Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

How Much Do Car Maintenance Costs Increase with Mileage?

car dashboard

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

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

There are few surprises here. Low-end 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.

what makes require the least maintenance in the long run

Cars that initially seem inexpensive don’t always remain a bargain. Low-end 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 the most/least expensive

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 start out the most/least expensive

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

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.

ASK A QUESTION

More related articles

P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
How to Buy Fuel Treatments
Adding a fuel additive to your gas tank when you fill up is one way to clean vital engine parts of deposits, improve the performance of your engine,...
Rules of the Road For Iowa Drivers
Driving on the roads requires knowledge of the rules, many of which are based on common sense and courtesy. However, even though you know the rules in...


Related questions

Q: What do the Maintenance Minder™ codes mean with the multi-information display?

The Maintenance Minder™ system on your car helps you keep tabs on important services like oil changes, transmission services, air filter changes and more. It can display a number of different messages on the screen of your multi-information system. Here...

Q: Recommendation about a reliable, low-maintenace car brand

Get a Toyota Corolla or Camry. Just don't buy a hybrid car. I'm against hybrid cars of any particular make because they are so high-tech, and when they break, they can cost a fortune. You can buy a brand new...

Q: i am considering buying a 2004 lincoln aviator with 1005 miles for $8000. according to auto check no accident but the score is 67.

Unfortunately, not all of the repairs made on vehicles are always reported to reporting agencies such as car fax or auto check, so these scores sometimes need to be taken with a grain of salt. As for a car like...