How Much Do Car Maintenance Costs Increase with Mileage?

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The average American depends on a car for 37 miles of transportation per day. Commuters spend around one hour in their car every day. Long commutes can be a bummer, but breaking down is worse.

Drivers need to know which cars can go the distance and which will leave them stranded on the side of the road.

At YourMechanic, we have a huge dataset that includes the make, model, and mileage of the cars we have serviced. Previously, we used this data to explore how cars hold up as they age. For this article, we examined how cars stand up to usage. In other words, which cars have the least maintenance costs as the miles add up? We also looked at which types of maintenance become more common with increased mileage.

We began our current analysis by asking how much more it costs to maintain the average car for the first 25,000 miles compared to the next 25,000 miles. (In order to estimate maintenance costs by distance, we took the total cost of maintenance for cars in this mileage category and divided it by the number of oil changes. Assuming 5,000 miles per oil change, this gives us the cost of maintenance required per mile).

How Do Maintenance Costs Vary With Mileage?
Based on Maintenance Performed by YourMechanic
Mileage Total Maintenance Costs per 25k Miles
0- 25,000 $1,400
25,000 - 50,000 $2,200
50,000 - 75,000 $3,000
75,000 - 100,000 $3,900
100,000 - 125,000 $4,100
125,000 - 150,000 $4,400
150,000 - 175,000 $4,800
175,000 - 200,000 $5,000

The average car costs $1,400 to maintain for the first 25,000 miles, and the costs increase from there. Costs increase dramatically until the 100,000 mile mark, and less intensely after 100,000 miles. A car’s maintenance costs may top out, or it could be that drivers scrap their cars once maintenance costs trump the car’s value.

Which types of cars are the cheapest to maintain? First, we looked at which makes (brands) are cheapest to maintain for the first 75,000 miles.

Which Makes Start Out the Least Expensive?
Based On Maintenance Costs for the Fist 75,000 Miles for All Popular Makes
Rank Make Cost First 75k Miles
1 Hyundai $4,000
2 Kia $4,000
3 Toyota $4,300
4 Nissan $4,600
5 Subaru $4,700
6 Scion $4,800
7 Mazda $4,900
8 Honda $4,900
9 Volkswagen $5,600
10 Acura $5,700
11 Lexus $5,800
12 Infiniti $5,800
13 Jeep $6,500
14 Mini $6,500
15 GMC $6,600
16 Dodge $6,700
17 Mitsubishi $7,000
18 Chevrolet $7,100
19 Ford $7,900
20 Buick $8,100
21 Chrysler $8,400
22 Volvo $8,700
23 Audi $8,800
24 Lincoln $10,300
25 Saturn $11,000
26 Cadillac $11,000
27 Mercedes-Benz $11,000
28 Pontiac $11,300
29 BMW $13,300

There are few surprises here. Entry-level carmakers such as Hyundai and Kia rank as the least expensive. On the other hand, premium models, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, are the most expensive. For the first 75,000 miles, these high-end makes are about three times as expensive to maintain than the least expensive options. Maintaining high-performance vehicles isn’t cheap.

But which makes stayed inexpensive with high mileage? We grouped the data by make and compared maintenance costs across the first 150,000 miles traveled.

Which Makes Require the Least Maintenance in the Long Run?
Based On Maintenance Costs for the Fist 150,000 Miles for All Popular Makes
Rank Make Cost First 150k Miles
1 Scion $10,400
2 Toyota $11,100
3 Honda $14,300
4 Subaru $14,400
5 Lexus $14,700
6 Hyundai $15,000
7 Nissan $15,000
8 Mazda $15,100
9 Kia $15,100
10 Volkswagen $15,300
11 Infiniti $16,900
12 Mini $17,500
13 GMC $18,100
14 Chevrolet $18,900
15 Acura $19,000
16 Mitsubishi $19,000
17 Jeep $19,400
18 Audi $21,200
19 Ford $21,700
20 Buick $22,300
21 Volvo $22,600
22 Dodge $22,900
23 Chrysler $23,000
24 Mercedes-Benz $23,600
25 Saturn $26,100
26 Pontiac $24,200
27 Cadillac $25,700
28 Lincoln $28,100
29 BMW $28,600

Cars that initially seem inexpensive don’t always remain a bargain. Entry-level makes Hyundai and Kia require the least expensive maintenance for the first 75,000 miles, but drop to 6th and 9th place over 150,000 miles.

