Car Maintenance Q & A: Frequently Asked Questions
1. How should you estimate car maintenance costs?
Estimating car maintenance costs involves considering a number of factors, including the make and model of the vehicle, the age of the car, mileage, the type of service needed, and the rates of the service provider. Here’s a general approach to estimating car maintenance costs:
- Check the Owner’s Manual: The manufacturer typically provides a service schedule that outlines when certain maintenance tasks should be performed (e.g., oil changes, belt replacements, brake service).
- Regular Service Costs: Basic services like oil changes, tyre rotations, and brake pad replacements have fairly standard costs that you can get from local garages or service centres.
- Unexpected Repairs: These are more difficult to predict, but setting aside a contingency fund based on the age and condition of the car is a wise move. A rule of thumb is to reserve around £500-£1000 per year for cars that are out of warranty, or better yet, purchase a car warranty.
- Wear and Tear Items: Items like tyres, brakes, and batteries have a predictable lifespan. You can estimate when these will need replacing based on your current mileage and the average lifespan of these parts.
- Labour Rates: The cost of labour can vary significantly depending on where you are in the UK. Main dealers usually charge more than independent garages.
- Parts Prices: Genuine parts from the manufacturer will cost more than third-party or aftermarket parts. Decide in advance which type you will opt for, as this can greatly affect your maintenance costs.
- MOT Test: Cars in the UK over three years old require an annual MOT test to ensure they meet road safety and environmental standards. The fee for the MOT test itself is fixed, but any repairs needed to pass the test will be additional.
- Road Tax and Insurance: While not maintenance costs, remember to factor in the cost of road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) and insurance, which are part of the running costs of a vehicle.
- Fuel Costs: Calculate your average mileage and fuel efficiency to estimate your annual fuel costs.
- Depreciation: While not a direct out-of-pocket expense, consider the car’s depreciation as part of its overall cost to own.
To make a specific estimate:
- Gather Quotes: Contact local service centres or use online service calculators specific to car makes and models for service estimates.
- Historical Data: If you have a record of past maintenance costs for the same vehicle, you can use this to project future costs.
For a more personalised estimate, you can take your vehicle to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection or a detailed evaluation.
This is particularly useful if you’ve bought a used car and want to know what upcoming maintenance to expect.
Lastly, it’s important to set aside an emergency fund for your vehicle because no matter how well you plan, unexpected repairs can and often do occur.
Related Reading: Click4Warranty Guide to Buying a Used Car
2. What is the average cost of maintenance for a car?
The average cost of maintaining a car in the UK can vary widely based on the factors previously mentioned. Here are some general figures to consider:
- Basic Servicing: For a small to medium-sized car, a basic service can cost anywhere from £125 to £200. A full service, which is more comprehensive, can range from £200 to £400 depending on the vehicle.
- MOT Test: The maximum fee for an MOT test for a car is capped by the UK government, but garages can charge less. As of 2023, the maximum fee is around £55.
- Oil Change: This can typically cost between £50 and £120, with premium oils and filters for high-end cars costing more.
- Brakes: Replacing brake pads can cost around £100 to £250 per axle, depending on the car model and the garage’s rates. If you need to replace discs and pads, you might be looking at £200 to £400 per axle.
- Tyres: The cost of new tyres can vary significantly, from around £40 per tyre for budget brands to £200 or more for premium brands, not including fitting.
- Battery Replacement: A standard car battery replacement can range from £70 to £120, while start-stop batteries can cost more.
- Timing Belt: A timing belt replacement is a significant expense that is usually required between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. This can cost between £300 and £500, but if you require a full kit replacement (belt, tensioner, pulleys, and water pump), the cost can be higher.
- Exhaust Systems: For a complete exhaust system replacement, the cost can be anywhere from £150 to over £1,000 for certain models.
- Annual Costs: On average, drivers might expect to spend between £400 to £700 per year on maintenance for a moderately priced vehicle that is out of warranty. However, for luxury or performance cars, these costs can be substantially higher.
These costs can fluctuate based on differences in labour rates, where you choose to have your car serviced (independent garage vs. dealership), and the availability and cost of parts. It’s also worth noting that many newer cars come with service plans that may cover some of these expenses for a set period.
Related Reading: Monthly Car Maintenance: How Much to Budget
3. How can I check my car service history?
Checking a car’s service history can involve several steps, depending on what information you are looking for and whether you have owned the car from new or purchased it used. Here are the key methods to check a car’s maintenance history:
- Service Booklet/Owner’s Manual: The simplest way to track the maintenance history is through the service booklet. This is a document that should be stamped by the garage that carried out the service. If you own the car from new or have bought a used car with this booklet included, it will show a record of all the services the car has undergone.
