In the United States, the average length of time drivers own their new vehicles is 79.3 months or about seven years, while the average age of cars on the road is about twelve years. We have seen those numbers climbing gradually over the last few years as more drivers opt to hold onto their vehicles for longer. This is both a reflection that vehicles are being manufactured with higher quality standards to make them last longer and that owners are being more cautious about dropping big money on newer vehicles.
Next to our homes, the vehicles we rely upon to get us where we need to go are usually the second largest investment households will make. The average American vehicle owner will spend 5% of their income on car purchases, with another 5% going toward maintenance and insurance. While the initial sticker price of a car or truck can be a driver's primary focus at purchase, it's equally important to consider things like fuel mileage and cost of maintenance and repair to avoid bank-breaking costs down the road.
Generally speaking, higher-end luxury vehicles and high-performance sports cars are the most expensive to maintain as they may require specialized parts, fluids, or expertise to maintenance. Many of these vehicles have finely tuned components that require specific oils, premium fuels, and can have parts that are either difficult to come by or need a certified technician to repair. These vehicles will wind up costing an owner more money over the years versus more common makes and models.
If you’re a fan of bells and whistles like on-board entertainment systems, cameras, or wifi, while these upgrades can enhance your life on the road, they can also be difficult and costly to repair when they break.
It’s also important to point out that some surprisingly common vehicle makes and models cause drivers some maintenance sticker shock as well. Still, as a rule of thumb, the more common a vehicle is, the easier and more affordable repairs will be. This could be because there are more technicians well-versed in repair of the more common models, or because OEM or aftermarket parts are easier to come by and are therefore cheaper to buy.
According to a report from YourMechanic.com, German imports, including BMW, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz, as well as the American luxury Cadillac brands are the most expensive to maintain over a 10-year period with Toyota being the most economical, costing an average of $10,000 less to maintain over 10 years.
If you’re in the market for a vehicle that’s both reliable and light on the pocketbook when it comes to maintenance, Toyota, Kia, Honda, and Nissan consistently offer models that cost under $500-600 to maintain per year, which is welcome news for drivers looking to upgrade their rides on a budget.
When considering a new vehicle, drivers should do their research on the makes and models that interest them beyond the initial sticker price. Be sure to consider things like their average annual mileage, types of driving encountered, and length of vehicle ownership to get a better understanding of what their costs will be one, two, or even five years down the road.