10 of the most common auto repairs and what they cost
I took my car in for maintenance last month.
I went in for a routine oil change. Nothing out of the norm.
A few minutes after my car was taken back, a man came in with a clipboard. He had run diagnostics on my Toyota Corolla and had news to share with me.
It wasn’t just an oil change. He said my car was in need of repair.
My windshield wipers were bad. OK, a little shock to my pride. But I’ll trust you.
My air filter was dirty. OK, makes sense.
My cabin filter was the worst he had ever seen. Sure, OK. Say what you will.
He said everything needed immediate repair or else my car would explode.
Alright, maybe not explode. … But he emphasized a need that these repairs be done quickly.
Sure, I said, as he ran up an estimate.
Over $250. …
Huh? No way. Not a chance that’s my car. I asked for an explanation, to which we went through the itemized repairs one-by-one. I took my best guess at what could take a pass and what was more of a need.
To everything I declined, he backed up with an explanation. I wouldn’t bite. But that didn’t stop him. He left and came back with my cabin filter — a dark as the midnight sky, mangled mess of what vaguely resembled a filter. Something I’m sure was a gimmick and not my real cabin filter.
Bargaining ended. Then came upsell. Apparently my car needs premium oil and windshield wipers dipped in gold. I left with a bill totaling $150. It was way, way more than I had bargained for.
It pains me knowing this scenario plays out with millions of people every day. I want to put an end to that. I looked at the most common auto repairs and what they cost in hopes that sharing this knowledge may help you stand tall in these situations.
Equip yourself with this knowledge, and share with your friends so they know, too.
10 Most Common Auto Repairs and What They Cost
All average cost estimates include parts and labor.
1. Oil change
Average oil change cost: $35-60
It’s likely the thing you’ll do most often in terms of vehicle maintenance. Forewarning: Expect them to tell you to change the oil every 3,000 miles. That’s not entirely true. Most modern lubricants only require a change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If you use full-synthetic motor oil, you may go up to 10,000 miles between services.
2. Air filter
Average car air filter cost: $40-80
Your air filter keeps particles of sand, dirt, and dust from getting sucked into your engine. It’s recommended you swap it out once a year, or every 10,000 miles. Word of caution: Air filters are inexpensive. Buying an air filter itself will set you back between $15-25, and installing it DIY is quite simple. Dealerships and repair shops tend to run up the total for this repair. If you receive a price quote on the higher side, consider going the DIY route on this repair.
3. Car battery
Average car battery replacement cost: $80-200
Car batteries have a lifespan of two to five years. At some point, you will likely need to change your car battery. What you pay to replace your car battery may vary significantly, depending on your vehicle type and the battery type. It’s typical to pay anywhere in the neighborhood of $80-120 for a car battery. But the cost may go upwards to $200.
4. Break pads
Average brake pads cost: $260-300
Just as you need to go, you need to stop. How long brake pads last is usually about 40,000 miles. But you may need to repair them earlier than that mark, depending on wear and tear. When it’s time to replace your brake pads, you can expect to pay close to $150 per axle (your vehicle has two, btw). In total, expect a quote in the ballpark of $300.
5. Break shoes
Average brake shoes cost: $200-275
Brake pads and brake shoes are not the same thing. But they do carry a lot of similarities, including basic function. Brake shoes are housed inside the brake drum and not exposed to the elements like brake pads are. Therefore, brake shoes may outlast brake pads. It’s recommended to change brake shoes every 40,000 miles. But some may go longer. Brake shoes are easier to manufacture, and therefore their replacement costs less.
6. Spark plugs
Average spark plugs cost: $200-300
Spark plugs ignite the fuel mixture in your engine, and in essence, provide you the power to go. Conventional spark plugs wear out after about 40,000 miles, but may go much longer. To tell if your spark plugs are wearing out, you may notice difficulties starting your car. Typically, your car will have anywhere between two and six spark plugs. Fortunately, spark plugs are relatively inexpensive, but repair costs are on the higher side. The cost of replacing spark plugs usually runs between $200-300.
