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How to Afford the Most Common Car Repair Costs

The average car is 12 years old, but keeping your car running comes at a price. Here’s how you can make unexpected car repair costs more affordable.


How do you deal with inflation, high gas prices, and the skyrocketing cost of new cars? Many Americans are choosing to hold onto their existing vehicles longer. The average car on the road is now 12.1 years old according to CarMD. While keeping your current vehicle running smoothly may cost less than taking out a loan on a new-to-you car, the cost of repairs you’re likely to face is something to factor into the equation.

Read on to find out the 10 most common check engine light-related car repairs, how much they cost, and what you can do to reduce the sticker shock and save money.

Most Common Check Engine Light Repairs and How Much They Cost

The only thing worse than a check engine light popping up on your dash is getting a quote for repairs you can’t afford. According to CarMD, the average check engine light car repair cost has gone up from $333.93 in 2011 to $392.57 in 2021. 

CarMD has analyzed over 17 million check engine light-related failures and repairs over the last year. According to their 2022 Vehicle Health Index, cars that are 14 years old are the most likely to have a check engine repair, while new cars under warranty are least likely to have issues. The more wear and tear a vehicle endures, the more problems that are going to occur. 

However, by preparing and budgeting smartly for the car repair costs you’re most likely to experience, you can still come out ahead and keep your older vehicle running great! The table below shows the 10 most common check engine-related car repairs detected by CarMD and the average repair cost.

Rank Check Engine Light Repair Average Cost (Parts & Labor) % of 2021 Repairs
1 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $1,355.78 5.78%
2 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $242.87 5.58%
3 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and Spark Plug(s) $387.47 4.92%
4 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $319.02 4.53%
5 Inspect for Loose Fuel Tank Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $24.77 4.28%
6 Replace Ignition Coil(s) $214.43 3.76%
7 Replace Fuel Injector(s) $420.25 2.55%
8 Replace Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) Purge Control Valve $140.73 2.47%
9 Replace Thermostat $235.42 2.21%
10 Replace Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) Purge Solenoid $146.64 1.92%
Source: CarMD.com

Other Common Car Repairs and Costs 

Car Repair Average Cost (Parts & Labor)
AC Repair $685-$726
Axle Repair $237-$672
Suspension Repair $240-$3600+
Air Filter Replacement $40-$85
Battery Replacement $115-$496
AC Compressor Replacement $812-$1,042
Ball Joint Repair $250-$350
Starter Repair $419-$551
Bumper Repair $450-$1800
Wheel Bearing Replacement $250-$800
Front Differential Repair $2000-$4000
Intake Manifold Gasket Repair $555-$613
Cylinder Head Replacement $3,366-$3,705
Headliner/Roof Liner Repair $150-$300
Windshield Wiper Motor Replacement $297-$352
Brake Line Repair $156-$190

Tips to Lower Your Car Repair Costs 

Paying for maintenance and repairs are a necessary part of owning a vehicle. But surprise repairs can put a dent in your savings. Here are some tips to help make car repairs less stressful and more affordable.

DIY When You Can 

Car repairs can be expensive, but a surefire way to lower the cost is by tackling simple repairs yourself. Don’t know much about cars? Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered in our guide to 50 easy DIY car repairs.

By doing simple fixes at home, you can easily save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars a year. Many car repairs can be done with a few tools, such as basic screwdrivers and a good ratchet wrench and socket set. Just be sure you have an accurate how-to guide to follow and always consult a professional if you’re unsure.

Shop Around for Mechanics 

Not all shops charge the same price, just like not all shops have your best interests in mind. We recommend finding a local RepairPal certified mechanic. Shops with this certification back up their work with a minimum 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty, upfront estimates, and honest pricing.

 Click here to find a RepairPal Certified shop near you!

Do Preventative Maintenance

When your personal vehicle is your primary mode of transportation, it’s critical to perform routine maintenance to keep it reliable. This includes everything from checking tire pressure and wear, getting regular oil changes and tire rotations, and following your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. 

You can learn more about about the fundamentals of proper car care in our ultimate guide to car maintenance for beginners! It covers everything from a basic maintenance schedule you should follow to how much you should spend on routine items to tips to save on gas and more.

While staying on top of car care is important, it can be overwhelming. One of the easiest ways to stay on top of routine maintenance is with FIXD. Using the sensor and free app, you can track your car’s health and get automated alerts when it’s time for scheduled maintenance so you never miss an oil change.

Buy a Low-Maintenance Car 

All cars require repairs and maintenance, but some are more expensive than others, particularly luxury brands. According to CarEdge, these are the cars with the cheapest 10-year maintenance costs. We’ve also listed the probability each vehicle will have a major repair (anything that exceeds $500 including parts and labor) during its first ten years of service.

Vehicle 10-Year Maintenance Cost Chance of Major Repairs
Toyota Prius $4,008 11.22%
Toyota Yaris $4,027 11.89%
Toyota Corolla $4,087 11.89%
Toyota Prius Prime $4,089 11.22%
Toyota Camry $4,203 11.89%
Toyota Avalon $4,407 11.89%
Honda Fit $4,915 14.68%
Mitsubishi Mirage $4,939 15.09%
Toyota Supra $4,950 12.57%
Honda Civic $5,245 15.57%
Source: CarEdge

Start a Dedicated Car Care Fund

A simple way to take the pressure off major car repairs, and even the cost of regular maintenance, is to start a dedicated savings account, or emergency fund. If you have debt, Dave Ramsey suggests starting with $1,000 in this fund, then working up to having three to six months of expenses set aside. 

