The Determined Dollar

How Much Money Do You Need to Save for Car Maintenance Costs?

Nothing derails your well intended budget faster than an unexpected car repair. Which brings us to the elusive vehicle budgeting question: how much will car maintenance and repairs actually cost you this year?

I wish there was a magic calculator to predict the future so that you could put a precise amount in the car maintenance fund every month, but I’ve got a close second that’ll have you covered: research.

Reliable statistics on car maintenance costs are out there and we can use those numbers to save an ample amount for car maintenance without overestimating projected expenses.

Yet even with good data, with so many factors that go into car maintenance and repairs, it can feel overwhelming to take all that information and compose it into a single line-item in your budget.

That’s why I went ahead and did the work for you. So let’s find out how much you can expect your car maintenance costs to be this year and how to plan for it.

Factor 1: The Age of Your Car

According to KBB research, a 10 year or older car requires an average of $600 of maintenance per year, while a five year-old car typically needs $350 worth of maintenance. The only exception is if you own a European luxury car. In that case, tack on an additional $1,000 in annual maintenance expenses.

For our example, let’s say you’re driving a 10 year-old Honda. Based on $600 a year, we’ll allocate $50 a month to maintenance and repairs.

And since we’re talking about the age of one’s car, don’t jump to buy a new one just because you own an older vehicle. Even though 10 year-old cars are at a higher risk of breaking down compared to new vehicles, the fear of constantly being stranded when you have to get to work is greatly overrated.

U.S. News reports that older vehicles require a significant repair once every 18 to 20 months on average. As long as you keep up with regularly scheduled maintenance, emergency fixes are unlikely to become an issue.

Factor 2: How Many Miles You Drive

The number of miles you put on the car each year determines how many oil changes you’ll need and how quickly the tires need replacing.

The good news is that 3,000 miles is no longer the standard when it comes to oil changes. Now the average is about 7,500 miles, depending on your vehicle, and Angie’s List states that the national average cost of an oil change is $46.

If you put 15,000 miles a year on your car, that’s two oil changes a year, or $92, which comes to $7.60 a month.

We’ll round up to $10 for the sake of easier budgeting. Obviously, you can plug in your own numbers to reach a precise calculation for your vehicle, but you see the concept.

Next: tires. This is the one expense that no one wants to think about because it stinks to have to fork over $600 for something so mundane. And since you never know exactly when you’ll need them, it’s hard to plan for– until now that is!

Here’s your formula. Tires need to be replaced every 50,000-60,000 miles, according to CNBC. Plan to replace yours on the more conservative side of 50,000 miles so you can ensure the money is available when you need it.

At 15,000 miles a year, that’s a replacement rate of once every three years and four months, or 40 months. $600 / 40 = $15 a month for tires.

The Final Calculation

Driving a 10 year-old car 15,000 miles a year will cost approximately $50 in repairs and typical maintenance + $10 for oil changes + $15 for tires each month, for a total of $75 a month to maintain your vehicle.

If you don’t already have a car maintenance savings fund, simply create a new line item in your budget, and if you use the Every Dollar budget app, select the “make it a fund” option. You can also use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your monthly savings so that you can see how much in total you’ve saved for car maintenance.

Related Article: Pros and Cons of Every Dollar Plus

In case of a larger repair before you’ve had time to build your car maintenance fund, that’s what your emergency fund is for.

Resource Library: How to Save a $1,000 Emergency Fund in 30 Days

The better you take care of your car, the less it will cost you in the long run, so be sure to prioritize this important savings category in your budget.

Did the calculations surprise you? How much do you save for car maintenance? Comment below or send me an email at

Want to tackle financial stress and reach your goals? Schedule your financial coaching consultation with Lauren here.

  • Jenn B says:

    We have a savings account that is just the “car fund,” which has two purposes: it will be source of a down payment when we eventually buy a new car, and we draw from it whenever funds for maintenance are needed. We decided that we wanted to have the freedom to buy a new car every 10 years or so with minimal financing or outright for cash if possible. Our last car cost about $24k, and maybe our next one will cost $30k (inflation). To save $30k in ten years, we put $250 into the car fund per month. (Very simple budgeting math: how much you want to save divided by how long you have to do it.) Of course we won’t hit exactly $30k because we tap the fund for maintenance as needed, but we’ll be closer than if we hadn’t planned at! Plus we won’t replace the car right at the ten-year mark; we’ll do it when it actually dies.

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