September 9, 2012

Expected Repair and Maintenance Costs by Car Brand

I've previously discussed the idea of looking at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a car instead of focusing on just price.  TCO looks at a few costs like fuel cost, depreciation, interest expense from financing, etc.   One of the bigger functions of your ongoing costs for a car could be the repair and maintenance bills.  Using TCO is great but sometimes the numbers aren't availalbe for certain years of used cars.   So I wanted to get a sense of the maintenance costs.  Less reliable brands or makes could have higher repair bills and some cars are more expensive to maintain than others. I wanted to try and get an idea of how different brands of cars compare as far as repair and maintenance costs.  

To get an idea of repair and maintenance costs per brand I'm going to rely on the TCO data from Edmunds as a guide.  I decided to look up some mid size sedans for each brands as examples.   I picked one model car for each brand for starters.  I got all of the repair and maintenance costs I'll look at today from the Edmunds TCO data.   I looked up each car and noted the expected purchase price and the total repair and maintenance costs for the 5 year period.   I chose to look at cars from 2008 so they would be a bit old and start to show some wear.  Brand new cars won't have much in the way of repair bills and are still under warranty so comparing new cars won't be as meaningful.  I picked 2008 since it was a few years ago and Edmunds had data for that year.

A few notes :  The repair and maintenance costs are just forecasted estimates from Edmunds.   They base it off reported repair rates and costs from customers of the cars.   The numbers assume that current trends will continue.   We're only looking at one year here and car reliability for brands changes over time so a specific brand car from 2013 or 2002 may be more or less reliable and that would impact the repair and maintenance costs.    Lastly, of course these are just meant as average costs and everyones individual experiences will vary.   Your car may be a lemon and cost you more or more often people will not see as high of repair costs.  I assume that individual repair costs are often $0 and its the unlucky individuals with high repair bills that account for most of the costs in the averages.  In other words a $4,000 repair bill is not typical, but its the average from a couple people one who has $200 in repairs and the other with $7800.  (thats just an illustrative example, I don't know what the distribution is like).   Again, these are just forecasted expectations from Edmunds and not actual observed costs.  They're' trying to put a guess on how much people will spend moving forward based on the best data they have.   The maintenance cost may be easier to predict since it is probably based on the manufacturer maintenance schedule and known average costs for service.  Ok, enough explaining...

Here are the numbers for the sample  models that I picked for each brand :

Brand Model Price Repair Maint
Acura  TL $17,491 $2,945 $4,691
Audi A4 2.0T $15,649 $6,564 $5,810
BMW 328i $20,119 $7,743 $7,997
Buick Lacrosse $10,290 $2,554 $3,813
Cadillac CTS $19,486 $5,496 $6,293
Chevy Malibu $9,999 $3,975 $2,424
Chrysler 300 C $17,419 $2,763 $4,379
Dodge Charger $11,279 $2,554 $5,692
Ford Fusion $9,477 $2,526 $4,685
Honda Accord EX $13,319 $2,203 $4,356
Hyundai Sonata $8,890 $2,091 $3,683
Infiniti G35 $16,804 $3,396 $4,782
Jaguar S type $19,199 $13,605 $6,154
Kia Optima $9,290 $2,091 $3,426
Lexus IS 350 $20,143 $3,056 $5,935
Lincoln MKZ $14,426 $2,945 $6,208
Mazda 6-touring $10,620 $2,439 $4,523
Mercedes C300 $18,298 $8,222 $5,893
Mercury Milan $9,656 $2,754 $5,393
MINI Cooper $13,986 $3,373 $6,350
Mitsubishi Galant $7,689 $2,263 $4,341
Nissan Maxima $14,621 $2,203 $3,580
Pontiac G6 $8,709 $2,424 $3,223
Saab 9-3 $10,604 $6,915 $5,533
Saturn  Aura $8,851 $2,424 $3,207
Scion tC $10,842 $2,203 $5,259
Subaru Impreza $10,257 $2,693 $4,909
Suzuki SX4 $8,204 $1,888 $4,162
Toyota Camry $10,308 $2,203 $5,178
VW Jetta $9,052 $2,803 $5,258
Volvo S40 $11,638 $5,168 $6,695

