How Much to Budget for Car Maintenance
Life can throw a curveball once in a while. Or a nail in the road. And if you don’t have a solid car maintenance budget, you could be scrounging for cash to pay for surprise repairs or even just to keep up with regular car maintenance.
According to the AAA, one-third of drivers in the United States cannot afford an unexpected car repair. Avoid the stress of going into debt by simply using a car maintenance budget.
Why You Should Have a Budget for Car Maintenance
If you don’t have a car maintenance budget set up, it’s easy to neglect your vehicle’s basic maintenance needs. This could lead to more serious mechanical issues that could have been avoided with regular upkeep and preventative car maintenance.
Car maintenance items typically need to be done based on mileage, not time. Here’s a list of the most common maintenance items and how often they’re needed:
- Oil Change – 3,000–5,000 miles
- Tire Rotation – 5,000–7,000 miles
- Multi-Point Inspection – Every Visit
- Tires – 50,000–75,000 miles
- Battery – 3–5 years
- Brakes – 30,000–70,000 miles
- Hoses & Belts – Varies
- Cabin & Engine Air Filter – 15,000–30,000 miles
- Wiper Blades – 6–12 months
We recommend that you always follow your vehicle’s suggested maintenance schedule, which can be found in your owner’s manual. It will include other items like spark plugs, timing belts, transmission fluid, etc. that will need to be replaced periodically.
Having a car maintenance budget in place will help you plan ahead for these scheduled maintenance items. Plus, you’ll have money saved up for unexpected, expensive repairs!
How Much Money Should I Budget for Car Maintenance Each Month?
Depending on the age, make, and model of your car, maintenance costs will vary. It’s important to remember that maintenance costs for a car are periodic expenses, as your car will get serviced every few months.
We recommend setting aside at least $100 per month that is marked specifically for car maintenance (this does not include fuel, insurance, etc.).
However, the amount you need to save each month is dependent on a few factors, including:
- Make and model: Owners of luxury vehicles and SUVs usually spend more on maintenance costs.
- Condition: Has your car been well taken care of? Or has it had a rough life?
- Car age: Things are more likely to go awry in older cars as their parts wear out.
- Driving behavior: How many miles do you put on your car each year? Are you an aggressive driver? Your driving behavior influences the frequency that your car requires maintenance.
Steps to Creating a Car Maintenance Budget
Deciding that you need a budget is easy. Putting one together and sticking to it is the hard part! Here are three actionable steps for determining how much to budget for car maintenance.
1. Gather receipts and maintenance records.
An ideal budget starts with studying your car’s maintenance history and basing this year’s budget on the previous years’ expenses. That way you can see what has recently been replaced or fixed and get an idea of what services you might need soon.
To start, collect all of your car maintenance records from at least the last year—repairs, oil changes, tires, etc.—to see how much you spent on maintenance last year.
Next, add all of the maintenance costs together to get the total amount you spent on car maintenance last year. Divide this number by 12 to get your average monthly car maintenance expense. This number will determine how much money you should set aside each month for your car maintenance budget.
For example, if you spent $1,500 on maintenance for your Toyota Camry last year, you should set aside at least $125 each month for car maintenance.
2. Assess your current financial situation and car maintenance demands.
Adjust the number you came up with in Step 1 to account for your car’s current condition. Be realistic about your take-home salary and your car’s needs. You might need to increase your car maintenance budget amount from what you spent during the previous year.
Is your car due for a major service? Does it need new tires soon? Plan ahead with your budget to account for these added expenses.
3. Plan for preventative maintenance and unexpected repairs.
Once you’ve figured out how much you should expect to pay in general vehicle maintenance, it’s a good idea to build in some margin to cover any unexpected repairs that could come up. You want to have enough money saved that you’re not scrambling for cash when your car is in the shop.
A word to the wise: Although it can be tempting, don’t withdraw from your car maintenance savings. Keep your car maintenance fund separate from your other accounts and only use this money for what it was intended for. You can set up an automatic withdrawal from your paycheck or primary savings account to make sure you set aside the budgeted amount every month.
Other Ways to Calculate Vehicle Maintenance Costs
What if you just bought a new car and don’t have maintenance records to look back on?
The AAA conducts annual surveys that determine the average cost of driving in the United States. This could be a good baseline for your car maintenance budget. For example, in 2019 they estimated maintenance costs of 8.53 cents per mile for small sedans and 9.09 cents per mile for small SUVs.
Another resource is Edmund’s True Cost to Own® calculator. Enter your vehicle year, make and model for estimated ownership costs broken down by year.
Service Regularly, Save More
Detailed budgeting for annual auto repair and maintenance will give you peace of mind and reduce the likelihood of major expenditures in the future. With a little financial discipline, you can have a solid car maintenance budget and plan for regular auto check-ups without fearing the repair bill.
At Virginia Tire & Auto, we want you to get the most mileage out of your money when it comes to maintenance and repair costs. Virginia Tire & Auto’s general service technicians make car maintenance easy and efficient. Drop by one of our 17 locations or schedule an appointment for service today!