7. Catalytic converter
Average catalytic converter cost: $1,400-1,800
This one hurts. Replacing the catalytic converter is an expensive fix. Your catalytic converter is responsible for filtering and eliminating emissions from your car’s exhaust system. If your catalytic converter goes bad, you may experience sluggish vehicle performance and even overheating. Its location makes replacing the catalytic converter a time-consuming repair, and a costly one, too. Your repair shop will likely charge between $70-130 an hour for labor. At the end of it all, your repair may cost up to $2,000 (or more).
8. Windshield wipers
Average windshield wipers cost: $20-40 (DIY); $50-60 (Repair shop)
Just about anyone can swap out their windshield wiper blades. It takes about a minute for each blade, from start-to-finish. Should you let the repair shop replace them, expect a pricey repair. But I don’t recommend you let them swap them out for you. Typically, a windshield wiper blade runs anywhere from $10-20 per blade. Fair warning: It’s inevitable that even the most expensive wiper blades will wear out. I join others who recommend opting for the cheaper blades and changing them twice per year, as the more expensive alternatives may get you a year at best.
Average antifreeze cost: $125-150
Your coolant, also called antifreeze, helps keep your engine from overheating. It also helps prevent corrosion and wear. Every now and then, your coolant needs flushed out and cleaned. This relatively inexpensive process requires you to swap out the old and replace it with the new. In all, the cost of an antifreeze change is between $125-150. This is different than simply topping off your coolant levels, which you can do yourself for about $10. It’s recommended you change your antifreeze every 30,000 miles.
Average cost of new tires: $100-300 each
Anyone who’s visited a tire shop knows that tires come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Tires for a Toyota Corolla run cheaper than those made for a Ford Expedition. It’s expected that your tires will cost anywhere in the range of $100-300 per tire. If you drive a bigger vehicle, you can expect to fall on the higher end of that scale. It’s quite common for tire shops to run discounts and special promotions, including Buy 3, Get 1 Free. If you can, replace all four tires at the same time. It’ll keep your car balanced and performing better.
What you can do to reduce repair costs
Do It Yourself.
Some auto repair shops make a killing on repairs. With labor costs on average running $70-130 an hour, doing the labor yourself can help lower your repair costs. You won’t be able to do every repair yourself, but plenty of minor repairs can be done at home. It’s worth researching first to see if the repair is something you can take on yourself. To learn what you’re doing, visit the treasure bank of information — a place called YouTube — for informative how-tos.
Change your oil frequently.
Fresh oil helps keep your car running smoothly. You might’ve heard that you need to change your oil every 3,000 miles or every three months. I’ll admit that I don’t do that. Find out what type of oil your car uses first. It’ll give you a better indicator of what’s recommended. Then, don’t go beyond the recommendation. My car uses synthetic oil, which is recommended to change every 7,500 miles. I change my oil every 6,000-7,000 miles, just before the recommendation.
Rotate your tires often.
You know by reading earlier that new tires can be costly. By rotating your tires, you can extend the life of them by a few thousand miles or more. When you rotate your tires, you give them the chance to even out their wear. It’s inexpensive to have this done and takes only a few minutes. You’ll find most recommend you have this done with every oil change. Oh, and check that air pressure, too.
Ask for a second opinion.
Sometimes we’re fortunate to have a trusted auto shop. But not all of us do. With any repair that’s outside the norm, you want confidence in the repair. Ask for a second opinion. There’s nothing wrong in asking someone else to inspect your vehicle or review the pricing you received from another shop. You’re simply gathering information, and no one can fault you for that. You want to make an informed and confident decision. Your auto shop may even encourage you to do this to ensure a level of trust with them.
What to do if you can’t afford your car repair
Listen, nobody budgets for a costly auto repair.
It’s perfectly normal to find yourself out of money when the car breaks down. I hear these stories every single day.
It feels like you’re out of options. But you’re not.
You might consider a payday loan from Net Pay Advance. It’s designed specifically for instances like these. Believe it or not, the better portion of our customers come to us to help pay for car repairs. It might be just what you need.
How it works: Net Pay Advance will give you the money you need to pay your auto repair. You stay on the road. You’ll pay it back according to your repayment plan. Since the repayment schedule is based on your pay dates, it’s convenient to repay.
Let us help.