Bottom line is the combined cost of repair and maintenance for each car.  Here are the cars sorted by total repair and maintenance cost over the 5 years :

Brand Combined
Kia $5,517
Saturn  $5,631
Pontiac $5,647
Hyundai $5,774
Nissan $5,783
Suzuki $6,050
Buick $6,367
Chevy $6,399
Honda $6,559
Mitsubishi $6,604
Mazda $6,962
Chrysler $7,142
Ford $7,211
Toyota $7,381
Scion $7,462
Subaru $7,602
Acura  $7,636
VW $8,061
Mercury $8,147
Infiniti $8,178
Dodge $8,246
Lexus $8,991
Lincoln $9,153
MINI $9,723
Cadillac $11,789
Volvo $11,863
Audi $12,374
Saab $12,448
Mercedes $14,115
BMW $15,740
Jaguar $19,759

One thing to consider is that it will cost more to repair a more expensive car.   More expensive cars have more expensive parts.    This would at least in part explain why luxury cars like Mercedes may cost more to repair.   However we also see that more expensive cars like the Lexus or Infiniti cost substantially less to repair and maintain. 

Now lets look at variations within a specific brand.  

Here are a few Chrysler 2008 models :

Model Price Repair Maint Total
300 C $17,419 $2,763 $4,379 $7,142
Pacifica $11,091 $2,554 $5,226 $7,780
TC Minivan $9,690 $2,554 $4,287 $6,841
Crossfire $16,768 $2,554 $5,779 $8,333
Sebring $7,691 $2,554 $4,373 $6,927

You can see theres about $1400 difference between total repair and maintenance costs across the different Chrysler models here.   Notice that the repair bills are mostly the same across the models at $2,554 for 4 different cars with only the 300C costing a couple hundred more.   This makes sense because mostly repair costs are related to powertrain failures and the cars would use common powertrains.  For example if a Pacifica and a Crossfire have the same 3.6L engine in them then the likelihood of engine repairs would be the same and the cost would be the same.   Across these Chryslers the average total repair and maintenance is $7,405 and the high of $8,333 for the Crossfire is 13% more and the T&C minivan is 8% less.  So for the Chrysler models I've looked at here the sum cost of repair and maintenance is $7,405 plus or minus 13%.

By comparison lets now look at one of the more pricey brands and compare some BMW models.

Model Price Repair Maint Total
528i $20,964 $7,743 $9,961 $17,704
M3 $33,468 $7,743 $8,843 $16,586
328i $20,119 $7,743 $7,997 $15,740
750Li $33,700 $7,743 $8,999 $16,742
Z4 $19,069 $7,743 $7,482 $15,225

For these BMW's the average total cost is $16,399.   The range is +8% at $17,704 for the 528i and -7% less at $15,225 for the Z4.    You'll notice that the repair costs are flat at $7,743 for all the BMW's that I looked at.

Lastly I'll look at the Kia brand which had the lowest combined cost across the brands I sampled initially.   For 5 different Kias we get :

Model Price Repair Maint Total
Optima $9,290 $2,091 $3,426 $5,517
Amanti $11,555 $2,091 $4,559 $6,650
Rio $5,415 $2,091 $4,633 $6,724
Spectra $7,021 $2,091 $3,728 $5,819
Sedona $9,410 $2,091 $3,794 $5,885

The average is $6,119 and it varies +/-10% between the high of $6,724 for the Rio and a low of $5,517 for the Optima.

So thats 3 different brands I looked at several models from, the Chryslers, BMW and Kia.   For each brand the repair costs are the same across all models for the brand.   I guess this is due to Edmunds assuming that repairs will be based on the engine design and quality which is generally the same across models for a brand.     Overall the total costs for repair and maintenance of a particular model car tend to vary about +/-10% from the average for the brand.

Now I've only looked at 3 brands in more detail here, and there could be some other brands that have wider variance in the expected repair and maintenance costs.   But I think its a fairly safe bet that most if not all brands follow this trend of having about +/-10% variation between models.
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