CarMD Vehicle Health Index: First jump in car repair costs in six years

Car repair costs jump 10 percent for first time in six years. Corp., a provider of car repair data, released its 2013 CarMD Vehicle Health Index ranking of check engine-related car repairs and costs for model year 1996 to 2012 vehicles. For the first time in six years, car repair costs jumped 10 percent nationwide to $367.84 on average per repair. The no. 1 most common repair remains a faulty oxygen sensor, which can reduce fuel economy by as much as 40 percent. With gas prices and repair costs rising, this annual Index sheds light on vehicle failure data and repair trends that impact safety, reduce fuel economy and can result in more expensive and spiraling repairs if left unaddressed.
“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 Ieon C. Chen, CEO, CarMD. “The broad findings in the CarMD Vehicle Health Index can empower consumers to extend vehicle life through informed repair and maintenance decisions. Whether you make repairs yourself or seek service from a trusted professional, the most common check engine-related repairs demonstrate that addressing small problems early is key to saving time and money.”
The 2013 CarMD Vehicle Health Index analyzes more than 161,000 repairs input and validated by CarMD’s nationwide network of ASE-certified technicians from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2012. The full Index is available at
Last year saw a 10 percent increase in car repair costs to pre-recession rates, with parts up 6 percent and labor costs rising 17 percent. The hardest hit region was the Northeast with an 11.56 percent increase.

  •  With average vehicle age now surpassing 11 years, costly and catastrophic repairs continue to rise. The 15 most expensive repairs saw a 24 percent jump in frequency.
  • For the first time, battery and charging system problems appeared in the top 10 most common check engine-related repairs moving from no. 10 to no. 16, partially due to computers on newer models that now track insufficient charging voltage, including failing batteries and alternators. Car batteries are also susceptible to heat, as are many other car parts such as cooling systems, transmissions and a range of fluids. As the U.S. logged its hottest year on record in 2012, the Index data demonstrates the effects of heat on vehicle parts and the need for drivers to adapt their maintenance routines accordingly.
  • Recall-related repairs have also emerged among common repairs, as have fixes related to newer systems such as antilock brakes and residual effects of parts failing due to the effects of higher percentage ethanol-blend fuels.
  • Manufacturers are making cars and their parts to last longer with longer maintenance and repair intervals. This coupled with consumers becoming savvier in addressing minor car repairs from home has resulted in a 1.3 percent drop in check engine-related trips to the repair shop last year.
  • Hybrid repair costs continue to drop with increased volume of hybrids on the road, and parts and people qualified to service them. The most expensive repair in 2011 was “replace hybrid inverter assembly” at $4,098, which decreased by nearly 5 percent in 2012. Hybrid repairs no longer hold the top spot, which is now “Replace Transmission Assembly and Reprogram Electronic Control Module” at more than $5,400.
  • Vehicle owners are also taking care of diagnosing and repairing smaller problems, like the pesky loose gas cap, themselves.
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