- Receipts and Invoices: A responsible vehicle owner should keep a file of all maintenance work, including detailed invoices and receipts for services, MOT tests, and any repairs or parts replacements.
- Digital Service Records: Many modern cars now have a digital service record (DSR). This is an online database that is updated by the service centre each time work is done on the vehicle. You may access it online or request a printout from a dealership.
- MOT History: In the UK, any car over three years old must pass an MOT test annually to ensure it meets road safety and environmental standards. You can check a car’s MOT history online through the government’s website (gov.uk) by entering the vehicle’s registration number. This will show you a record of all MOT tests, including the mileage recorded at each test and whether it passed or failed, as well as any recorded advisories or failure points.
- Car Check Services: There are various online services that can provide you with a vehicle’s history report. This can include maintenance history, but it will more commonly show you a log of MOT tests, tax status, whether the car has been written off, stolen, or has outstanding finance. Some examples of these services include HPI Check, AA Car Check, or RAC Car Passport.
- Contacting Dealerships or Garages: If the car has been serviced at a dealership, you may be able to contact them to obtain a history of the work they have done. They may require proof of ownership before releasing this information.
- Ask Previous Owners: If you’re buying a used car and the history isn’t clear, you can ask the seller to provide the maintenance history. A seller with a well-maintained vehicle should be able to provide this.
It’s crucial to note that while these methods can provide you with a great deal of information, there’s no absolute guarantee of a complete history unless meticulous records have been kept. Always be thorough in checking a car’s history before purchasing a used vehicle, and consider having it inspected by a trusted mechanic if there are any doubts.
Related Reading: Repair Insurance For Cars
4. What cars have inexpensive maintenance?
Cars with inexpensive maintenance tend to be those with a reputation for reliability, widespread availability of parts, and simplicity of design. Generally, mainstream brands such as Ford, Vauxhall, and Toyota are known for having lower maintenance costs.
Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus, for instance, are common on UK roads, which means parts are readily available, and many mechanics are familiar with their maintenance needs, keeping costs down. Similarly, Vauxhall Corsa and Toyota Yaris are also known for their reliability and relatively inexpensive service costs. These models benefit from a strong network of dealers and independent garages capable of providing competitive pricing for their upkeep.
Additionally, smaller city cars such as the Volkswagen Up, Skoda Citigo, and SEAT Mii also enjoy low maintenance costs due to their shared platform and parts, which are mass-produced and hence cheaper. The reliability of Japanese cars like the Honda Jazz and Nissan Micra contributes to their low maintenance costs, as they’re less likely to need frequent repairs.
It’s worth noting that while the initial purchase price of a car can sometimes reflect the potential maintenance costs, this isn’t always the case, and many affordable vehicles are also economical to maintain. It’s always a good practice for car buyers to check ownership costs, including insurance, tax, and estimated maintenance, before finalising a purchase.
Related Reading: Diagnosing Car Problems & How To Solve Them
5. Do electric cars require less maintenance?
Yes, electric cars typically require less maintenance than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. This is due to several factors:
- Simpler Drivetrains: Electric vehicles (EVs) have simpler drivetrains. They don’t have engines with many moving parts, nor do they have complex transmissions. Instead, they have electric motors with fewer moving parts, which are less prone to wear and tear.
- Regenerative Braking: EVs use regenerative braking, which not only helps recharge the battery but also reduces the wear on the brake pads and discs. As a result, brake systems in EVs often have a longer lifespan.
- No Oil Changes: EVs do not require oil changes, which is one of the most common maintenance tasks for ICE vehicles. There’s no engine oil to change, nor are there any exhaust systems, starter motors, fuel injection systems, or radiators, which all typically require regular maintenance.
- Battery Maintenance: While electric cars are generally low-maintenance, the battery pack is a critical component that may require attention over time. However, most EV batteries are designed to last the life of the vehicle and come with warranties that can cover 8 years or more.
- Cooling System: EVs still require a cooling system to keep the battery pack at an optimal temperature, but these systems tend to be less complex than the cooling systems in ICE vehicles.
- Fewer Fluids: Aside from brake fluid and the coolant for the battery system, electric cars use fewer fluids than ICE vehicles, meaning there are fewer fluids to change or top up.
