money you have at any given time.
Plus, by putting the money in a savings account, you earn some interest on your savings, helping you even more.
My favorite account is CIT Bank.
With one of the highest paying interest rates in the U.S. CIT Bank stands out as the best high yield savings account. Add in ease of use and great customer service, and you have a clear winner.
They pay a competitive interest rate and transfers happen fast.
You can also check out any of the banks below as well.
How To Save Money On Car Maintenance
You know how much to budget for car maintenance and where to put it.
Now the question is, how can you lower the cost of not just unexpected repairs, but also regular car maintenance?
Here are the best tips to help you keep your cost as low as possible.
#1. Take Advantage Of Your Warranty
For starters, especially if you have a new car, is to take advantage of your car’s warranty.
Most things are done for free, with the exception of normal wear and tear items.
This includes things like brake pads and new tires.
The good news though is you shouldn’t have to replace these items anytime soon anyways.
In some cases, depending on your warranty, oil changes could be free too, although most warranties don’t include this service.
The dealer will perform service on your car based on the vehicle maintenance guidelines in the owner’s manual.
If you were to take your vehicle to an independent mechanic during this time, you would be paying for all the services.
So be smart and take your vehicle to the dealer while under warranty.
And finally, make sure you are putting money in your car maintenance budget during this time.
It can be easy to put it off since you aren’t paying for most services out of pocket.
But you never know when you will encounter expensive repairs and you will be glad you saved and have enough cash when the time comes for a repair.
#2. Find An Independent Mechanic
While you are smart to use the dealer while your vehicle is under warranty, you still need to find a quality independent mechanic.
The reason is because when the warranty ends, regular maintenance service and repairs will cost you a lot just in labor.
Odds are an independent mechanic will charge you a lot less per hour in labor.
So while you are getting free service at the dealership from your warranty, use the time to start searching for a mechanic you can trust.
By finding someone you can trust, you know you aren’t taking on unnecessary repair costs.
#3. Learn To DIY
While there are some tasks that are best left to a professional, there are simple things you can do that can save you a lot of money.
Replacing your engine air filter and cabin air filter, and putting on new windshield wiper blades are a few examples.
Simply go on YouTube and search your year, make and model along with the air filter you want to replace and watch the video.
Then go to an auto parts store and buy one.
You could easily save yourself $50 just with this tip alone.
If you have an older car, you can easily do an oil change or replace spark plugs too.
Again, just watch a video online for the steps to follow.
Finally, keep an eye on your fluid levels and top off any that look low.
Then watch them to see if the levels drop again as you might have a leak.
Doing these simple tasks can save you a few hundred dollars.
#4. Don’t Skip Routine Service
Too many car owners overlook the importance of regular upkeep.
They wait until the check engine light comes on or they hear an odd noise.
The truth is, the maintenance schedule is there for a reason.
By staying on top of things, you lower the chances of something major happening.
And when unexpected car repair is needed, it usually is minor since you have been keeping up maintaining your vehicle.
If you want your car to last for the long run, make sure you follow the service guidelines.
#5. Keep Your Tires Inflated
Replacing all four tires on your car can be expensive.
The average cost of a single tire is $150, so a set of four tires would be $600.
This doesn’t include taxes, mounting, balancing and if you get a wheel alignment.
Add these costs in and you could be pushing close to $1,000.
It only makes sense then to make sure your tires last as long as possible.
For starters, but high quality tires with a long tread warranty.
While these will cost you more, they will last longer.
If you buy the cheaper tires and have to replace them twice as often, you will most likely end up paying more in the long run.
From there, make sure you keep your tire pressure near the recommended level for your vehicle.
You can find this information on the inside door jamb of the driver’s door.
This ensures even wear.
If your tires are underinflated or overinflated, it could force you to replace them sooner rather than later.
Finally, check the air pressure monthly.
Most new vehicles have tire pressure monitoring systems, but these only go on after the tires have lost 25% of air.
Keeping them closer to proper inflation will help your tires last longest, so you should still check them regularly.
#6. Keep Air Filter Clean
The earlier tip was to replace your air filter yourself.
In between replacing it, you should check it out.
Take the air filter out and clean out any large debris like leaves.
Then tap it on the ground a few times as well.
If it looks especially dirty, you might want to replace it sooner rather than later.
Why do this?
A clogged filter could lead to engine issues, low fuel economy and more.
- Read now: Discover the ways to getting free gas
#7. Find Additional Ways To Save
Finally, take the time to find other ways to lower the cost of car repairs and maintenance.
One option is to pay cash.
Many times you can get a cash discount that saves you 5-10%.
Another option is to ask if you can use aftermarket or used parts.
These will be much cheaper than parts made and sold by the manufacturer.
If you have an expensive repair, consider taking your vehicle to another mechanic for a second opinion.
They might have a different way of fixing the issue or even charge less.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of ways to reduce the costs of maintaining your vehicle.
You just have to think outside the box a little to find them.
Frequently Asked Questions
When it comes to maintaining your car, there are a lot of questions I get.
Here are the most common ones to help you make sure you are doing it right.
Should I save the money in an emergency fund or sinking fund?
A separate account or sinking fund is best.
This allows you to not only see how much you have in your car maintenance budget, but you won’t be tempted to spend it on other things because it isn’t lumped in with other savings.
How much should I save per month for car maintenance?
This varies based on the age of your car, the condition it is in, how often you drive, and your driving behavior.
You should be savings at a minimum $70 a month but more for older cars.
What car brands cost the most to maintain?
German luxury brands like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz are the costliest when it comes to car repair.
Volvo, Cadillac, Infiniti, and Acura are also high on the list.
What cars have the lowest maintenance costs?
The cheapest brands for repairs include Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Kia, Mazda, and Hyundai.
These are the same brands that tend to top the list on reliability as well, so overall costs are low.
Most Common Repairs And Costs
Below is a list of the most common car repairs along with the average cost.
Most Common Maintenance And Costs
Below is a list of the most common maintenance services and the average cost.
There is how much to budget for car maintenance.
Unfortunately there is not one set amount that you should save.
But there are good guidelines to follow.
And if you follow them, you should be OK.
I would advise you to pay attention to how much you are spending and if you notice an increase, you might want to increase the amount save in your car maintenance budget.
This is because once things start to break, odds are more things will break too.
It’s at this point as well when you need to consider possibly replacing your car with another vehicle as it might be cheaper in the long run.
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I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.