Car repair costs on the rise

A study shows the cost of getting a car fixed went up 10% last year -- the first increase in 6 years.

By Mitch Lipka Apr 11, 2013 4:09PM

This post comes from MSN Money contributor Mitch Lipka.

 

Car wrecked on road guardrail © NULL, OJO Images, Getty ImagesThe average cost of getting a car fixed rose 10% in 2012 to $368, according to a new study of auto repairs (.pdf file) by the site CarMD.com.

While it was the first time the cost of repairs increased in the past six years, the cost of fixing a car still well below the 2007 average of $422. Part of the reason for the increase is that the average vehicle is 11 years old.

"On one hand we're seeing an increase in car repair costs that can be attributed to factors such as a market correction and a higher percentage of more expensive repairs related to the aging vehicle population, but on a more positive note, we see costs for hybrid repairs continuing to drop and drivers making fewer check engine-related trips to the repair shop," said CarMD CEO Ieon C. Chen.

CarMD, a gadget that sells for about $135 (including shipping), allows car owners to tap into their car's computers and find out why the "check engine" light is on and provide an estimate of what it would cost to repair.

CarMD collects data about why the check engine light comes on and tracks the cost of repair. The company said it looked at 161,000 cases to come up with its Vehicle Health Index. The five most common check-engine triggers and their associated repair costs are:

  1. Replace oxygen sensor ($294).
  2. Inspect for loose fuel cap ($0).
  3. Replace catalytic converter ($1,101).
  4. Replace ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s) ($317).
  5. Replace spark plug wires and spark plugs ($343).

Repairs to hybrid vehicles have been the costliest in recent years and still dominate the list of costliest problems to fix. However, CarMD notes that a non-hybrid problem tops the list.

Here are the five costliest repairs measured by CarMD:
  1. Replace transmission assembly and reprogram electronic control module in vehicles including the 2001-2004 Honda Civic, 2003-2011 Range Rover, 2007-2010 Mini Cooper, and 2001-2006 Volvo vehicles ($5,400+).
  2. Replace transmission and torque converter ($4,400+).
  3. Replace hybrid inverter assembly w/converter in 2001-2003 Toyota Prius vehicles ($3,900).
  4. Replace transmission assembly ($3,480+).
  5. Replace integrated motor assist battery in vehicles including the 2003-2007 Honda Civic Hybrid, 2005-2006 Accord Hybrid, 2007-2011 Nissan Altima Hybrid vehicles ($3,150+).
"The good news," CarMD notes in its report, "is that most expensive repairs remain extremely rare in terms of percentage of occurrence." Add together all 15 of the most-expensive repairs and they account for only about 1% of all repairs reported to CarMD.

Recently, a handful of new devices went on the market that also read data from the car's computer -- something that works in vehicles from the 1996 model year and later -- and deliver information to users' smartphones. The devices are the Delphi-made and Verizon-sold "Vehicle Diagnostics" and "Automatic" from Automatic Labs.

Both offer other features as well, including GPS trip monitoring. Automatic also monitors and helps drivers to improve their driving to get better gas mileage.

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission about choosing an auto repair shop:
  • Ask for recommendations from friends, family, and other people you trust. Look for a repair shop before you need one to avoid being rushed into a last-minute decision.
  • Shop around by phone and online for the best deal, and compare warranty policies on repairs.
  • Ask to see current licenses if state or local law requires repair shops to be licensed or registered. Also, your state attorney general's office or local consumer protection agency may know whether there's a record of complaints about a particular repair shop.
  • Make sure the shop will honor your vehicle's warranty.


