Whether buying used, domestic, or imported, purchasing a new (or new-to-you) car is a significant investment. And while the initial down payment and monthly car notes may be the most obvious costs, they’re certainly not the only expenses. Sometimes, they’re not even the largest expenses.
Ongoing maintenance is a large chunk of the overall cost of car ownership, so if you’re looking to save money in the long run, you might want to consider which cars are cheapest to maintain.
Our free car payment calculator can help you determine your estimated monthly costs. Regardless of how much you pay monthly to lease or own your vehicle, you should also factor in the ongoing cost of maintenance and repairs.
What are the cheapest cars to maintain?
In general, the types of cars that can save you money, in the long run, will be those that are fuel-efficient, cheap to maintain, and relatively inexpensive to insure. Smaller vehicles like compacts, coupes, and sedans are usually the cheapest cars to maintain. They also tend to be less expensive to insure and to fill up at the pump than large, gas-guzzling SUVs.
Models like the Toyota Corolla and Camry and the Honda Accord and Civic are known for being reliable cars that are both affordable up front and relatively low-maintenance. They also have decent fuel efficiency, so they’re some of the best cars to buy if you’re broke.
Hybrid and electric cars—whether sedan, SUV, or truck—cost much less to run since they use less (or no) gas. Because hybrid and electric cars are better for the environment, they also might also qualify for government tax credits. However, even with tax credits, they are usually much more expensive upfront.
What are the most expensive cars to maintain?
If you want to keep maintenance fees low, luxury vehicles (and luxury imports, in particular) are the cars not to buy. Generally, luxury imports from Germany—such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz—and domestic luxury brands, like Cadillac, are the most expensive to purchase and maintain.
The longer you have a car, the more maintenance it will require. Over the course of ten years, a wallet-friendly Toyota costs about $10,000 less to maintain than most luxury vehicles on the market.
Sports cars also tend to be the most expensive cars to maintain because their high-end components and performance requirements are so costly to keep in good working order. Rare sports cars like Ferrari, LaFerraris, and Bugatti Chirons can cost $3000 to swap out tires, $25,000 for an oil change, $40,000 to replace brakes, and $60,000 for a new windshield. This is on top of these vehicles’ thousands of dollars in monthly insurance costs.
Why does car maintenance cost so much?
Sure, luxury vehicles have luxury parts, so those parts will be more expensive to repair and replace. But why does it cost so much to maintain a budget brand?
Well, the longer you have a car, the more maintenance it will need, regardless of the type of vehicle you drive. You can research the cheapest and most expensive cars to maintain, but no matter what model you go with, it will still become increasingly costly to maintain over time.
Basically, old things are more likely to break than new things. The older things get, the more things break and the more repair costs you’ll have to pay.
Many cars that only cost a couple of hundred dollars per year to maintain during the first few years can cost $1,500-$2,000/year ten years later. You have to consider that used cars are older, so they need more work and maintenance, when figuring out the cost of owning that vehicle.
Because car maintenance is an ongoing cost, even if the car is fully paid off, it’s worth brushing up on personal finance tips. Regardless of how much you make or what type of car you drive, by constantly striving to improve your personal financial situation, you can be better positioned to handle any unexpected costs that may come your way.
When to buy a used car?
If you’re on a budget, purchasing a car second-hand can be a great way to save a few bucks. However, know that pre-owned vehicles with many miles on them may require significant maintenance in the near future.
Also, remember that pre-owned vehicles typically don’t come with the five- and 10-year warranties that new cars come with. A limited (or non-existent) warranty is one of the reasons used cars are cheaper than new cars, but without a hefty warranty, you’ll be on the hook for all repairs.
If the car breaks down as soon as you buy it, you’ll be responsible for any costs associated with getting it back up and running. It still might make sense to purchase a pre-owned so if you go that route, consider the vehicle’s age, condition, and potential cost for repair and maintenance so you can negotiate the price of a used car.
Even if you don’t get one of the cheapest cars to maintain, it still might be a great deal if you can get it for a fair price.
Thinking about buying a used or new car? Check out our car payment calculator to help you plan out your budget!