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How To Budget For Car Maintenance Costs

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How To Budget For Car Maintenance Costs


Purchasing a vehicle just because you can initially afford it or the monthly payments is only part of the process as a responsible owner.

Next to buying a home and getting a mortgage purchasing a vehicle is the second most expensive budget cost for everyone.

Sorting regular vehicle maintenance repairs as required will save you from bigger expenses down the road if you choose to ignore them.

Vehicle Affordability Is Often Forgotten

Before you even say yes to purchasing any vehicle you have to answer one question.

Can I afford to maintain this vehicle and what are the short and long-term costs involved?

I can promise you that this is one question many vehicle owners fail to answer BEFORE they sign a purchase agreement.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read on Facebook or had people call me asking if I know a mechanic that is inexpensive.

The fact of the matter is trades are not cheap and never will be unless you have someone in the family or a friend who works for free or reduced costs.

You’ll pay anywhere from $65/hr to over $100/hr just for a mechanic to work on your vehicle depending on the dealership or shop you go to.

It’s not cheap and neither is any of the other costs that come with car maintenance that must be considered.

As consumers, we become smitten with vehicle name brands, colours and what the vehicle has to offer in comparison to the price.

We all know that the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on vehicles is negotiable as is buying a used car but what’s not is car maintenance costs. 

Projected Expenses For Car Maintenance

How much does it cost to maintain a car each year?

When we created our budget one important budget category we included was car maintenance with projected expenses.

Once you find out actual or average costs based on your vehicle then you can budget your car maintenance costs with more accuracy.

Creating a car maintenance spending log where you can document typical repairs and costs is a great way to track your expenses.

It will also help when it comes time to create your yearly projected expenses for car maintenance costs.

Budgeting Car Maintenance Costs

How To Budget For Car Maintenance Costs

How much should I budget for car expenses?

There are a few things to consider when drafting up budgeting costs for your car expenses including vehicle repairs each year.

  1. How old is your vehicle?
  2. What make and model is your vehicle?
  3. Any concerns globally with your vehicle that you are aware of?
  4. How much does a tank of gas on average cost you?
  5. How far do you drive your vehicle on average each month or year?

Personally, I’d advise anyone who is in the market for a new or used vehicle to answer these questions BEFORE making the purchase.

By doing so it will give you a general idea of how much your car maintenance costs will be on a monthly or even yearly basis.

It won’t be an accurate number obviously as there are so many things that can go wrong with a vehicle.

The idea behind this process is to understand that the costs of an oil change on a luxury BMW will be far more expensive than that of a Dodge Minivan.

Another to consider is that not everything that breaks down on a vehicle is covered under warranty.

Always read a warranty in full whether you buy new or used before buying to make sure it covers all the expensive stuff.

A broken A/C, for example, can run into the hundreds to get fixed or replaced by your local mechanic.

Getting Your Vehicle Road Ready

  1. Vehicle Car Insurance Costs
  2. Driver and Vehicle Fees in Ontario or other parts of Canada
  3. CAA or other Towing packages

Vehicle Service Costs

Below touches on some of the typical services you will need to consider as part of car maintenance.

Every vehicle will be different so your best bet is to read the owner’s manual and car service schedule.

It’s a good idea to do so before you purchase your vehicle if you might struggle to pay for car maintenance costs.

I could give you average prices for all of these but it’s your duty as a vehicle owner to do the homework.

There’s no point me putting numbers below if yours will differ.

Find A Mechanic


Instead of going to those so-called car fixing places you should always source a licenced mechanic or go to a local reputable dealership or an independent shop.

There’s no point in getting shady work done on your vehicle and having to chase down someone who has no intention of fixing the mess.

If you don’t have a mechanic you trust and are not sure about what you are potentially being billed opt for a second opinion.

I realize that there will be times that you can’t do this because your vehicle is inoperable but if you are not covered under warranty and it runs ask around for quotes.

Typical Automotive Services

vehicle oil change

We do this at the start of the year however if you are starting a budget mid-year you can also factor in projected expenses.

