How to Factor Maintenance Costs into a Car Sticker Price

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  • Part 1 of 3: Understanding maintenance costs
  • Part 2 of 3: Averaging out the costs
  • Part 3 of 3: Getting more specific numbers
A new or used car will cost you more than the number you pay at the dealership, once you factor in maintenance costs. Knowing how much your car will really cost you can help you budget better and always be prepared for maintenance or service costs.
Maintenance is what keeps your vehicle operating at peak condition and these costs are a part of a vehicle’s total cost of ownership (TCO). Maintenance costs over the life of your vehicle include a number of items, such as oil changes, tire rotations and replacements, fluid and filter changes, lube, and system checks.
In this article, Part 1 helps you understand what maintenance costs include. Part 2 breaks down the average car maintenance costs. Part 3 goes over tools to get more exact maintenance cost information for your specific vehicle.

Part 1 of 3: Understanding maintenance costs

As noted above, maintenance costs include several items, from oil changes to new tires to system checks and service.
Some cars have higher maintenance costs than others, even within the same model, depending on any extras or advanced technology. For example, the cost of maintenance can differ greatly on a Hyundai versus a Mercedes-Benz.
For detailed information on how much your car will cost to own based on the state you live, check out Vincentric ownership data.
As costs can range by thousands over time, this can also help you purchase the best vehicle for your budget. Don’t forget, some warranties include maintenance services so there will be no cost while your car is under warranty, which can greatly lower your overall maintenance costs during the life of your vehicle.

Part 2 of 3: Averaging out the costs

If you want to get a basic idea of how much maintenance costs will add to the sticker price of your car, there are some average costs you can utilize. Note, depending on your vehicle make, model, and other factors such as how and where you drive, the averages may be higher or lower than your actual cost.
According to AAA, maintenance costs on a vehicle average out to $66 per month or $792 per year. In addition, AAA estimates you will need tires every three years or so, which breaks down to about $150 per year. Add tires to maintenance and you are looking at an average of $942 per year on top of car payments.
Remember, this is not just for the first few years or while you are paying off your car loan. These costs are projected for the entire useful life of your car. Maintenance costs will far outlast your last car payment and should continue to be budgeted for.

Part 3 of 3: Getting more specific numbers

There are tools online that can help you calculate the total cost of owning a vehicle specific to your make and model. Note, that these do not focus purely on maintenance costs but total cost of ownership including depreciation, taxes, insurance, fuel, and more, but do provide maintenance cost estimates:
Some of these include:
Part of a vehicle’s total cost of ownership, in addition to maintenance costs, is insurance. Understanding how maintenance costs add on to your car’s sticker price can help you better budget for other items, such as your insurance costs, fuel, and registrations fees.

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