Car Maintenance and 3 Other Costs of Owning a Car

Planning to buy a car soon? Buying a car is an exciting (although sometimes purely necessary) purchase that many of us will make at least once in our lives. 

While we often only think about the sticker price of a vehicle (the price we’ll actually pay for the car itself), there are a slew of other costs that we should be planning and budgeting for as we prepare for our new purchase. 

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of expenses you might pay throughout your vehicle’s life, this should be enough to help get your wheels turning (see what I did there?) so you can financially prepare for what’s ahead. 

Car insurance

Car insurance is interesting because it’s an expense that’s easy to forget in your day-to-day life, but you’re always really glad it’s there when something goes wrong. 

With that said, it’s not a small expense by any means. According to NerdWallet*, the average annual car insurance payment is $1600 in the US! That’s a lot of money. And this can obviously change depending on how old you are, how old your car is, the value of the car, your driving record, where you live — the list goes on.

If you haven’t purchased your car yet (but have an idea of the kind of car you’ll end up with), try getting a sense of how much car insurance might cost for you by shopping around for rates. 


This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning since paying to fill up your tank can become quite a large expense. Depending on how much you plan to drive, you may pay as much as a few hundred bucks each month. 

The good news is it’s pretty easy to get an idea of how much you might spend on gas each month by using a gas calculator. Or you can get an estimate by multiplying your expected mileage by the average cost of fuel in your area. By having at least a rough estimate, you’ll be able to start planning for this recurring expense ahead of the actual car purchase. 

Finally, if you’re hoping to keep fuel consumption to a minimum (for budget or environmental reasons), consider an electric or hybrid model, or even alternative forms of transportation, like biking and public transit. 


Unlike gas and car insurance, maintenance costs are highly unpredictable. Most months, you’ll probably spend little to nothing on vehicle upkeep. But then, BAM! There goes half of your retirement fund (but not really, because you’ve actually been saving for maintenance separately, right?).

Here are some common ongoing services you might request: 

  • Oil changes
  • Tire rotations
  • New tires
  • Tire alignment
  • Air filter replacement
  • Battery replacement
  • Brake replacements
  • New windshield due to cracks
  • New wiper blades
  • And more

If you’re not planning on doing this kind of work yourself, then you’ll have to take it to a professional who can service the car for you. The best way to know how much you might be asked to pay (and therefore, how much you should budget) is to call around to local shops or browse online for price estimates and to see how often they recommend getting these services done. 

If that’s too much work (no judgment here!) another common (but not totally unanimous) rule of thumb is to set aside roughly $100 per month for maintenance. That’s a pretty good place to start and can always be adjusted as you get a better sense of what your car actually needs.

Registration and driver’s license renewal 

These expenses happen on a less frequent basis, but should still be planned for. In the US, each state has its own rules for how often you’ll pay these fees and how much they cost. Inquire at your local DMV to get an idea of how much you’ll pay. 


With these things in mind, you can be fully prepared for the kinds of costs you might pay while owning your car. And if you haven’t already, use Annual Envelopes to help you save up for some of these ongoing car expenses.


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