Vehicle Tips & FAQs

How Much Should I Spend on Maintenance

This post is a proactive thought piece as opposed to last week's reactive one.

Nobody asks me this question, but I can tell that people have radically different ideas about how much should be spent on vehicle repair and maintenance. There are two scenarios that happen often to me that relate to this universal query:

1. Two customers are quoted the exact same job on identical models: one customer says that's a good deal, the other says the car isn't worth that.

2. Customer A needs a repair that costs $1000; the final bill ends up being $1100. Customer B needs a repair that costs $100; the final bill ends up being $200. Who do you think is more upset?

The moral of those scenarios is that people have different value systems. Feeling like you're getting a good deal is more important to people than actually getting a good deal. (Otherwise, people might be asking me to replace unnecessary items so that they won't ever have to pay labor to replace those in the future).

Now let's turn to the experts: HowStuffWorks goes through some simple math projections to show that maintenance is much cheaper than buying a new car. That can be found here. They claim that people spend about $400 a year on costs not associated with maintenance.

Liberty Mutual has an article dedicated to this topic. They say to plan on $1400 on maintenance for first 25K miles with larger sums for each successive 25K miles increment. This brings up a point I meant to make earlier. The worst mileages to buy cars at is 60K and 100-120K. These are when expensive maintenance services are due.

Based on my reading from other articles, I think most people should save $100 per month for maintenance and repairs. When you reach $2500, keep saving but the remainder can be used for a down payment on your next car. Very few repairs cost more than $2500 and with that money in the bank you'll never need to worry about your car not starting. As you're saving you'll tap into that money for repairs and of course, that's ok. If you can't save that quickly, then save what you can. Try to get into a situation where you're putting at least $50 in the bank per month. Cars are expensive and you want to be in a safe and comfortable vehicle.

Thanks so much for reading.