The Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain

June 01, 2016
by Maddy Martin, Content & Community at YourMechanic

YourMechanic

The most expensive thing most Americans own, after their house, is their car. On average, Americans spend 5% of their income on purchasing a car. Another 5% goes towards on-going maintenance and insurance costs.

But not every car costs the same to keep it running. And different cars have varying risks of leaving their drivers suddenly immobilized.

At YourMechanic, we have a massive dataset of the make and model of the cars we have serviced and the type of maintenance done. We decided to use our data to understand which cars break down the most and have the highest maintenance costs. We also looked into which types of maintenance are most common to certain cars.

First, we looked at which major brands cost the most to maintain over the first 10 years of a car’s life. We grouped all years of all models by brand to compute their average cost by brand. In order to estimate annual maintenance costs, we found the amount spent on every two oil changes (as oil changes are generally done every six months).
Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain 2

Luxury imports from Germany, such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, along with domestic luxury brand Cadillac, are the most expensive. A Toyota is about $10,000 less expensive over 10 years, just in terms of maintenance.

Toyota is by far the most economical manufacturer. Scion and Lexus, the second and third most inexpensive brands, are both made by Toyota. Together, all three are 10% below the average cost.

Most domestic brands, like Ford and Dodge, are in the middle of the pack.

While luxury cars call for the most expensive maintenance, many budget vehicles rank relatively high. Kia, an entry-level brand, surprises with maintenance costs 1.3 times the average. In this case, sticker prices don’t represent maintenance costs.

Knowing the relative maintenance costs of brands can be informative, but it’s also important to consider how car costs change with age. This chart looks at the median annual cost of maintenance across all brands.

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