The Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain

The Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain

The amount of money that we car owners in the United States spend on our vehicles is somewhat shocking. In 2016, the typical American consumer spent $3634 on the purchase of new or used cars. For fuel and motor oil, they additionally shelled out $1909; and for insurance on the vehicle, they spent another $1149. Maintenance and repairs per year averaged $849 per person. Rounding out the total were $886 of charges for rental, leasing, licensing, and financing, along with miscellaneous costs. Add that all up, and your total annual price tag is $8427.


How do those figures relate to the experience of an individual family in Boulder? We can get a fair estimate by combining federal and local numbers. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data shows us that the typical household in the US has 1.9 cars. That suggests that a single household would have $1613 in car maintenance and repair expenses annually. Total household car costs nationwide, on average, can be assumed to be $16,011.  The income in Boulder in 2015 was $72,009, per the public data resource Department of Numbers. After taxes, the amount was about $61,000, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator for Boulder Metro. What all this means is that auto maintenance and repair accounts for 2.6% of post-tax earnings in Boulder, while overall car costs calculate at 26.2% of that amount.


Many people try to prepare for maintenance well in advance by using those costs to determine what car they purchase in the first place. It has previously been more difciult to figure out the ongoing cost of a car. However, recently, online sources have found ways to figure out cost. Using these tools, experts are able to determine sounder estimates for the average annual cost of maintenance and repairs for various cars.


With that in mind, here are some of the best and worst choices you can make in a car in terms of maintenance cost. Then, to put things in perspective for the average car owner, we will look at the typical (and exorbitant) costs of owning three different makes of supercar.


Hyundai leads all carmakers as budget-friendly


A study featured in Ratchet+Wrench analyzed the cost of typical maintenance and repair needs for some of the most prevalent car models in the nation.


With car maintenance cost data from throughout the US, the researchers looked at over three dozen 2010 model-year cars related to four typical mechanic needs: oil change, brake pad replacement, alternator, and water pump.


The winner among all carmakers was Hyundai, which actually both had the lowest average repair cost and the best fuel-efficiency, on average.


On the other side, the Mitsubishi Lancer and Volkswagen Jetta are particularly troubling in terms of their long-term expense. With both of those cars, the total cost of the repairs that were assessed was higher with those models than with all sports utility vehicles and the majority of luxury cars included.


One car category that is low-cost for maintenance and repairs is SUVs, particularly the Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-7.


While European luxury cars are typically considered the costliest cars to own, the model in pole position (for the most-expensive derby) of ongoing cost is the American-made Lincoln MKZ.


The 20 most affordable vehicles to maintain & repair


Here are the 20 lowest costs to keep a car in proper working order, with the associated model and its category, from lowest to highest. (Note: These figures should not be confused with annual cost, since these numbers are instead comparing the costs of the 4 jobs, as described above.)


#20. $1244 – Toyota Camry (compact)

#19. $1213 – Subaru Legacy (midsize)

#18. $1191 – Subaru Impreza (compact)

#17. $1190 – Kia Forte (compact)

#16. $1188 – Hyundai Sonata (midsize)

#15. $1179 – Hyundai Santa Fe (SUV)

#14. $1120 – Honda Civic (compact)

#13. $1093 – Ford Fusion (midsize)

#12. $1088 – Hyundai Elantra (compact)

#11. $1068 – Mazda3 (compact)

#10. $1064 – Ford Focus (compact)

#9. $1060 – Honda Accord (midsize)

#8. $1052 – Ford Explorer (SUV)

#7. $1026 – Mazda6 (midsize)

#6. $988 – Mazda CX-7 (SUV)

#5. $986 – Nissan Altima (midsize)

#4. $931 – Nissan Sentra (compact)

#3. $784 – Toyota Prius (hybrid)

#2. $768 – Ford Fusion Hybrid (hybrid)

#1. $673 – Nissan Altima Hybrid (hybrid)


The 20 costliest cars to maintain & repair


This list shows the most expensive cars for maintenance, based on those four maintenance jobs. Again, we will go in ascending order, although this time with increases leading up to the most expensive one. The 20 are:


#20. $1454 – Kia Optima (midsize)

#19. $1469 – Kia Sportage (SUV)

#17. (tie) $1480 – Toyota 4runner (SUV)

#17. (tie) $1480 – Honda Pilot (SUV)

#16. $1503 – Nissan Murano (SUV)

#15. $1537 – Acura TL (luxury)

#14. $1578 – Chrysler 300 (luxury)

#13. $1600 – Volvo S80 (luxury)

#12. $1603 – GMC Acadia (SUV)

#11. $1604 – Chevrolet Equinox (SUV)

#10. $1633 – Chevrolet Malibu (midsize)

#9. $1725 – Infiniti G37 (luxury)

#8. $1931 – Mitsubishi Lancer (compact)

#7. $1960 – Mercedes Benz C300 (luxury)

#6. $1965 – BMW 328i (luxury)

#5. $2087 – Volkswagen Passat (midsize)

#4. $2114 – Volkswagen Jetta (compact)

#3. $2234 – Lexus IS250 (luxury)

#2. $2259 – Audi A4 (luxury)

#1. $2649 – Lincoln MKZ (luxury)


Now that we’ve looked at this more typical cost scenario, let’s move on to the more fantastical world of the supercar.


Cost & frustrations of supercar maintenance


When you envy someone for owning a supercar, you might not realize what they have to pay just to keep it in working order. In other words, when you buy a car that costs as much as a house, you are not finished stroking large checks. Here are average costs for maintenance of the three top supercars, along with notes regarding common aggravations with each model, per Road & Track:


Supercar #1 – McLaren F1


The expense to keep a McLaren F1 operating is approximately $30,000, according to the carmaker. It is $8000 to get an oil change (fair enough). Typically you will only be able to get $3000 tires for the car in pairs, per the manufacturer’s policies.


You can get your car serviced at the factory if you want to wait six weeks for service and ship it to the United Kingdom (additional seven weeks by boat or 10 days by air).


Supercar #2 – Ferrari Enzo


Factory covers safeguard a $6000 carbon-ceramic motor so that it does not get damaged by oil or other fluids. A shop must buy a scissor lift (that will not support the LaFerrari, by the way) and $10,000 set of tools in order to work on the Enzo.


Since these cars are so incredibly expensive, documentation becomes important. You need to have all service records on hand at sale. You will otherwise have to lower the price.


Air filters and oil change must occur at 15,000 miles. The fuel filters, spark plugs, and timing chain can go 30,000 miles – but this maintenance is engine-out and very pricey.


Supercar #3 – Porsche Carrera GT


The same intervals apply, essentially, as with the Enzo. At 15,000, you do the oil change. There is an engine-out service at 30,000 miles to adjust the valves and perform other tweaks.


The cost of an oil change for this model is $3000. That is in part because you need to buy $1100 in ramps to get it over hoist arms. Plus, you have to buy $550 plates (aluminum, 3/4-inch) to bolt the car into position. Finally, you need two engine-oil filters. It will cost you $6800 if you strip the aluminum cover’s drain-plug hole.


Fair pricing & honesty with a local Boulder mechanic


Supercars are not how the rubber hits the road for most of us, of course. Regardless, ongoing maintenance is an expense that can be challenging for many Boulder families.


Are you concerned about the costs of ongoing car maintenance? You want to keep costs low, but you also deserve integrity. At Independent Motors, we charge fair prices and pay our crew fair wages, never falling back on gimmicky pricing or trying to sell you services you don’t need. See our History & Beliefs.