  1. Cost of an Oil Change and how often is it needed
  2. Any costs for vehicle maintenance schedule by the dealership for new vehicles and warranty purposes
  3. Cost of new or used Seasonal tires or Winter tires (watch for sales)
  4. Wheel alignment check with new tires, tire rotation or every 20,000 km
  5. Cost of new brakes
  6. Costs for car wash can run anywhere from $5 to $20 at a touchless car wash.
  7. New Battery cost, good battery maintenance can make a battery last 7-8 years.
  8. Costs for a tune-up
  9. Air filter changed yearly or dependant on mileage/driving conditions
  10. Suspension and Steering repair
  11. Spark plugs, wires, coils
  12. Fluid Top-Ups such as coolant
  13. Engine Service (as needed)
  14. Timing Belt Replacement, usually at a set mileage as opposed to a timing chain
  15. Transmission Fluid Filter and Oil change
  16. Wiper Blades as needed
  17. Exhaust repair
  18. Annual Oil Spraying Costs around $140

Related: Essential Winter Vehicle Maintenance Tips

Driver’s Licence Fees

You have to renew your vehicle sticker every one or two years depending on how long you want to purchase for.

Ideally buying a one-year sticker will keep your projected expenses costs lower when budgeting but buying a two-year sticker is ideal.

Renewing your driver’s licence happens every 5 years and the best part is you can do both online now if eligible.

That means no more long line-ups at the Ontario Service Centres with meat tickets.

If you are over the age of 80 you must complete a vision test, in-class screening and group renewal session.

Have a quick look at the chart below and take notice of the ‘Replace a driver’s licence’ fee of $35.75.

What this means is you lose your licence this is the replacement cost.

Having to fork over cash like this is what I would consider part of my emergency savings but consider the financial implications of the replacement on your budget.

Not everyone has an extra $35 laying around but if you need a replacement it will cost you.

The cost to reinstate a licence is even higher so again more costs to consider if you are put in this position.

Service Ontario Driver’s Licence Costs 2019

  • Original driver’s licence (G1, G2, G) $90
  • Renew a driver’s licence $90
  • Replace a driver’s licence $35.75
  • Replace a driving instructor’s licence $35.75
  • Reinstate a suspended driver’s licence (learn more about additional penalties) $281

Licence plate sticker and plate fees

Service 2018 2019
Southern Ontario $120 $120
Northern Ontario $60 $60

If you are creating a budget for car maintenance and want to pay for a one-year licence plate sticker that will cost you $120 for 2019.

As a projected expense that would cost you $10 a month which you should save for the entire year so you have that money ready.

Here are the projected expenses for a 2-year licence plate and plate fees for your car maintenance fees.

$120 x 2= $240

$240/12 months (1 year)= $20 a month you need to save every other year in your budget or if you do it yearly $10 a month but pay every two years.

The choice is up to you how you pay but saving it monthly is the smart way to budget for these expenses.

Car Repair Estimates

One question you may want to consider when purchasing a vehicle new or used is whether there is a mechanic shop that can service your car.

The reason I am telling you this is because not every city or town has a dealership for every make and model.

You also have to consider that not all local dealerships have mechanics that can work on every vehicle that is manufactured.

Perhaps you need specialized parts or you have to drive out of town to find a mechanic who can work on a specific vehicle.

If you have a local mechanic you trust and work with on a regular basis it’s a good idea to consult with them when buying a vehicle.

They may have significant advice to offer you especially when it comes to maintenance costs.

Simple Car Maintenance

If you’re handy like I am you can probably do simply car maintenance at home such as changing your oil, topping up fluids, wiper blades, swapping tires from summer to winter and so on.

By doing so you will not only save yourself money but the time it takes to bring in your vehicle for the car maintenance repairs.

Save yourself some money by watching for flyer sales at Canadian Tire or other shops that sell parts that you commonly would use for your vehicle.

Keep in mind if you have a new vehicle your warranty may instruct that only a dealership or licenced mechanic can work on your vehicle for a certain duration.

Don’t try to save money but void your warranty at the same time as that WILL cost you big bucks.

Read, Read, Read and ask questions if you are not sure.

Once you have all your average prices you can then do the math for your yearly budgeted projected expenses.

It will be the smartest financial decision you’ll make when it comes to owning a vehicle.

Get Rid Of Car Maintenance Costs For Good

walk to work

At the end of the day if you can’t afford to run your vehicle then perhaps consider selling it and opting for public transportation.

The good thing is that all you need to pay for is bus tickets and your time.

Discussion: What mistakes have you made when it comes to buying a vehicle and car maintenance costs?

Leave me your comments below or anything else you’d like to add to the post above.

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