How to Budget for Car Maintenance

How to Budget for Car Maintenance

September 12, 2018    Car Care

It’s no secret that owning a vehicle is a big expense. While most people make room in their budget for monthly insurance fees and the ever-increasing price of gas, regular maintenance is often forgotten about. Budgeting for preventative vehicle care means you’ll be able to catch issues early and save yourself some money in the long run.

Average car maintenance costs

Budgeting for vehicle maintenance means having enough money set aside to cover annual tune-ups as well as any surprises that might come up. According to CAA, routine maintenance can range from $500 to $700 each year, or $42 to $58 per month. This covers things like oil and filter changes but doesn’t include major repairs.
With that said, how much you actually spend on vehicle maintenance depends on a wide variety of things — like the kind of car you have and how you drive it. New vehicles often require less maintenance than used ones and most work is covered under warranty for the first few years of the car’s life. In the same vein, a carpenter who puts their truck to work at the job site will likely have more maintenance costs than a business person who uses their car solely for commuting.
In all of these situations, you’ll be able to save money if you can do the work yourself instead of visiting a mechanic.

In this post, we cover the following:

 

What regular maintenance should be done on a car?

Every vehicle is different, so the easiest way to figure out your car’s specific needs is by reading the owner’s manual. In it, you will find manufacturer suggestions for how often you should change the oil, replace air filters and everything in between.
Generally speaking, you should check your tire inflation, windshield washer levels and interior and exterior lights every month. While larger systems — like the battery, brakes, air filters, exhaust, steering and suspension — should be looked at once a year.

Average car maintenance cost

Maintaining your vehicle yourself is fairly inexpensive and a great option for basic maintenance. By doing basic repairs on your own, such as changing your oil and spark plugs, it will cost you less than $100 per year. The exact cost of routine maintenance is dependant on your vehicle’s make and model. Luxury vehicles often require specialized parts, increasing the maintenance cost. However, it’s safe to say that regular maintenance will ultimately save you money because you’ll be able to avoid some major repair costs down the road.
While many maintenance items can be done at home, some things are best left to the professionals. Referencing the following list of common services will help you budget for an upcoming trip to the auto shop — but keep in mind that these are just estimates and the actual cost will vary from mechanic to mechanic.

Oil and oil filter change cost

Oil keeps the internal parts of your engine running smoothly by lubricating and absorbing heat. Over time, oil breaks down and becomes less effective at doing its job. If you’re doing a lot of driving or prepping for a road trip an oil change should be on your to-do list.

How often do oil filters need to be replaced?

Every four months or 7,500 k.m. Keep in mind that this differs from vehicle to vehicle, so check your owner’s manual.

How much does an oil change cost?

Based on the average number of several mechanic shops throughout Manitoba, the average cost ranges between $30-$50. According to Cost Helper, the national average is $34 and the minimum price $26. With that being said, oil changes range in price whether you’re using conventional or synthetic oil. Using synthetic oil could easily bump up the price to anywhere from $50 to $70.


Cabin air filter replacement

Your air filter keeps dirt and dust from getting into the cabin of your vehicle while the air vents are open. It’s a quick, easy job and replacing the filter will keep the air in your car fresh, which is great news for people with allergies. But for most people, it’s not on the top of their list and often goes forgotten. Make yourself a reminder each January to check to see if it needs replacing. It’s a good way to start the year.

How often do I need to change the cabin air filter in my car?

Most mechanics suggest changing your air filter every 12 months or 20,000 k.m. Again, this number is totally dependant on your vehicle’s make and model. It’s best to check your owner’s manual to see the exact requirement. If you’re a highway driver and tend to put on more annual kilometers than the average Canadian, you may want to check your air filter more often. On the other hand, if you only use your vehicle a few times a week for city driving, you may only need to replace the filter every 16 to 20 months.

How much does a cabin air filter cost to replace?

The cost to replace your cabin air filter varies depending on whether you’re willing to do the work yourself or would prefer to take it to a mechanic. If you’re interested in DIY, you can pick up a filter for as little as $20 to $35. The exact placement of the filter changes in each vehicle but is usually behind the glove compartment or under the dashboard.
If you’d prefer your mechanic to do the job for you, the price will increase to an average of  $70-100. 
 

Wheel alignment

Wheels are the workhorse of every vehicle and making sure they’re properly aligned will improve the longevity and performance of your tires. You can get all four wheels aligned at once or choose to get the front or back pair done separately to spread out the cost.

How often should the wheel alignment be done?

Most likely, your mechanic will suggest doing your wheel alignment every two years or so. However, in order to budget for larger vehicle maintenance down the road, it’s suggested you get your vehicle’s alignment checked annually. Every 20,000 km is a safe guideline. Experts also recommend getting the wheel alignment checked anytime new tires are installed. For most Manitobans, this means when you change your winter and spring tires. If you drive a luxury vehicle, such as an Audi or BMW, the alignment should be done more often since the vehicle has wider tires.

