Car Buying

Buying a Car: How Much Should You Budget for Maintenance and Repairs?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

If you're interested in buying a car, you shouldn't spend your whole budget on the car and its monthly payments. Some of your money will have to go toward maintenance, repairs and other automotive expenses such as insurance, registration fees and more. So what exactly will maintenance and repairs cost you? And how much should you plan on spending? We have some answers that you may find helpful.

It Depends on the Car

The reality of automotive maintenance and repairs is that the cost of these items largely depends on the car you choose. A Toyota Corolla will cost less to own than a Ferrari, for example, and a Honda Accord will cost less than a Range Rover. So it's difficult to offer a one-size-fits-all number for drivers who are curious to know exactly how much maintenance and repairs will cost.

The main reason why these bills depend so much on the car is that parts and labor vary based on the manufacturer. Many mechanics can work on a Chevy or a Toyota, so labor rates aren't very pricy, and since parts for these vehicles are so common, parts prices aren't very expensive either. It's the opposite with high-dollar luxury cars, where few technicians are trained to work on them and parts are in short supply.

Usual Costs

Although costs can vary from car to car, budgeting for regular maintenance isn't very hard. You'll need an oil change every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, depending on manufacturer recommendations. You'll also need to change out your tires and battery every few years, as well as your brake pads, which will need changing even more often. And depending on the vehicle, you may also need to budget for items such as transmission fluid, transfer-case fluid, brake fluid and more.

Before buying a car, we strongly suggest that you find out what all this maintenance costs -- and how often your vehicle requires it -- so you can accurately budget what it will cost you to own. We also suggest that you take a look at your brakes and tires to find out how soon you'll need to pay for this work.

Keep an Emergency Fund

Although it's hard to come up with an exact maintenance and repair figure for each vehicle, we strongly suggest that you always keep an emergency fund that's equivalent to about 5 percent of the value of the car. This will be helpful in case there's ever a surprise repair.

For instance, if you drive a Toyota Camry worth $10,000, it's a good idea to keep around $500 on hand at any given time for a potential repair. If you're driving a $30,000 BMW, it might be smart to keep $1,500 on hand for the same purpose. If your repair fund is ever depleted, be sure to replenish it as soon as possible in case you find yourself faced with another unscheduled repair. This is especially true if your car is out of warranty, as it's hard to know exactly what -- and when -- problems will occur.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: How Much Should You Budget for Maintenance and Repairs? - Autotrader