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Common Car Repair Costs — And How to Pay for Them

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There’s more to paying for a vehicle than the purchase price and insurance. Factoring in routine maintenance and repair costs will help you create a more realistic estimate of your car ownership costs when shopping for a vehicle. Setting aside money to pay for inevitable repairs will help protect your budget from these unexpected expenses.

You can learn about common car repair costs below, as well as funding options you may consider.

How much these common car repair jobs cost

Typically, you’ll pay more for maintenance and repairs at a dealership than at an independent mechanic. Even so, some vehicle owners prefer to work with the dealership’s mechanics for their by-the-book processes and manufacturer support. Others prefer to use an independent shop for their versatility and potentially lower pricing.

The following table provides cost estimates for common repair jobs; these estimates come from the mobile auto repair service The below costs can provide a baseline that may help you plan ahead for potential expenses.

Your individual costs will ultimately vary based on factors such as your car brand and model and location. For our methodology, we’re offering price ranges in Charlotte, N.C., home to LendingTree’s headquarters, and looking at some recent top sellers, according to Automotive News: the Ford F-150, Toyota RAV4 and Lexus RX. You can get a more accurate estimate by using car repair cost tool from AAA or the NAPA AutoCare Center.

Car repair 2017 Ford F-150 V6 3.5L 2017 Toyota RAV4 L4-2.5L 2017 Lexus RX350
Brake Rotor/Disc Replacement $525 $480 $621
Alternator $752 $677 $1,704
Heater System Failure (thermostat replacement) $241 $189 $556
Oil Cooler Lines Price unavailable Price unavailable $459
Window Motor or Regulator Failure $602 $617 $908
AC Failure (compressor replacement) Price unavailable $2,279 $1,956
Cooling Fan Relay Replacement Price unavailable $736 $895
Starter Replacement $318 $323 $996
Spark Plugs $324 $179 $597
Battery Replacement $355 $417 $256
ABS Speed Sensor Replacement $175 $628 $461
Axle/CV Shaft Replacement $485 $394 $440
Ignition Switch Replacement price unavailable $553 price unavailable

Don’t forget the cost of routine maintenance

Keeping up with routine maintenance helps prevent more expensive problems. Your mechanic may even recommend that you keep an eye on certain things yourself.

For example, checking your vehicle’s oil level before a long road trip or at least once each month is a smart move. Extreme temperatures, frequent short trips, and the type of fuel you use all have an impact on the amount of oil your vehicle uses. While you have the hood up, it’s also a good idea to make sure you’re not running low on windshield wiper fluid.

Your vehicle may require more frequent maintenance if you frequently haul heavy loads, drive on rough roads, or live in an area with extreme weather. Let your mechanic know if your driving habits could lead to additional wear and tear on your vehicle. If you frequently idle for long periods of time or commute through stop-and-go traffic, you may benefit from a more robust maintenance schedule.

Here are four common maintenance costs you should plan for as a vehicle owner. The prices noted here are average costs at a dealership. Keep in mind that routine maintenance costs are also influenced by the type of car you drive.

Maintenance service 2017 Ford F-150 V6 3.5L 2017 Toyota RAV4 L4-2.5L 2017 Lexus RX350
Brake Pad Replacement $198 $219 $272
Change Oil and Filter $134 $131 $137
Wiper Blade Replacement $140 $171 $174
Transmission Fluid Service Price unavailable $258 $245

Paying for car repair costs

Having an unexpected expense related to your vehicle means you’ll need to come up with money for the repair right away. In many cases, putting off fixing your car could mean a bigger repair bill later.

Using your emergency fund

One advantage to tapping your emergency fund to pay for unexpected car repairs is that you won’t pay interest on the bill. You should start replenishing your emergency fund account right away after taking care of the bill from your mechanic, however. Think of using your emergency fund like taking out a loan from that account. Decide how much money you can afford to deposit back into your emergency fund from each paycheck and make those payments a higher priority than discretionary spending.