High-end makes such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW start out expensive (about $11,000 or more for the first 75,000 miles) and stay just about as expensive as mileage increases. Mid-range car brands are a mixed bag. Dodge drops from 16th to 22nd place due to maintenance costs rising with increased mileage, but Subaru moves from 5th place to 4th place. Subaru keep costs down even as miles accumulate.

Toyota (and its brand Scion) is the clear winner.

Beyond looking at the make of car, we were curious about which models have the most longevity. The following table shows the specific models which are most and least expensive over the first 75,000 miles. We list only the top ten most and least expensive because there are so many models.

Which Models Start Out Most/Least Expensive?
Based On Maintenance Costs for the Fist 75,000 Miles
Most Expensive
Rank Make Model Cost First 75k Miles
1 BMW 328i $11,800
2 Ford Mustang $10,200
3 Ford F-150 $8,900
4 Dodge Grand Caravan $8,100
5 Mazda 6 $7,900
6 Jeep Grand Cherokee $7,900
7 Ford Explorer $7,800
8 Acura TL $7,700
9 Audi A4 $7,400
10 Audi A4 Quattro $7,400
Least Expensive
Rank Make Model Cost First 75k Miles
1 Toyota Prius $2,800
2 Nissan Versa $3,300
3 Chevrolet Tahoe $3,400
4 Hyundai Sonata $3,600
5 Honda Fit $3,600
6 Lexus IS250 $3,600
7 Hyundai Elantra $3,900
8 Ford Fusion $3,900
9 Toyota Yaris $3,900
10 Toyota Corolla $3,900

Toyota’s Prius, which costs only $2,800 in maintenance for the first 75,000 miles, is the clear winner. Nissan’s Versa and Chevrolet’s Tahoe also make strong showings. Overall, smaller cars from Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota are quite inexpensive to maintain.

But which of these models remain a bargain as the odometer climbs from 75,000 to 150,000?

Which Models Require the Most/Least Maintenance in the Long Run?
Based On Maintenance Costs for the Fist 150,000 Miles
Most Expensive
Rank Make Model Cost First 150k Miles
1 Ford Mustang $27,100
2 BMW 328i $25,100
3 Ford Explorer $23,100
4 Jeep Grand Cherokee $22,900
5 Acura TL $22,900
6 Dodge Grand Caravan $21,700
7 Ford Focus $21,600
8 Audi A4 Quattro $20,500
9 Hyundai Santa Fe $20,000
10 Acura MDX $19,700
Least Expensive
Rank Make Model Cost First 150k Miles
1 Toyota Prius $6,700
2 Nissan Versa $8,500
3 Honda Fit $10,000
4 Toyota Yaris $10,300
5 Toyota Corolla $10,300
6 Scion xB $10,400
7 Lexus IS250 $10,400
8 Toyota Tacoma $10,900
9 Ford Fusion $10,900
10 Toyota Highlander $11,200

Toyota’s Prius is the least expensive model to maintain at both low and high mileages; maintenance costs a meager $6,700 over 150,000 miles. The next best option, Nissan’s Versa, which costs an average of $8,500 in maintenance over $150,000 miles, still costs owners over 25% more than the Prius does.

The other high performers are mainly coupes and sedans. Yet Toyota gets its SUV (Highlander) and truck (Tacoma) on the list.

Which issues are most likely to affect these maintenance costs?

We looked at the most common issues and their probability of occurring. For example, if one out of ten cars gets its brake pads replaced between 25,000 and 30,000 miles, then cars of that mileage have a 10% chance of needing to replace their brake pads per 5,000 miles. Conversely, if one in four cars that has between 100,000 and 105,000 miles on its odometer gets its brake pads replaced, that same probability would be 25%.

Which repairs are needed the most and when?

The most common issues are that the car won’t start or that the Check Engine Light is on. Brake pads, spark plugs, and batteries also require frequent repair.

Drivers need to check the engine light and deal with a car that refuses to start more often as their mileage increases. In contrast, problems with brake pads max out at 50,000 miles and spark plug issues max out at 100,000 miles. Drivers consistently deal with bad batteries for their car’s entire lifespan.

When buying a used car or maintaining their current vehicle, consumers need to know which cars cost the least in maintenance as mileage increases. We've analyzed our data using multiple impact variables, as numerous factors - from the condition of the road surfaces most driven upon to the frequency of regular maintenance appointments - affect these costs.

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