Everything You Need To Make A Car Maintenance Budget

by | Dec 8, 2020

Car maintenance can be overwhelming to keep up with if you don’t stay organized, but is nonetheless very important to stay on top of. Vehicles require maintenance to keep them running smoothly, most of these maintenance items in a car’s first few years of life are simple and easy repairs, like oil changes, with more detailed (and expensive) maintenance and part replacement required as the car gets older. 

Keeping up with car maintenance can be expensive, but neglecting to perform necessary car maintenance will cost you more in the long run by causing damage to components that were not properly cared for. Replacing engine coolant is a $30 max repair if you do it yourself where as a blown head gasket caused by engine overheating if you fail to replace the engine coolant is going to cost you thousands of dollars.  Another result of failing to maintain your car properly is a voided car warranty. 

Some vehicles cost more than others to maintain and make necessary repairs to. For this reason it is important to make a budget for car maintenance that is appropriate for your vehicle. The best way to calculate how much you’ll need to save for car maintenance is to take a look at how much you have spent in previous years and break that amount down to a monthly average. Each year add 10% to that monthly average to account for your car aging and likely needing more care. 

If you have just purchased your vehicle you can get information online about the make and model of your car on how much cash to allot for maintenance. As a last resort, the owner’s manual of the vehicle will have a maintenance guide that you can price out yourself. 

If you can afford to do so, add another 15-20% of that number to allot for untimely vehicle repairs so that you’re never caught with your pants down should your car have a major issue unexpectedly. A great practice is keeping this liquid cash in a separate savings account or sector of your savings. Even if you don’t end up using these funds before selling or scrapping the car, you now have money saved up to purchase your next car outright or at the very least put up a decent down payment without dipping into any other savings. 

Calculating A Car Maintenance Budget

  1. Collect Your Records (Or Information Online) 
  2. Find Your Yearly Average
  3. Divide That Number By 12
  4. Throw A Bit More On Top

Collect Your Records (Or Information Online)

Most car owners keep a detailed record of their car maintenance. There are a lot of reasons for doing so, but typically the main reason is so that when you go to resell the car, you can provide these records to a potential buyer to show them that the car was properly cared for. Among other reasons to keep maintenance records include to keep your warranty valid and for your own organization so you know when the last time each part was worked on or your oil was changed. 

Find Your Yearly Average And Divide By 12

Break down your records by year and calculate out the total cost of maintenance for each year that you’ve owned the car to a monthly average. Typically you will see a progressively higher and higher cost as the car ages under your ownership. Once you have established the trend of how much you have been spending. Add 10% and allot that amount to a savings account each month for when you do need to maintain the vehicle. 

If you don’t have maintenance records or you just bought your car, you can generally get a pretty solid idea of how much the make and model of your vehicle costs on average to repair. If you don’t have your own data and are going off of someone else’s, its best to air on the side of caution and add more to the savings account each month if possible at least until you get a better idea of how much your particular car costs to maintain. If you are using online data, add 10% to the average for every year your car has aged over the 5 year mark.

For example: the average Nissan Altima costs about $483 to maintain each year according to data gathered through online sources. So if my Nissan Altima were 9 years old, I would add an additional 40% of that budget. $483 x 1.4 = $676 in yearly maintenance costs that you can expect. Broken down into 12 months is about $57 that you should be contributing per month. 

Throw A Bit More On Top

If you are in the financial position, it’s generally a good idea to add a bit more to whatever you are squirrelling away for your car. Remember the budget that you just created is designed to be a fund for car maintenance only. That means that car repairs caused by malfunctioning components or car accidents not covered by insurance will come out of your pocket. 

If you want to account for repairs, take an extra 20% of what you are saving for maintenance and put that amount away for repairs. Of course for a lot of us with tight budgets this isn’t always possible. Whatever you can contribute to a savings account for emergency car repairs is better than putting away nothing at all. 

If you can’t afford to contribute to a savings account for your car, consider an extended car warranty instead. An extended warranty is a great way to protect yourself from car expenses you can’t necessarily afford. 

As a vehicle owner, how do you know what needs to be maintained? How do you know how much to budget for car maintenance? Where should you get your car repaired?  Well we’re here with some honest answers for you on car maintenance. 

How Much Does The Average Person Spend On Car Maintenance A Month?

On average the common person spends $1,200 per month on car maintenance. This is taking into account individuals who have expensive cars like Ferraris, Jaguars and other exotic vehicles. If you have a more common car brand like Honda, Toyota, Ford, GM, Hyudai or Kia you will likely be spending less than that average. The average Nissan Altima costs less than $500 per year to maintain. 

Common Maintenance Items And When To Expect them

  • Battery: every 3-5 years (Total cost of $50 -$120)
  • Oil Change: between 3,000 and 5,000 miles (Total cost of $50- $125)
  • Brake Pads: a minimum of 50,000 miles (Total cost of $300 -$600)
  • Engine Coolant: on average 30,000 miles (Total cost of $100 )
  • Tires: 55,000- 70,000 miles (Total cost of $200 )
  • Multi Point Inspection: at every mechanic visit (Total cost of $100- $200)
  • Hoses and Belts: Varies but a minimum of 100,000 miles (Total cost of $100 )
  • Air Filter: on average every 30,000 miles (Total cost of $40 )
  • Wiper Blades: every 6 months (Total cost of $65 )

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Resources:

https://www.cbac.com/media-center/blog/2017/march/creating-a-vehicle-maintenance-budget/#:~:text=Add%20all%20maintenance%20costs%20together,a%20month%20for%20car%20maintenance.
https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/auto-loans/routine-car-maintenance-cost
https://repairpal.com/reliability/nissan/altima#:~:text=for%20the%20Altima.-,Cost,%24652%20for%20all%20vehicle%20models.
https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-much-does-car-battery-cost.htm#:~:text=According%20to%20CostHelper%2C%20a%20typical,cost%2C%20such%20as%20battery%20type.
https://www.kbb.com/oil-change/#:~:text=Typically%2C%20an%20oil%20and%20filter,anywhere%20from%20%2465%20to%20%24125.
https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-often-should-i-flush-my-radiator.htm#:~:text=The%20cost%20of%20a%20coolant,an%20average%20price%20of%20%2499.
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https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-much-do-tires-cost.htm#:~:text=According%20to%20CostHelper%2C%20a%20standard,of%20about%20%24100%20to%20%24250.
https://www.angieslist.com/articles/how-often-should-i-replace-my-engine-filter.htm#:~:text=Costs%20to%20replace%20an%20engine,the%20air%20filter%20housing%20is.
https://repairpal.com/estimator/windshield-wiper-blade-replacement-cost#:~:text=The%20average%20cost%20for%20a,priced%20between%20%2432%20and%20%2455%20.
https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/how-often-should-brakes-be-replaced#:~:text=Generally%2C%20brake%20pads%20need%20to,needs%2C%20consult%20the%20owner’s%20manual

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