When you call mechanics to get quotes, ask if they offer a discount to customers who pay with a check or cash. Small businesses pay an average of 2% in fees on transactions through Mastercard, Visa, or Discover debit and credit cards. Some business owners incentivize their customers to pay with cash by offering a discount for doing so.

Taking out a personal loan

If you don’t have enough money in your emergency fund to pay for car repairs, you may be able to get an unsecured personal loan to cover the bill. When you get this type of personal loan, the lender will qualify you based on your income, credit history and other factors; there’s no collateral required to secure the funds.

Steps you may take to apply for a personal loan

  1. Check your credit: Get copies of your credit reports at the federally-approved website Everyone with a social security number is legally entitled to a copy of each of their credit reports from the major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) once every 12 months at no charge.
  2. Research lenders: Evaluate traditional lenders like banks and credit unions, but consider online lenders, as well. Read online reviews from other borrowers to help evaluate the pros and cons of choosing a specific lender.
  3. Get pre-approved: Lenders will evaluate your credit score, income, and payment history to decide whether to preapprove you for a loan. It’s important to compare terms between lenders to make sure you get the best possible deal.
  4. Compare your best personal loan offer against other financing options: If you qualify for a zero-interest credit card and can pay off your car repair costs before the introductory period is up, it may be a good option. We cover this option below.
  5. Understand the terms of the personal loan: Beware of precomputed interest, which requires you to pay all interest charges for the life of the loan, even if you want to pay the debt off early — opt for simple interest, instead. Make sure the payments fit within your budget and choose the shortest term you can afford.
  6. Go through the final approval process: You’ll need to give permission for a hard inquiry into your credit file and gather documents for the lender to get formally approved for the loan. Typically, lenders require personal identification, verification of your current address, and pay stubs or tax returns to prove your income.
  7. Get the money to make the car repair: Depending on the lender, your funds could be available the same day that you get approved for the loan. In most cases, you’ll have access to the money within one week.

What to consider when shopping for personal loans

  • APR: A better credit score will earn you a lower interest rate on your loan. Longer loan terms may mean a higher interest rate. Your APR includes fees and interest, which makes it ideal for comparing loan terms side-by-side.
  • Terms: Expect to make payments on your loan for one to five years. Watch out for origination fees, which are often based on your credit score. These fees may be subtracted from the loan before you get the money and typically range from 1% to 6% of the total loan amount.
  • Monthly payment: Make sure the monthly payment fits easily into your budget. Some lenders offer discounts if you pay by automatic draft from a bank account. Make sure you understand the late payment penalties, as well.
  • Impact on your credit: You may notice a drop in your FICO score of a few points, since the lender has to make a hard inquiry into your credit. Making every loan payment on time and in full will help you maintain good credit and establish a payment history.

In-house financing with a banking partner

Some mechanics offer a financing option for customers who want to make payments on necessary repairs. For example, NAPA AutoCare Centers offer financing with a store-branded credit card. Some mechanics may also offer Synchrony Car Care financing, while other options offered by private shops or dealerships may include EasyPay, which offers an interest rebate if you pay the balance within 90 days. If you qualify for this type of in-house financing, you may also be eligible for a personal loan with better terms. Make sure you shop around before accepting in-house financing.

Credit card

While charging the bill to a credit card is a convenient way to pay for unexpected car repair costs, the average interest rates on a new credit card is between 15.99% and 20.90% — though a credit card with a promotional 0% interest rate could make your car repair more affordable.

There’s a caveat to this option, however. You’ll need to repay the debt before the promotional period ends — or else face interest charges. Qualifying for a credit card that offers this limited-time perk could be difficult, too. You’ll need a great credit score.

Bottom line

Car maintenance and repair bills are as inevitable as insurance and fuel expenses for vehicle owners. If you don’t regularly set aside money for car repairs, take a close look at your budget to see where you may be able to trim expenses so you can start.

AAA notes that a third of drivers delay or skip routine maintenance that could save them hundreds of dollars in repairs later on. If you haven’t already identified an independent car repair business or dealership you’d like to use for routine maintenance and repairs, do some research to find one. That way, when something goes awry with your car, you’ll have quick access to someone who can help you fix the problem.


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