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Whenever you think about the cost of your car, you likely think back to when you last filled your tank, followed by insurance bills and car payments. While these are huge expenses that come with vehicle ownership, most people forget to factor in the biggest cost of all, car maintenance costs.

Car maintenance often gets overlooked when budgeting, but it is necessary for your vehicle’s longevity and health. Routine maintenance helps you avoid expensive repairs and lets you get your money’s worth. Here’s everything you need to know about the maintenance costs of a car.

The true cost of car ownership

A car being maintained where people have to worry about maintenance costs.
Car maintenance | Daniel Acker via Getty Images

Cars are convenient but costly because of their quick depreciation, insurance costs, and fuel purchases, especially with the current high gas prices and repairs. Although most people think the cost of ownership lies in the price tag, it isn’t the only expense you should consider before buying a car.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average cost of a new car in 2020 was $38,378, but since consumers aren’t buying cars every year, the amount is repaid over the time a person owns the car. Drivers typically keep a car for about six years, meaning if you purchased your vehicle without financing, you’d be forking out $533 on average every month, which translates to about $6,396 a year in the actual cost of ownership.

Most people don’t buy cars without taking out a loan. So if you have excellent credit and take out a six-year loan, your average interest rate per year would be around 3% translating to about $500 a year on good credit. With fair credit, you’ll be looking at about $2500 per month in interest, and this amount doesn’t factor in insurance, gas, and repair costs.

According to Heels Down, the average yearly cost of driving a vehicle includes $5,000 for gas, $1,000 for insurance, and $1,000 for maintenance. When you include all these costs, you are looking at spending around $10,000 yearly to own a car.

Breakdown of maintenance costs of a car

The cost and maintenance of your vehicle depends on the car and where you have the work done. Many cars usually end up needing more maintenance as they hit mileage milestones. If you spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic, drive in extreme temperatures, or often make short trips, you may need to take your car in for servicing more frequently.

Oil changes typically cost between $60 and $300. It’s advisable to change your oil every 5,000 miles. You’ll need to fork between $25 and $140 to replace your cabin air filter, preferably every $15,000 mile, 12 months, or more frequently if you drive in areas with poor air quality.

You will also need to rotate your tires every $8,000 miles or with every oil change to allow even wear, costing you between $25 and $120. Depending on the mechanic and your vehicle, you can get a new tire for as low as $50 or as much as $1,000.

Multipoint inspections are sometimes free with services but be prepared to pay $250, depending on your mechanic. The mechanic will look at your car, including checking the hoses, brakes, filters, and shocks to identify any repairs. Replacing brake pads can cost upward of $300, while wiper blade replacement costs range between $7 and $90.

What’s the importance of car maintenance?

Prioritizing car maintenance helps keep your car in good condition, thus saving you from unwanted vehicle issues. It also increases fuel efficiency by giving you more mileage per gallon and promotes safety on the road. Maintenance also reduces the depreciation value of your car, allowing you to get a good deal if you decide to sell it.

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