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Calculating Maintenance Costs

So you’ve decided on the car you want to buy and you’re doing some calculating to see if it fits in your budget. You know what the monthly payments will be if you finance it, and you have a reasonably clear idea of what you’ll spend on gas and insurance. But what about maintenance and repair costs?

If you buy a new car you’ll be covered by the factory warranty against any major defects or repairs for a while. You may decide to purchase an extended warranty as well. That decision may also depend on what your maintenance and repair costs will be. So how do you know?

According to Consumer Reports data received from 675,000 subscribers who responded to their 2007 Annual Car Reliability Survey, maintenance and repair costs made up 4% of total ownership costs over five years on average. Other ownership costs include 46% for depreciation, 26% for fuel, 12% for interest, 10% for insurance, and 3% for taxes.

Maintenance and repair costs vary depending on the make, model, and year of the car. A good place to start estimating the costs is the maintenance schedule in the user’s manual. There you will find the manufacturer’s recommended service at certain mileage intervals. If you prefer to take your car to the dealer to have it serviced, you can get quotes for each recommended service interval. You can quote prices for the same services at your mechanic’s shop or wherever you take your car for oil and filter changes, tire rotation, and other routine maintenance.

In general, cars need some type of maintenance every few thousand miles. This maintenance may include an oil change, filter change, wiper fluid refill, brake check, tire rotation and more. You can estimate costs using the estimated information below:

Oil and filter change – $20-$50

Brake pad replacement – $125-$225

Coolant flush – $70-$100

Transmission fluid flush – $125-$150

Tire rotation – $25-$50

You could also calculate cents per mile to estimate your maintenance and repair costs. In its 2008 edition of Your Driving Costs, AAA indicates that maintenance costs average 3.98 cents per mile for a small sedan, 4.67 for a medium sedan, and 5.07 for a large sedan.

Safety recalls and technical service bulletins from the car manufacturer are another factor to take into account. According to the, a recall can be issued for a minor glitch or a real safety hazard. As the owner of the car, you will receive a notice when there is a recall and the necessary repairs for a safety recall are free of charge. But work that is done under a technical service bulletin is not free unless your car is still under warranty. Visit for recall information.