The Cheapest Car in America to Repair

The Cheapest Car in America to Repair

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Owning a car is a bit like owning a horse or a very clumsy Roomba — you’ll need to spend money on it from time to time, and some are more expensive than others. Cars can be pricey to repair, so much so that sometimes the best move is to just trade for a new one.

But with the price of new cars today, more people are keeping their cars longer. The average age of cars on the road is at an all-time high of 12.6 years for all vehicles — 14.0 years for cars, and 11.9 years for light trucks. This also means paying for a lot more care for those cars as they get older and older.

So which car is the cheapest to keep and repair over its (hopefully long) life? We take a look at the data to find an answer.

First question: Cheapest how?

There are a couple of different metrics that cars are measured by for long-term expenses. There’s the 1-to-5-year cost, as well as the 6-to-10-year cost. Depending on how quickly you swap vehicles, either of these numbers may be important to you. Or you may be like me and wish there was another metric for cars that are inching their way to 20 years old.

Interestingly enough, a car that’s cheapest to keep going in its first five years might not be cheapest over 10 or more years of ownership. This might be due to an increasing difficulty finding parts, or simply having more expensive parts that wear out after the five-year mark. A great example of this is an average Lincoln vehicle, which only has a $940 cost for the first five years of its life, but more than makes up for that in the second five years of the decade.

By brand, though, this is what you can expect from the top 10 most affordable automobile makers, per Consumer Reports:

Read more: check out our picks for the best car insurance companies

Brand 1-to-5-Year Cost 6-to-10-Year Cost Total 10-Year Costs
Tesla $580 $3,455 $4,035
Buick $900 $4,000 $4,900
Toyota $1,125 $3,775 $4,900
Lincoln $940 $4,100 $5,040
Ford $1,100 $4,300 $5,400
Chevrolet $1,200 $4,350 $5,500
Hyundai $1,140 $4,500 $5,640
Nissan $1,300 $4,400 $5,700
Mazda $1,400 $4,400 $5,800
Honda $1,435 $4,400 $5,835

Data source: Consumer Reports.

These figures, of course, don’t include the cost of car insurance, gasoline, or any payments you’re making. This is just the cost of maintenance and repairs over the first 10 years.

Cost to repair by car model

If you have your eye on a car already, you may want to know what it’s going to cost to maintain during your ownership. When I bought my current car, a 2007 Chevrolet HHR, 16,000 years ago (or so it feels), that was a huge question I had. Fortunately, this has turned out to be a car that has frighteningly low needs. But it’s certainly not the only one.

If your primary concern is the overall cost of long-term maintenance, give these models a go (information from Autolist):

To repair or replace, that is the question

Cars can be expensive to maintain, repair, and feed. And even with the cheapest car insurance, they can end up costing you a small fortune over a lifetime. That being said, with the average new car price in January 2024 of $47,401, according to Kelley Blue Book, it will still often make more sense to hold on to your aging machine, even if repairs get more costly.

Before you look at a replacement vehicle, weigh what it will cost to not only buy it — considering how much higher interest rates are now than they were just a few years ago — but also to own it, including routine and not-so-routine maintenance. If you own an average, everyday car, it may make the most sense to just keep it as long as you can.

For example, if you bought an average-priced car in 2019 using a 60-month auto loan, you may have paid about $36,820 at about 4.6% interest — and had a payment of about $688. In January 2024, that average new car was $47,401 at 7.75%. With a 60-month auto loan, an average new car today costs $955 per month. That extra $267 per month, or $3,204 yearly, can make a lot of repairs to an older vehicle, especially if you choose a car that’s cheap to repair. As you can see, it could be worth keeping an older car for the benefit of your bottom line.

Our best car insurance companies for 2024

Ready to shop for car insurance? Whether you’re focused on price, claims handling, or customer service, we’ve researched insurers nationwide to provide our best-in-class picks for car insurance coverage. Read our free expert review today to get started.

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