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15Comments
Apr 11, 2013 5:35PM
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I saw a plastic bumper laying in the grass beside the road this afternoon.  Looks like maybe a new tawhore bumper or possibly one of those Escalade things.  Entire bumper across the whole front end.  Wasn't even worth the owner stopping to pick it up.  I guess someone must have hit a bird or a pebble fell off a dump truck. Shouuldn't cost more than 3000 to fix an new 30,000 plastic car.  I want one with real bumpers and real fenders. But in a few more years, you can't find one.  They are hauling them to be recycled as fast as they can.  Sam wants the real cars gone!  They get more for fixing plastic.
Apr 11, 2013 5:27PM
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In 2001 I had the auto trans on my 87 Ramcharger overhauled for $950. Today they want $3500 for the same job. Ther's something nuts going on. What the heck do they charge now for shop labor, $1500 an hour? The parts only cost a fraction of the job's charge.
Apr 12, 2013 7:04AM
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To the pro auto mechanic. Good letter. I'm one who is forced to do a majority of repairs because of a fixed budget. In the 70's, I changed oil and spark plugs in cars I owned. I now have to do  the work myself. The auto parts store takes used oil for recycling. I replaced 4 rotors, 4 sets brake pads, one front bearing, and a brake caliper ( you have to know how to bleed brakes) last year. I did buy an impact gun and 300 ft/lb torque wrench for the bearing. I also bought stands to do the work safely.     
  The mechanic today has to spend money on new tools for new factory equipment. He has to be trained on the computer system, sensors, and new ignition systems that do not use distributors. A charge is required to dispose of hazardous waste.
Apr 11, 2013 6:58PM
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THIS IS A COMMERCIAL FOR CAR MD,CAR MD IS BORDERLINE FRAUD,(WELL NOT BORDERLINE) THEY DON'T MAKE A TOOL AND THEY NEVER WILL MAKE A TOOL THAT DOES EVERYTHING LIKE CAR MD CLAMES,CAR MANUFACTURES SPEND MILLIONS ON COPY RIGHT AND KEEPING INFO FROM REPAIR SHOPS,EVERY CAR MANUFACTURE HAS A DIFFERENT REPAIR STRATEGY AND ALL USE DIFFERENT SOFT WEAR,BUT WHAT DO I KNOW IM A  AUTO MECHANIC AND MY SPECIALTY IS SMOG AND COMPUTER REPAIRS IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA ,REQUIRES 4 LICENSES AND TESTING EVERY 2 YEARS,NOT TO MENTION TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN TOOLS,SAVE YOUR MONEY AND TAKE YOUR CAR TO A  REAL MECHANIC,
Apr 12, 2013 9:37AM
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What hasn't gone up except most peoples salaries.
Apr 11, 2013 5:29PM
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Just a part of the government plan to extort more money from people.  For example.  The gubymint gets a portion of any incime made on car repair.  Think of all the plastic on new cars.  Wow!  A tiny bump in the parking lot.  One that would not even dent or scratch a 50's model that had real bumpers on them.  But, the plastic bends in....looks like you hit it with your fist.  You've seen them all over town.  You have to get an appointment to get one fixed.  They are too busy fixing plastic.  And, it is going to cost 500 dollars if only a dent.  If the bumper breaks off and is left in the road, thousands!!!  Had it been a 50's model, sam would get nothing.  No damage.  So, the "safe" new plastic cars make sam a lot of money and they cost you more for the plastic than a steel bumper would.  It is all about sam and his desire for money.  Sam's Extortion racket!
Apr 11, 2013 6:12PM
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We have many citizens who believe everyone is over paid, just add the price of auto repairs to the list.

Apr 12, 2013 11:36AM
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Everything going up...gallon of milk now cost more than a gallon of gas.  Taxes went up...wait until next year when Obamacare kicks in and your medical premiums double.  Hope all you morons who voted for Obama are happy now that you won't have much of a paycheck left....hahaha!
Apr 13, 2013 5:22PM
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The good news is that maintenance intervals are now much longer. Tuneups are nearly a thing of the past, and oil change intervals have gone from every 3K to 10K with synthetic oil. The bad news is that when you do need maintenance it costs a lot more.  Changing spark plugs and wires now costs several hundred dollars.  Oil changes are now between $50 and $100 if you use synthetic oil.  Another factor in rising maintenance costs is that more people are keeping their cars longer.  You really can't win.  Trade cars often and get hit with high depreciation and taxes. Keep your cars longer and pay more in maintenance and repairs.
Apr 11, 2013 6:54PM
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Wait until they add Obamacare into it.
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