How Much Should I Budget for Car Maintenance?

August 11th, 2020 by

Establishing a budget is essential to ensure you can cover the regular maintenance required to keep your vehicle in good condition. A budget for car maintenance can also help you cover any incidents that weren’t planned for, such as a flat tire or a dead battery.

Here we explore why budgeting for car maintenance is important, how much on average you should budget, and the common services most vehicles will need to stay in tip-top shape.

Why Budgeting for Car Maintenance Is Important

man taking off tire lug nut

Image via Flickr by robmba

Setting up a car maintenance budget is important for several reasons. One primary reason is that establishing a budget will encourage you to stay up to date on your vehicle’s maintenance needs, such as regular oil changes and tire rotations. Without a budget in place, it can be tempting to neglect your car’s basic maintenance requirements, which can negatively its longevity and reliability.

Another reason why budgeting is important is that many people experience at least one or two unexpected car maintenance needs throughout the year. For example, you may accidentally run over a nail in the road and need to have a tire replaced. A budget ensures you can cover these unexpected expenses and aren’t left without a working vehicle or pinching pennies to afford the repair.

According to AAA, an estimated 33% of individuals can’t afford an unexpected car repair expense. You can beat these odds and reduce stress related to car maintenance fees by properly establishing and maintaining a budget for your vehicle’s needs.

How Much Should You Budget for Car Maintenance? 

When determining how much you should set aside for preventative car maintenance and regular upkeep, it’s important to have a good idea of your average mileage. AAA found that average maintenance costs are around 9 cents per mile, and most maintenance requirements are based on mileage rather than time. So, if you drive 500 miles a month, you’d want to set aside at least $45 each month for car maintenance. 

It’s important to note that the average cost of car maintenance doesn’t necessarily factor in unexpected repair costs. To ensure you’re covered in the case of a car-related mishap, you’ll want to budget more than just 9 cents per mile driven. The more you can set aside for car maintenance, the better prepared you’ll be in the event that you need emergency repair services.

Other factors to consider when deciding how much to budget for car maintenance include:

  • The make and model of your vehicle: Owning an SUV or a luxury vehicle can cost more in maintenance fees than driving a sedan or a make that isn’t a luxury brand.
  • How old your vehicle is: According to Consumer Reports, there are significant differences in the cost of maintenance depending on how old a vehicle is. Cars that are 3 years old or newer typically cost the least in maintenance fees, while vehicles that are 10 or more years old cost the most. So, if your vehicle is older, you’ll want to budget for more costly maintenance expenses.
  • Your vehicle’s condition: Vehicles that are well taken care of typically require less maintenance than cars that have not received regular care.
  • Your driving behavior: More aggressive driving can mean higher maintenance costs. For example, regularly making sharp turns at high speeds can wear out your tires quicker, meaning you’ll need to budget for more frequent tire replacement than someone who does not participate in this type of driving behavior.

Common Car Maintenance Services to Consider When Creating a Budget

There are several types of car maintenance services you should be familiar with when establishing a budget. The most common maintenance needs for a vehicle include:

Oil Changes

Regular oil changes are essential to keep your vehicle performing at its best. Oil ensures your car’s parts are well lubricated and running properly, and frequent oil changes can help prevent these parts from malfunctioning and needing repair or replacement. Each vehicle will have different oil replacement requirements, so it’s important to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for your particular car. In general, AAA recommends that car owners get their oil changed every 5,000 to 7,000 miles.

Tire Maintenance

There are several maintenance requirements needed to keep your tires in tip-top condition. The most common tire maintenance needs include:

  • Air pressure: You should get your tires’ air pressure checked once a month to avoid decreasing their lifespan.
  • Tire rotation: Most types of tires require rotation every 5,000 miles or so.
  • Tire replacement: If your tires’ treads begin to wear low, you’ll need to get them replaced to avoid potentially dangerous tire failures or accidents. Consumer Reports recommends replacing your tires when you have around 4/32nd of an inch of tread left. You can use the penny test to check your tires’ treads. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head when you stick a penny into the tread, it’s time to start shopping for new tires.


Brakes are an incredibly important component of your vehicle, and having properly functioning brakes will keep you and others on the road safe. Some vehicles have sensors that will alert you when your car’s brake pads are worn and require replacement. Other signs to look for include screeching or squealing brakes, less responsiveness, and grinding sounds when braking. 

Your car’s owner’s manual will also inform you of how often you should get your brakes changed, and you can opt to get your brake pads inspected when you get your car’s oil changed. A good rule of thumb is to have your brake pads replaced when they reach the service limit, which is typically around 0.1 of an inch.

Budgeting for regular car maintenance is the best way to ensure your car stays in excellent condition and that you’re prepared to cover any unforeseen repairs or part replacements. If you live in the Youngstown, Ohio, area, and are looking for a reputable car service center, be sure to stop by Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC.

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Posted in Finance, Service