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How much does car maintenance REALLY cost?
by Canvas • November 27, 2018


Buying a vehicle is just the first step, albeit an expensive one. For most Americans, purchasing a car is the largest expense they will make, second only to buying a home. What many car buyers don’t realize is that costs continue to accrue after the purchase.

There’s car insurance and registration. You might have to rent or buy a parking spot. But by far, the most overlooked vehicle expense is car maintenance. It doesn’t matter which make or model you drive. It could be gas-powered or have a diesel engine. It may even be an electric car. Every vehicle requires maintenance, from the fuel-miser Honda Civic to the elite Lincoln Navigator.

What services are required? They aren’t the same as the servicing your parents had to do. It’s no longer just annual spark plug replacement and a fuel filter change from time to time. Vehicle maintenance is more involved, labor rates are higher, and part costs are only climbing. That all means one thing: you’re dishing out more cash to keep your car running.

And what are the true costs of vehicle maintenance today? Check out these typical vehicle maintenance services to discover how much car maintenance really costs.

Fuel Injection Service

Gasoline or diesel, there are impurities in fuel. That’s true even for premium-grade fuel from the best service stations. It can be dirt and dust that settles in the massive fuel reservoir at the gas station or moisture from the atmosphere. And when fuel burns in an engine, it never burns 100-percent clean, either.

Deposits are left behind on fuel injector nozzles. Instead of atomizing fuel to burn evenly and efficiently, fuel enters the cylinder in a glop or a haphazard spray. Fuel consumption becomes elevated to make up for the inefficiency. Roughly once per year, a fuel injection service should be performed to clean fuel injectors, and at a cost of around $150.

Wheel Alignment

You might not think about a wheel alignment as routine vehicle maintenance, yet it is. It can take something as insignificant as a pothole to change your wheel alignment, resulting in excessive tire wear and stress on your steering and suspension systems.

Around once per year, a wheel alignment should be performed on all passenger vehicles to center the steering wheel and correct any wheel alignment symptoms. You’ll find a wheel alignment between $70 and $100 in most cases.

Oil Change Service

Every driver is familiar with oil changes. It’s a relatively quick service that drains dirty, old engine oil and refills the engine with clean oil. It’s understood to be the most common vehicle maintenance item, and it can extend a car’s usable life by years.

Most cars need an oil change two to four times per year. And while it may only cost $20 to $100 per oil change, that quickly adds up. You’ll spend between $70 and $320 annually in oil changes alone, depending on the make and model you drive.

Tire Services

Twice per year, on average, the tires should be rotated on your vehicle. This simple service keeps your tires wearing evenly and prevents unnecessary early replacement. Tire rotations are a minor cost, usually around $20 per visit.

But there’s more to consider for tire services. Tires will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Expect around 50,000 miles on a set of tires, roughly four years’ worth of driving. And if your tires cost $1000 to replace as a set of four, it’s a significant expense.

Altogether, tire maintenance is approximately $300 per year.

Transmission Fluid Service

Like engine oil, the transmission fluid is an oil that needs to be changed. Its interval is much longer than engine oil, and that’s a good thing – the cost is substantially more per service. It could be as low as $100 to drain and fill or several hundred dollars to change filters and the transmission pan gasket.

It might be every two years or up to five years that the transmission fluid needs to be changed. Let’s average out the annual cost of a transmission service to $80 per year.

Other Routine Maintenance

And there’s more that adds to the tally. Windshield wipers wear out and need to be changed. The engine air filter and cabin air filter get plugged by dirt, dust, pollen, and bugs and have to be replaced. Brake fluid, power steering fluid, and engine coolant have intervals for servicing as well, adding an extra couple hundred dollars per year in maintenance costs.

These maintenance costs don’t even scratch the surface for vehicle repairs! Factoring in brake jobs, engine repairs, muffler replacement, diagnostics, multi-point inspections, and any other repairs, you could be looking at some serious coin in addition to expected routine servicing.

Canvas Cars Include Maintenance

Car ownership is expensive, but car subscriptions often offer a more cost-effective alternative. Choosing to subscribe to you car is an all-inclusive vehicle experience. Car insurance, maintenance, repairs, and roadside assistance are all included in your monthly cost.

Plus, car subscriptions are extremely easy to use. Book a reservation online in just minutes and select the length of time you wish to have a vehicle. With vehicle pickup or delivery options available, you’ll be driving in no time. And when the subscription is done, you can either renew it or return it – it’s up to you.