100,000-Mile Maintenance Costs for Top-Selling Cars

Focus on Car Care for Vehicle Longevity

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This article has been corrected. Because of a computational error in calculating labor times, the 75,000-mile and 100,000-mile maintenance costs for the top-selling vehicles in this story were incorrect, and the error drastically raised the maintenance costs in particular for the Ford F-150. Edmunds.com regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion caused by the incorrect maintenance figures.

According to Edmunds data, owners are keeping their cars longer than ever, a trend that is expected to continue until the economy recovers. As more of the nation's cars exceed 75,000 miles and approach the 100,000-mile mark, regular maintenance becomes an increasingly important way to prevent costly car repairs.

To help you coax extra miles out of your current car, we wanted to know what consumers could expect to pay to keep their cars running longer. We estimated the cost of scheduled maintenance (service at specific intervals recommended by the manufacturer) and car repairs (unanticipated fixes) for 75,000 miles of normal use for the nation's 10 best-selling vehicles (for 2011 and the first two months of 2012). Additionally, we estimated how much you would pay in maintenance to push those odometers all the way to five zeros. The results are below.

Repair/Maintenance Costs for Top 10 Best-Selling Vehicles

Make/Model Repair to 75K Miles Scheduled Maintenance to 75K Miles Scheduled Maintenance to 100K Miles
Ford F-150 $855 $1,747 $2,646
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $791 $1,491 $2,532
Toyota Camry $654 $1,308 $2,037
Nissan Altima $654 $1,490 $1,956
Ford Escape $814 $1,304 $1,937
Ford Fusion $772 $1,549 $2,240
Honda Accord $654 $1,443 $1,899
Toyota Corolla $654 $1,383 $1,992
Chevrolet Cruze $780 $1,445 $2,316
Honda Civic $654 $1,229 $1,706

The maintenance and repair costs shown are national unweighted model averages reflecting manufacturer-recommended scheduled maintenance services for vehicles driven in "normal" conditions over 75,000 and 100,000 miles. To arrive at the costs, parts pricing is for original equipment manufacturer maintenance parts at manufacturer-suggested retail price. Labor times and labor rates are based on published information from third-party sources.

What the Data Shows
The Ford F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., but among the vehicles our top 10 list, it is also the most expensive to maintain to 100K miles. That said, it is only $114 more than the Chevrolet Silverado, its closest competitor. Trucks have larger engines which require more quarts of oil and more parts, so it's only natural that their maintenance costs would be more than a typical car.

Five brands have sedans in the top 10, so we compared their costs and found some interesting contrasts. Foreign brands are commonly thought to be more expensive to repair than domestic ones. But through 75,000 miles of use, the Ford Fusion costs $241 more in scheduled maintenance than the top-selling Toyota Camry. In fairness to the Fusion, the Camry's costs are lowered by its two years of free maintenance. The Honda Accord does not have free maintenance but still manages to cost about $106 less than the Fusion.

If you drive a car for a full 100,000 miles, the Honda Civic emerges as the overall maintenance-savings winner, with an estimated 26 percent ($610) lower cost of scheduled maintenance costs than its domestic competitor, the Chevrolet Cruze.

Some people might think that crossovers are more expensive to maintain than sedans. But the Ford Escape, the only crossover in our top 10 list, has repair costs that are less than five sedans on the list.

Reliability and Warranties
Many people buy vehicles from Japanese manufacturers because of their cars' reputation for long-term reliability. But is that idea borne out within the top 10 best sellers? Not by much. Within the 75,000 miles that our data covers, the difference in repair costs is minimal. The Camry, Honda Accord and Altima each cost an estimated 15 percent less in car repairs over 75,000 miles than the Ford Fusion does — but that's only a $118 difference. More importantly, should an expensive drivetrain part fail after 60,000 miles, Chevrolet's 100,000-mile drivetrain coverage will protect you. The drivetrain warranties by Toyota, Honda and Nissan stop at the 60,000-mile mark.

Warranty Coverage for Top 10 Best-Selling Vehicle Brands in Years/Miles

Make Basic Drivetrain Rust/Corrosion Roadside Assistance
Chevrolet 3/36,000 5/100,000 6/100,000 5/100,000
Ford 3/36,000 5/60,000 5/Unlimited 5/60,000
Honda 3/36,000 5/60,000 5/Unlimited None Available
Nissan 3/36,000 5/60,000 5/Unlimited 3/36,000*
Toyota 3/36,000 5/60,000 5/Unlimited 2/25,000

*Nissan: Towing to nearest Nissan dealer if your vehicle is inoperative due to the failure of a part under warranty.

Of course, the cost of maintenance and repairs are only two factors in judging a car's True Cost to Own (TCO®). Toyota still enjoys strong resale value, which figures very prominently in a vehicle's overall value. And driving your car for 75,000 or 100,000 miles — even if it costs more to maintain — is almost always a better value proposition than trading it in for a new car.

Spend Now, Save Later
Proper vehicle maintenance is clearly a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but still, tough economic times and busy lifestyles can push car maintenance down on many owners' to-do lists. Recent findings by the Car Care Council found that 28 percent of cars surveyed had low or dirty engine oil, 24 percent had inadequate cooling protection, 20 percent needed new belts and 18 percent had low or contaminated brake and transmission fluid — all potentially costly problems that regular maintenance can prevent.

Fortunately, the days of shelling out money for oil changes every 3,000 miles are long gone. Forget that old rule of thumb. Only your owner's manual, which you can also find online, is the bona fide source for a vehicle's maintenance schedule, from when to rotate the tires to the frequency of transmission service.

Don't rely solely on more general recommendations, and certainly not the "dealer's recommended schedule," which will cost you more than necessary. If you want to look at extending oil change intervals, you can also have your oil analyzed. Following the manufacturer's schedule carefully not only means fewer problems as a car ages; it also prevents the manufacturer from ever voiding your warranty based on "neglect."

Related articles:
Broke With a Beater: How To Maintain an Old Car
Are Free Vehicle Maintenance Programs Worth It?
Top Five Ways To Make Your Car Run Forever
Fix Up or Trade Up?

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