Surprisingly, I can’t give you a definitive answer. After several hours scouring the internet, I could not come up with any quantitative studies (lots of opinions and sales pitches though!). There are fleet studies that certainly confirm the validity of spending on maintenance, but those are over a small set of vehicle models. To perform a reasonable study for retail ownership, one would have to track thousands of vehicles including dozens of models over many years with both a maintenance group and a non-maintenance group for comparison. It might be hard to get volunteers for the non-maintenance group!
While I can’t put a number on it, I think it’s safe to say preventative maintenance at least pays for itself based on the fleet studies and some basic common sense. But there are other benefits beyond saving money on future repairs;
- Safety & Convenience – this is the big one. Getting stranded or even having your car in the shop at inopportune times is a soft cost that can be a huge expense!
- Manufacturers or Extended Warranties – if you can’t prove you’ve followed the manufacturers maintenance recommendations, it can void your warranty.
- Fuel Economy – poor maintenance can ultimately cost you mpg.
- Trade-in Value – with Carfax now tracking repairs and maintenance, a report showing proper maintenance over time can significantly impact the vehicle’s value (make sure your repair facility reports to Carfax, we do!).
Maintenance on today’s vehicles is not cheap however, we don’t take cars in for maintenance nearly as often as we used to. The $30 oil change is a thing of the past, but so is the 3,000 mile service interval. Now most cars have service intervals between 5-10k miles, some even higher.
So please don’t skimp on maintenance and don’t skimp on WHO does your maintenance, particularly if you have a more sophisticated or expensive vehicle. This month we’ve had a client who went to a quick lube place for an oil change. They striped the drain bolt. The next morning he had a big oil stain on his driveway. He brought it to us and we replaced his oil pan. We had another client who took a Land Rover to the neighborhood gas station for a “simple” coolant leak. It wasn’t fixed properly, the engine overheated and it’s now ruined. We’re sending the car to the salvage auction. I’m sure this sounds self-serving, and it is. But even if you don’t use us, find a quality repair facility and use it regularly.
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