People are keeping their cars longer than ever: an average of about six years, according to Edmunds data. This trend is partly due to economic factors, but also because modern cars are lasting longer: Their average life on the road is now up around the 11-year mark. As more of the nation's cars motor past 75,000 miles and approach the 100,000-mile mark, regular maintenance becomes an increasingly important way to prevent costly car repairs.
If you want to coax extra miles out of your current car, it's good to know in advance how much that's going to cost. 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 10 best-selling vehicles of 2013. Additionally, we estimated how much you would pay in maintenance to push those odometers to 100,000 miles.
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|
|Chevrolet Silverado 1500||$809||$1,321||$2,138|
The maintenance and repair costs shown are national unweighted 2014 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 as of May 20, 2014.
What the Data Shows
The Ford F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., but among the vehicles on our top 10 list, it is also the most expensive to maintain to 100,000 miles. It comes in at $593 more than the Chevrolet Silverado, its closest competitor. Ford calls for more inspections in its maintenance schedule and some engines have 7,500-mile service intervals, which raises the total costs.
Four 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 reliable, but are also thought to be more expensive to repair than domestic ones. Through 75,000 miles of use, however, the difference in repair costs among the sedans is minimal. The Ford Fusion costs $166 more in estimated repairs than the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry or Toyota Corolla. It's not a huge difference, but it could be a tipping point for super-thrifty buyers.
If you drive a car for 100,000 miles, the Toyota Corolla emerges as the overall maintenance-savings winner, followed closely by its closest competitor, the Honda Civic. The Corolla's costs are lowered by its two years of free maintenance.
When it comes to warranties, Chevrolet turns out to be the automaker that goes the extra miles. The drivetrain warranties by Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota stop at the 60,000-mile mark, while Chevy goes to 100,000.
Warranty Coverage for Top 10 Best-Selling Vehicle Brands in Years/Miles
Of course, the cost of maintenance and repairs are only two factors in judging a car's True Cost to Own (TCO®). Honda and Toyota have 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 will address small problems before they become big ones. But tight budgets and busy lifestyles can push car maintenance down on many owners' to-do lists. According to the Car Care Council, 22 percent of cars checked in car-care events in 2013 had low or dirty engine oil, 16 percent had inadequate cooling protection, 20 percent needed new belts and 20 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. Your owner's manual, which you can also find online, is the best 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, such as a "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."