The true cost of owning a car goes well beyond the sticker price, beyond fixed costs like annual registration fees and monthly car insurance, even beyond the exquisite pain of the occasional parking ticket. Though you might think of it as little more than regular oil changes and a set of new tires ever few years, maintenance is an expense that can add up quite a bit over time. However, your mileage will vary depending on the type of car you buy.
A few years ago, mobile car repair provider YourMechanic.com analysed their own data to find out which car brands and models require the most maintenance over a 10-year period. They explain:
At YourMechanic, we have a massive dataset of the make and model of the cars we have serviced and the type of maintenance done. We decided to use our data to understand which cars break down the most and have the highest maintenance costs…First, we looked at which major brands cost the most to maintain over the first 10 years of a car’s life. We grouped all years of all models by brand to compute their average cost by brand. In order to estimate annual maintenance costs, we found the amount spent on every two oil changes (as oil changes are generally done every six months).
According to their data, BMW are the most expensive make to maintain by far, with a 10-year cost of $US17,800 ($25,557). They found luxury brands are generally the most expensive to own over the long haul, but far less flashy vehicles ranked high too — including a few brands that have been retired since the data was compiled.) It’s worth perusing the list if you’re in the market for a used vehicle, as many of those ageing Pontiacs (10-year maintenance cost: $US11,800 ($16,942)) and Saturns (10-year maintenance cost: $US12,400 ($17,804)) are still on the road and racking up carrying costs.
Toyota was the best value for maintenance, according to the list. The since-shuttered Scion and Lexus were the second and third most inexpensive brands to own, respectively (both are or were part of the Toyota group; select Scions were rebranded as Toyotas after the 2016 model year).
For maintenance costs on all the brands, check out the graphic below. The full post include more detail on how costs change over time and how they vary by model.
Editor’s Note: All costs in this graph are based on U.S. pricing. Expect equivalent fees in Australia.
This post was originally published in June 2016 and updated on July 7, 2020. Updates included copy edits, updating outdated information, refreshing dead links and a new header image.