If you can’t put away $1,000 or more all at once, work it into your monthly budget. With the average car repair bill around $500-$600, AAA recommends saving at least $50 a month to cover the annual cost of repairs. You may want to save more (around $100 a month) to include preventative maintenance care, which will also help offset the cost of major repairs.

Consider a Car Repair Credit Card 

Sometimes, it just isn’t possible to budget for unexpected repairs. Maybe you had another unexpected expense that drained your savings the month before, or maybe it’s just tight right now. In those cases, there are other options available. Companies like DigniFi and Synchrony offer repair financing to make car care easier on your wallet, while earning rewards. These are some great credit cards to choose from if you need repairs now but can’t afford them.

Insure Your Car for Repair Coverage 

Another way to make car repairs more affordable is to purchase car repair insurance, sometimes referred to as mechanical breakdown insurance. This type of insurance typically covers repairs involving the engine, transmission, brakes, exhaust, and power steering, but it does not cover routine maintenance like spark plugs and oil changes. Keep in mind that many carriers may limit coverage to cars with certain mileage, such as under 15,000 miles, which won’t help if you drive an older vehicle. It’s also important to consider whether saving the money you would otherwise spend on repair insurance would be a wiser investment.

Get an Extended Warranty 

Similar to car repair insurance, an extended warranty will cover the cost of many repairs when your car is out of its factory or manufacturer’s warranty. There are many types of warranties, including bumper-to-bumper warranties, which are the most comprehensive coverage you can get, and powertrain warranties, which cover just the engine, transmission, axles, and other parts of your car’s powertrain system.

Depending on the coverage you choose, an extended warranty can cover all major vehicle systems, the powertrain, normal wear and tear items, and even roadside assistance. If you no longer have the benefit of a factory warranty, an extended warranty can substantially reduce the cost of your repairs, especially if you drive an older vehicle that’s more likely to encounter problems.

If you think an extended warranty may be right for you, check out FIXD’s Vehicle Protection Plan. Not only is it affordable, but it can save you hundreds on the cost of repairs.

 Want FIXD to cover the cost of repairs? Get a free quote today!

Take Out a Personal Loan

When you need money for car repairs that aren’t covered by your insurance or a warranty, a personal loan can help you get back on the road fast. A personal loan is when you borrow money from a bank, credit union, or other financial institution and pay it back in monthly installments. It’s important to keep in mind that interest rates vary, and this could add to the total cost of your repairs substantially. 

There are many online lenders such as Upgrade who make it quick and easy to get a personal loan. Click here to check your rate and find out if this option is right for you >> Check My Rate

Your credit may affect your ability to qualify for a personal loan, but there are also options for bad credit.

Find Out If You’re Overpaying on Car Insurance

The absolute easiest way to lower car repair costs is to save money in other areas of car ownership, especially insurance. According to a Forbes survey, 58% of drivers believe they’re overpaying for car insurance. If you’ve been with the same carrier for a while or think you may be paying more than you should be on car insurance, an easy way to lower your rates and free up some cash to pay for needed repairs is to shop around and compare quotes. 

  The easiest way to save money? See if you’re overpaying for car insurance

Car Repair Cost FAQs

Does car insurance cover repairs?

Some car insurance policies will cover repairs with what is known as mechanical breakdown insurance. While this coverage can help offset the cost of repairs, there may be certain mileage limitations and it won’t cover routine maintenance. Read our article for more on what types of policies cover different types of damage and repairs.


How to pay for car repairs with no money?

If you have no money for repairs, DIY simple repairs when you can, especially if you have car-savvy friends and family who can help. You’ll still have to purchase parts, but you’ll save a ton on labor costs.
If this isn’t an option, consider a personal loan. Click here to check your rate on Upgrade.


When is it not worth repairing a car?

When you drive an older vehicle that is bound to need repairs, it’s normal to wonder if the cost of repairs is really worth it. A good rule of thumb to follow is if repairs cost more than half the car’s value, it’s not worth it. However, there are other red flags that can help inform this decision.
It’s also a good idea to look back at the last year or two of data to see how much you’re spending on your car. One big repair a year can make you question keeping your older vehicle, but if it’s otherwise reliable, decent on gas, and has affordable insurance, it may not be worth it to buy new, especially with the rising cost of ownership. According to AAA, the average cost to own and operate a new vehicle in 2022 is $10,728, or $894 per month. So, if you’re spending less than that right now, it may be worth keeping what you’ve got.


What happens if you can’t pay for car repairs?

If you take your car in for repairs and can’t pay for them, ask the shop about any discounts available, such as AAA, seniors, or military. Also ask about payment options. They may have a payment plan that allows you to pay back the cost of repairs over time. If nothing else, apply for a car repair credit card or personal loan with low interest.

FIXD Research Team

At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.

We’re here to help you simplify car care and save, so this post may contain affiliate links to help you do just that. If you click on a link and take action, we may earn a commission. However, the analysis and opinions expressed are our own.


About the Author

FIXD Research Team

FIXD Research Team

At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.

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