However, it’s important to note that while routine maintenance may be less frequent and less costly for electric cars, repairing them – particularly anything related to the electrical system or battery pack – can be more expensive due to the specialised technology and expertise required. Moreover, as the EV market is still developing, finding a mechanic familiar with electric vehicles may be more challenging than for ICE vehicles, potentially impacting maintenance costs.
Despite these caveats, the consensus is clear that the overall maintenance requirements and costs for electric vehicles tend to be lower than those for traditional petrol or diesel cars.
Related Reading: What Are The Main Running Costs Of An Electric Car
6. How often should you get your car serviced?
The frequency of car servicing can vary based on the manufacturer’s recommendations, the age of the vehicle, the type of car, and how it’s used (for example, frequent short trips vs. long motorway drives). However, there are general guidelines that you can follow:
- Routine Servicing: Most manufacturers recommend an annual service or one every 10,000 to 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some modern cars have service interval indicators that alert you when a service is due based on various car operational parameters.
- Oil and Filter Change: Traditionally, it was recommended every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but with modern lubricants and engine technology, many new cars can go 10,000 to 15,000 miles between oil changes. However, if you do a lot of stop-start driving or short trips, more frequent changes may be necessary.
- Tyre Checks: Tyres should be checked at least once a month and before any long journeys for pressure and wear. Rotation of tyres, if required, is typically recommended every 5,000 miles.
- Brakes: Brake pads and discs should be checked at least once a year. Depending on driving habits, pads can last anywhere from 25,000 to 60,000 miles, but should be checked regularly as part of an annual service.
- Battery: Car batteries typically last 3-5 years, but it’s a good idea to have the battery tested annually once it reaches the 3-year mark, especially before winter as cold weather can exacerbate battery issues.
- MOT Test: In the UK, once a car is three years old, it must undergo an annual MOT test to ensure it’s roadworthy. This will check aspects of the vehicle like brakes, fuel system, lights, mirrors, seatbelts, windscreen wipers, and exhaust system.
- Seasonal Checks: It’s wise to have your car checked with the change of seasons, especially before winter, to ensure systems like the battery, antifreeze levels, and tyres are ready for colder conditions.
- Ad-hoc Maintenance: Besides scheduled maintenance, be attentive to your car’s performance and condition. Unusual noises, changes in handling, or unexpected dashboard alerts should prompt a visit to the garage.
Following the specific service schedule in your car’s owner manual is critical because it’s tailored to the particular requirements of your vehicle model. Maintenance schedules have evolved with car technology, so newer vehicles may have different requirements compared to older ones. Always keep a record of maintenance work and be proactive with servicing to ensure the longevity and safety of your car.
Related Reading: How to Check if Your Car Has Been in an Accident?
7. Is a maintenance agreement on a lease car good or bad?
A maintenance agreement on a lease car can offer several benefits, making it an attractive option for many drivers. The primary advantage is predictability in budgeting; the agreement typically covers routine services, tyre replacements, MOTs (after the third year), and sometimes even wear-and-tear items depending on the contract’s terms.
This can make financial planning easier as you avoid unexpected bills and enjoy the convenience of a single, regular payment that covers most of your car’s upkeep needs.
Additionally, maintenance packages can offer peace of mind, as the leasing company usually arranges for services and repairs with approved mechanics or dealerships, ensuring that your vehicle is maintained to a high standard.
However, whether a maintenance agreement represents good value can depend on several factors, including the lease duration, the make and model of the car, and your annual mileage. For high-mileage drivers, a maintenance agreement can be particularly cost-effective as their cars will require more frequent servicing and possible tyre replacements.
Conversely, for low-mileage drivers with a short lease period or for cars known for their reliability and low maintenance costs, paying for a maintenance package might not be as cost-effective. It’s crucial to read the fine print and understand what is and isn’t covered in the maintenance agreement. In some cases, the additional monthly cost of the maintenance package may end up being higher than the expected routine maintenance costs, especially if the car is unlikely to need significant repairs within the lease term.
Related Reading: A Comprehensive Guide To Car Warranties For Used Cars
8. How can you maintain the original colour of your car?
Maintaining the original colour of your car, especially in the UK where the weather can be quite variable, requires a combination of regular care and protective measures. Here’s how you can help preserve the paintwork of your vehicle:
- Regular Washing: Dirt, road salt, bird droppings, and tree sap can all damage the paint if left on for too long. Regular washing helps prevent these substances from etching into the paint. Use a car shampoo that is gentle on the paint and apply it with a soft sponge or cloth. It’s typically recommended to wash your car every two weeks or more often if it gets dirty quickly.
