A budget can be a powerful tool to set priorities and achieve financial goals—but if the numbers within the budget aren’t accurate, its benefits can be diminished. One of the trickier things to accurately forecast is car maintenance. If you’ve ever wondered how much to budget for car maintenance, we’re here to help. We’ll divvy it up into two main buckets—scheduled and unscheduled—then discuss how best to create a budget.
Total cost of car ownership: How maintenance fits in
Remember: It’s important to budget for the overall cost of car ownership. This includes expenses in addition to maintenance, such as insurance, financing, taxes, fees and fuel. Savvy car owners also set aside money for repairs—unexpected expenses that pop up out of the blue, such as a broken air conditioning system or transmission. Since dealing with a faulty AC isn’t part of routine car care, it’s categorized as a repair instead of maintenance.
Scheduled car maintenance
This category includes expenses to keep up with factory-recommended maintenance, which usually occurs at specific mileage and/or calendar intervals. You can find the maintenance schedule in the hard copy of your owner’s manual or online. Scheduled maintenance often includes the following:
- Replacement of engine oil and oil filter
- Replacement of cabin air filter
- Replacement of engine air filter
- Tire rotation
- Multi-point inspection of brakes, drive belts, fluids and other systems
The manufacturer of a 2012 Toyota Corolla, for example, recommends all of the above services at 60,000 miles.
Unscheduled car maintenance
This category covers items that need to be replaced as they wear out, including:
- Headlamps, taillights and turn signal bulbs
- Wiper blades
While there are no fixed rules about how long these components last, you can use some general rules of thumb. Tires, for example, often last at least 50,000 miles and batteries have a lifespan of about three to five years.
Establishing a budget
We recommend looking ahead at a full year of potential car maintenance costs, then building your monthly budget accordingly. Returning to our example above: If your 2012 Toyota Corolla is set to cross the 60,000-mile mark in the coming months, you can start setting aside money now to help cover the cost of the substantial required service. Or, if your car has just 10,000 miles, you can budget for required oil changes—but can likely leave out new tires.
As you’re looking at the year ahead, keep these points in mind:
- Expenses depend on the car. Most manufacturers recommend factory-specific parts. As such, genuine Ferrari parts would be more costly than genuine Toyota parts. (Same goes for the labor, too.)
- Expenses also depend on driving conditions. How and where you use your car can impact the lifespan of components. For example, tires and batteries usually have shorter lifespans in hotter climates.
- Dealer recommendations aren’t the same as manufacturer recommendations. You’ll probably get flyers in the mail or phone calls from your dealer advising you to bring your car in for recommended service. Experts advise you to be wary of these extra expenses. While it’s important to keep up with your manufacturer’s service schedule, there’s generally no need to keep up with additional services recommended by the dealer.
What else can you do to come up with an educated estimate?
- Use an online calculator. Websites like Edmunds have calculators to help you estimate costs for maintenance and other expenses. For our 2012 Toyota Corolla, the calculator estimates about $700 in maintenance expenses during the second year of ownership.
- Check out per-mile estimates. AAA conducts periodic surveys to see how much car owners spend on maintenance per mile. In 2015, maintenance costs were 5.11 cents per mile. So, if you drive 15,000 miles per year, that would equal $766.50 over the course of a year.
- Average your historical costs. You can tally up how much you’ve spent on maintenance in the past 12 months, and use that figure to estimate how much you’ll spend in the coming year.
It might be tempting to skimp on car maintenance in your budget, but regular maintenance is key to keeping your car safe and reliable. It can also increase your vehicle’s resale value, gas mileage and overall performance.
If you’re facing an emergency car repair or a shortfall in your maintenance budget, RISE can help. Get $500 to $5,000 from RISE in your account as soon as tomorrow. With our simple online process, you can apply in minutes. Plus, we’re here to help you build a better financial future: Check out our free interactive tools for budgeting, setting savings goals and managing debt.