- Average repair costs rose 10 percent nationwide.
- Four out of five states that pay the most for repairs are on the East Coast.
- Hybrid repair costs are trending downward.
IRVINE, California — Repair costs related to "check engine" lights have risen 10 percent nationwide, with New Jersey reporting the highest bills, according to a recent CarMD study. CarMD sells diagnostic code readers and maintains a database of vehicle trouble codes.
The national average cost to diagnose and repair a "check engine light" issue in 2012 was $367.84. New Jersey was the most expensive state, both for parts and total repair costs, with an average bill of $392.99. CarMD attributes the increase to factors such as rising parts and labor costs and automobile flood damage related to Hurricane Sandy that either required new repairs or uncovered unrepaired problems that had been put off for some time.
Rounding out the top five regions with the highest repair costs were Washington, D.C. ($391.62), California ($390.37), North Carolina ($389.91) and Maryland ($387.78). Washington, D.C. had the biggest increase in repair costs (20 percent) from 2011-'12. This was due to an increase in labor-intensive repairs that cost more than $1,000, according to CarMD.
In prior years, Western states had been at the top of the list, but due to an 11.56 percent increase in the Northeast region, only California made it into the top five most expensive states.
Failed catalytic converters were the second most common reason for "check engine" lights in three of the five most expensive states. This expensive fix is often the result of putting off smaller repairs or replacements of such parts as spark plugs and oxygen sensors, according to CarMD.
Vermont car owners had the lowest average repair costs in the country ($269.72). West Virginia ($310.49), South Dakota (311.88), Delaware ($313.62) and Iowa ($314.77) were the other four states with the lowest repair costs.
Wyoming had the largest drop in average repair costs: down 17 percent from 2011. CarMD speculates that Wyoming drivers are either taking better care of their cars or trading up to newer ones.
The cost of repairing hybrid vehicles has begun to trend downward, according to the company. New Jersey hybrid drivers paid the least to replace a hybrid battery, at a cost of about $2,005. This is a screaming deal compared to Arizona, where the same repair would cost about $4,010. CarMD attributes the drop to a mix of more hybrids in the fleet, better trained technicians and greater availability of diagnostic tools.
CarMD analyzed the repairs on more than 160,000 vehicles with "check engine light" problems in 2012.
Edmunds says: Don't put off small repairs that could lead to larger issues. It will cost you more in the long run.