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Car Ownership Costs: From Repairs to Maintenance and Gas

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When you’re buying a car, you probably tend to focus on the upfront cost of the vehicle. But these charges are only part of what you’ll pay for your car. You also have ongoing expenses to pay for including gas, insurance and routine maintenance, as well as occasional big repair expenses when things go wrong.

Unfortunately, car ownership can quickly become a financial burden as all of these different expenses add up. In fact, in 2018, AAA calculated the average cost for owning and operating a new car at around $8,849 annually after accounting for fuel, insurance, registration and fees, loan interest, taxes, depreciation and routine vehicle expenses.

While these routine costs can be hard enough to bear, repair charges can total hundreds or thousands of dollars. AAA found 1 in 3 American drivers are not able to afford these unexpected bills.

Whether you’re thinking about purchasing a new vehicle or you already own a car and want to do some financial planning, it’s a good idea to get a clear picture of the expenses you’re looking at, including routine costs and average car repair costs per year. This guide can help.

Car ownership costs: From routine maintenance to repairs

The costs of car ownership can vary based on many factors, including the make and model of your vehicle as well as how old your car is and where you live.

Keeping up with routine maintenance, such as by doing regular oil changes, can help you avoid major damage that can lead to big repair bills. Unfortunately, natural wear and tear on a car does mean things break eventually even if you’re a responsible car owner – so you need to be prepared when something goes wrong.

To give you a better idea of some of the expenses you’re looking at as a vehicle owner, here are some of the common costs you can expect to incur.

Maintenance Typical cost
Oil changes $38 (conventional), $70 (synthetic)
Windshield wiper blade replacement $23 – $38
New brake pads $111.67 – $430.81
Sources: YourMechanic, AAA, RepairPal


Because routine maintenance are incurred on a regular basis, the costs of these expenditures can be somewhat predictable. Repair expenses, on the other hand, can be harder to plan for as you never know when or if something in your vehicle will break.

Unfortunately, some car repairs can be quite costly too, especially if something goes wrong with the major parts of your car such as a transmission or engine problem. To help you better plan for major and minor repairs, here are some of the typical costs you can expect to incur when your car breaks down from, which offers mobile auto services.

Car repair service Typical cost
A/C compressor replacement $599.36 – $2,521.53
Fuel injector replacement $334.24 – $3,763.17
Transmission speed sensor replacement $81.71 – $1,061.53
Engine or transmission mount replacement $111.12 – $1,523.75
Source: YourMechanic


Although you never know when something will break on your car, you do know that your vehicle is always going to need gas, you’re always going to need to keep your car insured and you will have to comply with your state’s laws in keeping your car registered and inspected.

Here are some of the costs you can expect to incur for these routine aspects of car ownership.

Other costs Typical cost
Gas $1,131.16
Insurance $941.65
Annual registration $8 – $225
Sources: Bloomberg, ValuePenguin*, Ballotpedia

* ValuePenguin is owned by LendingTree

How to handle an unexpected car cost

As you can see, you’re looking at a lot of expenses just for owning a vehicle. Unfortunately, owning a car isn’t optional for many people because public transportation is limited and cars can make commuting and family life easier.  As a car owner, you need to be prepared to cover these routine and unexpected costs when they arise. This can be especially difficult when faced with huge repair bills.

Fortunately, there are many different funding options that could help you pay for surprise repair costs on your car.

Consider these 5 funding options

Here are five possible funding options to pay for fixes to your car when your vehicle is in need of repairs.

  • Savings: Savings is the best way to pay for car repairs because you don’t have to pay interest or take out a loan. You should ideally start a separate savings account for car maintenance and repair and put a small amount of money into it each month so you’re ready when something goes wrong. If you have an emergency fund, you could also pull from that for an unexpected car repair.
  • Personal loan: Personal loans are available from banks, credit unions and online lenders. With so many financial companies offering personal loans, you have many options as far as minimum and maximum loan amount or variable or fixed rate loans. Personal loans generally have lower interest rates than credit cards and have a set repayment timeline so it’s clear up front when you’ll be debt free. Personal loans do have some downsides though: you need reasonable credit to qualify for a loan at a good rate, it can take several days to get your funds, and you do have to pay interest – often over several years as you repay your loan.
  • Low interest credit card: Some credit card companies offer a 0% promotional APR for a certain period of time after you’ve opened the account. If you have a year or 15 months to pay off your purchase at no interest, you can save a lot of money compared with other borrowing options. But, there are downsides to using a 0% APR card too. You’ll usually have to open a new credit card to get this promotional rate, which means you need reasonably good credit, and it will take time to submit your application, get approved and get your card. And, if you don’t pay off the full amount borrowed by the end of the promotional period, you could end up paying a lot in interest on your car repairs.
  • Credit card with standard interest rates: If you have an existing credit card, simply charging your repairs on your card can be the easiest way to pay for them. You can pay immediately when you need the repairs, as long as you have credit available. And, you won’t have to worry about applying for a new card or for a loan with a new lender. Of course, the big downside is the interest rate on most credit cards is pretty high so you could end up paying a lot. And, if you only make minimum payments on your card, it could take months or years – and hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest payments – to get your car repair loan paid off.
  • Payday alternative loans: Payday alternative loans are made available by credit unions as an alternative to expensive payday loans. You can gain access to money quickly, borrow a small amount, and pay off the loan over a few months on a set repayment schedule. These loans have capped fees, so are often more affordable than other alternatives. But, you have to be a credit union member to qualify for one.

Planning ahead for future car costs

Car costs never go away as long as you’re a car owner. You need to plan for the ongoing expenses associated with owning a vehicle, including routine maintenance and special repairs that need to be done. Building the costs of car ownership into your monthly budget will ensure you can actually afford your car on a day-to-day basis – and that car repairs don’t send you into debt when a problem inevitably arises.


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