What is the average cost of a wheel alignment?

The exact cost is dependant on how many wheels you need aligned. If only two of your wheel need alignment, the average cost is usually around $75-$200 . If your vehicle needs a four-wheel alignment, that cost will most likely double. Some mechanics will recommend getting a tire rotation at the same time. Yes, this will increase the cost of your trip to the mechanic shop, but it will save you money in the long run. 

Battery replacement

Your battery helps start your engine and runs all of the electronic components in your vehicle. Like any rechargeable battery, car batteries can lose their charge over time. If your engine is having a hard time turning over, a new battery might be the solution.

How often should I replace my car battery?

A perk to replacing your battery is that it will become evident when it’s time for it to be changed. Your car will quickly start to run less efficiently. Your lights may begin to flicker, your digital clock may not appear on your dash and you may even find your headlights to be dimmer. An average rule of thumb is to replace your battery every 12 months or 20,000 km. 

How much does a car battery cost to replace on average?

Replacing your battery is relatively inexpensive in comparison to other vehicle maintenance. According to Auto Service Costs, a typical car battery ranges in price from $118-$216.  Premium batteries, which usually have a longer life, are slightly more expensive, starting at $250. There are nearly 40 different types of batteries to choose from so you can determine how much you spend based on your budget and vehicle needs.

Brake pad replacement

Your brakes are the most important safety feature in your car. Brake pads create friction and slow the rotation of your wheels so you can stop quickly in any situation. Squeaking or grinding sounds are a sign that you need to replace your pads.

How often should my brake pads be replaced?

Generally, brake pads need to be replaced after about 80,000 kilometers. With that being said, brake pads on some vehicles need breplacing after as little as 50,000 kilometers, while others can last for 100,000 kilometers. It all depends on your vehicle’s make as well as your tendencies as a driver. For the exact numbers and your car’s specific needs, consult the owner’s manual

What is the average cost of a brake pad replacement?

It’s usually an average of $150 per axel  to replace brake pads.  That cost can be as high as $300 per axel for luxury vehicles. Plus, your mechanic will normally charge an additional $300 to $500 in labour fees. There are a few other pieces of hardware found in the brake system which might need to be serviced as well. It’s a good idea to ask your mechanic to check these pieces, such as calipers and rotors, while servicing your brake pads.

Transmission fluid flush

The transmission allows your vehicle to shift gears. Flushing the fluid at least once a year will keep your transmission in top shape and prevent bigger, and more costly, issues from arising.

How often should the transmission fluid be flushed?

The myth surrounding flushing your transmission is that it doesn’t need to be done often. However, most mechanics actually suggest otherwise, saying every 50,000 to 80,000 kilometers is a good time to bring it into the shop. If you’re vehicle is an automatic transmission, you won’t have to do a fluid flush until about 100,000 kilometers or more. Manual transitions require a more regular transmission fluid flush.

What is the average cost of a transmission fluid change?

Whether you’re getting your fluid flushed at your dealership, mechanic shop or a service centre, the cost usually ranges between  $150-$300Though it is a pricier maintenance cost, it will ensure your gears are shifting properly while stopping and starting your vehicle.

Timing belt replacement

A timing belt makes sure the different components of your engine fire at the right time. While you’ll probably only need to replace your timing belt once every five years or so, it’s a good idea to get its integrity tested during an annual tune up.

How often should the timing belt be replaced?

The rule of thumb used to be to replace your timing belt every 60,000 to 80,000 kilometeres. But since the technology in vehicle’s has improved over the years, that time has been increased to every 100,000 kilometers or more. Double check your owner’s manual to be safe and pay attention to any unusual noises that could indicate your belt needs replacing.

What is the average cost of a timing belt replacement?

Replacing a timing belt is one of the more costly vehicle maintenance procedures, averaging between $500 – 900. However, the longer you put it off, the more it could cost you. Some mechanics say the replacement cost has been as high as $2,000.

Making a budget that works for you

The key to successful budgeting is making it easy. Pick a realistic savings goal and set up an automatic deposit through your bank. Keeping your auto repair fund separate from your other accounts will make it harder to dip into for unrelated expenses.
If you go by CAA’s $500 to $700 annual maintenance estimate, you should be saving between $42 and $58 each month for vehicle maintenance.
If you’ve had your vehicle for a few years, you can probably find a more specific number. A good place to start is by adding up the amount you spent on auto repairs last year and dividing that number by 12. If your car is a little older or you’re expecting some big repairs in the near future you should tack on a few hundred dollars just to be safe.

At Birchwood Credit Solutions, we equip our customers with the knowledge they need to find a vehicle that fits their budget and lifestyle. Try out Car Loan Calculator to see monthly payment plan options based on your income and loan. Or, fill out our two-minute online application and get driving in no time! 

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