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How to Budget for Car Maintenance

September 12, 2018    Car Care

How to Budget for Car Maintenance

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.

 

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

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

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?

$30-$50

 

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 and easy job and replacing the filter will keep the air in your car fresh, which is great news for people with allergies.

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

Every 12 months or 20,000 k.m.

How much does a cabin air filter cost to replace?

$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?

Every 12 months or 20,000 km

What is the average cost of a wheel alignment?

$75-$200

 

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?

Every 12 months or 20,000 km. 

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

$118-$216

 

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?

Check every 12 months or 20,000 km. 

What is the average cost of a brake pad replacement?

$150 per axel

 

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?

Check every 12 months or 20,000 k.m. 

What is the average cost of a transmission fluid change?

$150-$300

 

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?

Check every 12 months or 20,000 km. 

What is the average cost of a timing belt replacement?

$150-1,000

 

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.

 

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