There are some things we replace, and other things we repair. I have no qualms replacing a toothbrush every couple months, or buying a new pair of running shoes after a few hundred miles. When it comes to more expensive items, however, my point of view shifts dramatically. Companies like Patagonia have made a strong push against disposable merchandise, offering repair services for their products and encouraging shoppers to fix their gear rather than just throwing it away and buying replacements. It’s a commendable, environmentally friendly decision—and considering the price tags on Patagonia products, one that’s appreciated by shoppers, too.
Of course, when it comes to repairing vs. replacing, nothing trumps the auto industry. Drivers spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars per year keeping their cars on the road and, try as a I might, I just can’t visualize disposable cars showing up anytime soon. YourMechanic.com connects car owners with mechanics and in doing so has amassed an impressive data set breaking down the average cost of ownership by brand and specific model, including the maladies that most commonly afflict each brand.
It doesn’t come as much surprise, but luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac cost the most to own over a 10-year period. But the gap between BMW and everyone else is incredible. The price difference between the Bavarian automaker(#1) and Mercedes(#2) is greater than the difference between Mercedes (#2) and Hyundai (#20). This kind of discrepancy tells a lot about the power of brand loyalty in the auto industry. If a MacBook cost that much more to maintain than competing laptops, Apple would have needed more than Steve Jobs to stay relevant.
When YourMechanic breaks things down by specific model, however, the story gets slightly more interesting. It’s easy to assume that a luxury car will cost more to maintain over time, especially when you consider how their greater upfront costs will encourage owners to maintain rather than replace them. A glance at the disparity between some of the models and the average cost of the manufacturer, however, makes us wonder exactly what’s driving the cost up. The average Chrysler might only cost $10,600 to maintain over 10 years, but the Sebring ran up an average cost of $17,100. Likewise, a Subaru averages $8,200, but the Forester comes in at 4 grand more.
On the reliable side of things, of course, lie the least-expensive cars to maintain. Equally unsurprising, the Toyota Prius leads the pack at $4,300 over 10 years, and the Honda Fit rolls in at number 4, costing only $5,500. As someone who regularly drives a Fit with over 80,000 miles, I can attest to the car’s reliability; every time I hear a squeal, squeak, grind, or rattle, I expect the worst, but have yet to bear the burden of an expensive fix.
The best part of YourMechanic’s analysis, however, has to be its breakdown of most-common car issues by brand. While this information can definitely be helpful if you’re looking to diagnose specific issues, like a BMW’s window regulators or a Mercury’s fuel pumps, my favorite problem is that which most often plagues Jaguars: the infuriatingly ambiguous “check engine light is on.”
How much does the future cost of ownership impact your car-shopping decisions?