How Much To Budget For Car Maintenance


Since starting on the budgeting journey over a decade ago there is one area of the budget that can take a little longer to master: car expenses.

When budgeting for car costs you will want to consider the following: fuel, regular maintenance, tyres, insurance, state registration (rego) and cleaning. In this article we’ll focus on how to calculate car maintenance.

Car maintenance budget

When it comes to budgeting for the line car maintenance there are several things to consider.

Below I’ve inserted a list to help prompt you on what to budget, and how often you’ll need to repeat the transaction, as its important to note how often repairs and things need changing with your motor vehicle.

A good mechanic will help provide information about the status on the condition of elements in your car.

Here’s a list of things to consider on whether some or all of these expenses will occur during your budget period:

ExpenseCycle length
MechanicEvery 10,000 km (6,000 mi)
Or at least once a year
TyresEvery 50,000 km (30,000 mi)
Or at least every 3-4 years
WipersGenerally once a year
BatteryGenerally once every 2-3 years
Roadside AssistanceAnnual
Common car expenses to budget

Roadside Assistance

If your car does break down while travelling how will you be able to get it to a service station? Purchases from car dealerships can come with this already included for the first number of years you own the car, but in case you’ve purchased privately it may be wise to purchase some roadside assistance package in case you do have problems. Also, some roadside assistance covers changing your battery for free, so depending upon who you go with and whether they have this as part of their package you might not need to include the battery expense above.

Therefore, when doing your budget for these lines consider when the last time these works were performed on your car and budget for that maintenance to occur on your next visit according to its cyclical replacement nature. If you don’t know when something will likely need replacement ask your mechanic, and budget for the approximate cost accordingly.

Mechanic

Generally this is done every 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles), or at the very least once a year. Several factors are involved in the cost of servicing your car by your mechanic and these include: last time the car was serviced, quantity of miles your car has travelled (see below for further details).

What is included in a car service by a mechanic?

Included within a regular maintenance performed by a mechanic you would expect the following:

  • Inspection of brakes, exhaust, tyre pressure, electrics, tyres, wipers, batteries, belts (note I’m using the work inspection here deliberately as if these things need changing they’ll be an additional charge to fix and replace);
  • Fluid top ups – coolant, power steering, windscreen washer, brakes, tyres (everything besides fuel and yes I realise tyres aren’t topped up with fluids);
  • Replacement of filters – engine oil filters, air filters;
  • Rotation of tyres and wheel alignment;
  • Tightening of bolts and nuts on chassis and body;
  • Road testing of vehicle.

If some of these things have not been done, they could cause damage to your vehicle and therefore require additional costs to repair the engine and its parts.

For example, when we had our Mazda CX-5 recently serviced at the start of the new year (January) I knew our car was getting close to needing a new set of tyres. I had budgeted for the expense in February as our odometer reading had eclipsed 50,000 km. After the mechanic had serviced our car he went through what was replaced on the car, and noted that the tyres were needing change by the next service.

Perfect! I thought.

I didn’t need to prompt him, and he confirmed what I had already thought about the tyres from my own observations and calculations.

How to budget for major works?

Pay attention to all those lights on your dashboard

Most good mechanics will call you when there’s something major to be performed on your motor vehicle. If it’s the first time you’ve used the mechanic it doesn’t hurt to ask them when you initially drop your car off what they would do if they discovered something major needing repair. Most good workshops will tell you upfront what their process is and what they would do if they found something needing immediate repair.

If you don’t have your car regularly serviced then expect some nasty surprises when you do go and visit your local car mechanic. Budget for some major work in your budget prior to the visit so that when they do call to let you know of major works being needed it won’t be a shock to you and your budget.

Also, if you find there is a multiplicity of works to be undertaken on your car and you don’t have the budget to complete all the works ask your mechanic if he can work on the items that fit within your budget for this visit, and to see if they can perform the other works on your next visit when you’ve budgeted for the other items needing repair. Even obtain a quote for the works for the next visit so nobody gets confused on the works needed.

Car Maintenance Costs For New Cars

Mazda CX-3 car maintenance schedule

Most car manufacturers these days support the purchase of their vehicles by providing the new buyer with a regular car maintenance schedule.

Some car manufacturers embed the cost into the original purchase price of the car and claim that there are no maintenance fees to pay for a given number of miles or kilometres, or for a given number of years (or both).

Read the fine print, because this scope of future works will likely just be on regular servicing, not on any labour for minor and major works performed on the vehicle – be sure you understand exactly what it means when you don’t have to pay for any servicing costs.

With the purchase of our new Mazda CX-3 back in 2015 we were given a regular maintenance schedule of when and how much the maintenance costs were going to be.

Here’s what we were provided and here’s what actually happened over the last 6 years of owning that vehicle and it being serviced by the same local Mazda dealership:

Distance (km)Mazda CX-3
Estimated Pricing
Mazda CX-3
Actual Charge
(incl GST)
10,000$316Free
20,000$346$324.40
30,000$316$298.00
40,000$346$514.95
50,000$316$299.50
60,000$346$402.55
70,000$316N/A
80,000$346$525.55
90,000$316N/A
100,000$346$627.23
110,000$316N/A
120,000$346$965.95
130,000$316N/A
140,000$346$343.30
150,000$316$565.05
160,000$346$310.00
Total$5,296$5,176.48
Comparison of estimated servicing price for Mazda CX-3 and what we actually paid

What this comparison goes to show is that the schedule provided is a rough guide. Also, when I happened to have missed a visit the maintenance cost does get larger than a normal visit. Overall though the total costs worked out to be the same.

Benefits of dealership servicing

Another benefit I didn’t realise when purchasing the Mazda and having it serviced at the local Mazda dealership was when items were being recalled due to product failure. Thankfully there was nothing major, but by having it serviced at the local Mazda dealership I had these items fixed and if there was something needing repair and still under warranty this was replaced free of charge too!

Summary

When calculating your car maintenance servicing costs think on what would need repair or maintenance.

Whether your car is new or old there will be something that needs changing. If your car is new there may be parts that are still under warranty which will help reduce the cost of replacing that part, but labour will still be charged. On a used second-hand vehicle you will find you will need to also budget for the parts, which a good mechanic should be able to source cheaply.

Overall I spent on our CX-3 around $5,200 over 6 years which calculates to around $867 per year. However, I’ve also clocked nearly 180,000 km on that vehicle which is 30,000 km on average per year.

When considering the cost to budget for your motor vehicle take into account the age of the vehicle, what things are likely needing repair due to age (for example tyres), and how often you drive your vehicle.

Ryan

Author of recurrent.com.au, an Australian blog dedicated to help you in your personal finance journey, Ryan has been budgeting professionally since 2015, and budgeting personally since 2009. He enjoys a good bush walk with the family during the cooler months and going to the beach during the warmer months.

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