- Polishing and Waxing: Polishing your car can remove small scratches and swirl marks from the paint. After polishing, applying a good quality car wax provides a protective layer that can shield the paint from UV rays, light scratches, and contaminants. Waxing every three to six months is generally recommended, depending on the product used and the car’s exposure to the elements.
- Park Wisely: Whenever possible, park your car in a garage or under cover to protect it from the sun’s UV rays, bird droppings, tree sap, and adverse weather conditions. If you don’t have access to covered parking, consider using a high-quality car cover.
- Avoid Automatic Car Washes: The brushes in automatic car washes can be quite harsh and may cause fine scratches that dull the paint over time. Hand washing is gentler and allows you to be more thorough.
- Treat Stains Immediately: If you notice bird droppings, dead bugs, tree sap, or any other potentially corrosive substances on your car, clean them off as soon as possible.
- Paint Sealant: Consider applying a paint sealant, which is a synthetic product that can provide a longer-lasting protective coat than natural wax. Some sealants can last a year or more.
- Ceramic Coatings: For an even more durable solution, you could opt for a ceramic coating, which chemically bonds with the paintwork to form a hard, protective layer. While more expensive, ceramic coatings can last for several years.
- Avoid Direct Sunlight: When possible, try to avoid parking your car in direct sunlight for extended periods, as UV radiation can fade the paint over time. This can be a challenge, but utilising shade or carports can be very beneficial.
By adhering to these care practices, you can significantly extend the life and lustre of your car’s paintwork, keeping it as close to the original colour as possible for many years. Regular attention is key, as the longer damaging substances or conditions are left unchecked, the more they will affect the vehicle’s appearance.
Related Reading: Cleaning Cars: Tips & Tricks of the Trade
9. Does a car manufacturer’s warranty cover regular maintenance?
In the UK, a car’s manufacturer’s warranty typically does not cover regular maintenance services. The manufacturer’s warranty is mainly designed to protect against factory defects and mechanical failures. Regular maintenance tasks such as oil changes, brake pad replacements, tyre rotations, and other wear and tear items are usually the responsibility of the car owner. These are considered routine care that is required to keep the vehicle in good working order.
However, some car manufacturers may offer a service package or maintenance plan, which can be purchased separately or included as an incentive with the new car.
These plans can cover routine maintenance for a set period or mileage and are designed to complement the factory warranty by providing for the car’s servicing needs.
It’s important to read the terms and conditions of the warranty and any maintenance package carefully to understand what is included and what is not. The warranty booklet or agreement should detail the coverage limits, what constitutes a defect, what parts are included, and any owner responsibilities regarding vehicle upkeep.
If you have any doubts or questions, it’s a good idea to discuss them with the dealership or manufacturer to clarify what is covered under the warranty and what falls under regular maintenance, for which the owner is liable.
Related Reading: UK Warranty For Cars
10. Do extended car warranties cover regular maintenance?
Extended warranties, much like manufacturer’s warranties, typically do not cover regular maintenance items. These warranties are generally designed to cover the cost of repairs for specific mechanical and electrical failures that occur after the original manufacturer’s warranty expires.
Regular maintenance tasks, such as oil changes, tyre rotations, replacing brake pads, and other routine services, are usually the owner’s responsibility and are not always covered under an extended warranty.
However, some extended warranty plans might offer additional packages or optional coverage that can include certain types of regular maintenance or wear-and-tear items, but these are not standard and would typically cost extra. The specific terms and what is included can vary widely between different warranty providers and plans, so it’s essential to read the fine print and understand what you are purchasing.
If you’re considering an extended warranty and you’re interested in coverage for regular maintenance, it’s worth shopping around and comparing different plans. Be sure to ask providers directly about what is included and at what additional cost, if any, regular maintenance services might be covered.
Related Reading: Do I Need Extended Car Warranty For A Used Car
What are your options for extended UK car warranty cover?
We don’t want to complicate this, so we’ve kept it nice and simple. Here’s three great options for mechanical breakdown or electrical failure car warranty cover, that’ll give you all you need, including cover for wear & tear.
Select this option if you want affordable cover for a long list of covered components. Gives you up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts.
Select this option to cover a wide range of components on your vehicle, and get up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT in the event of mechanical breakdown or electrical failure, or imminent failure identified during an MOT or service.
Looking for comprehensive warranty protection? Our 5-Star warranty covers an extensive range of parts and offers up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts on your vehicle.