We sure love our cars in the US, but not when the bills come along. The average American spends around $400 a year on car maintenance. There’s no way to guarantee you don’t have costly repairs, but regular maintenance goes a long way towards preventing emergency issues.
Luckily, if your car does need unexpected repairs you can save big with the right tips and a great mechanic! Let’s talk about the most expensive car repairs and what you can do to save big.
What Are the Most Expensive Car Repairs?
Before we discuss how to save money on car repairs and potentially avoid buying a new car, we first need to identify the most expensive repairs. That way, if you believe you need one of these soon, you can start preparing for the expense ahead of time.
Here are the most expensive car repairs to watch out for, along with the average costs and how to prevent these repairs!
1. Transmission Replacement
If you expected the engine to be at the top of the list, you would be mistaken. Transmissions are the complicated gear systems that allow you to use the optimal engine RPMs to pick up speeds, therefore protecting your engine from stalling or causing damage.
Since it is such a highly functional, important, and complex component, it’s also the most expensive. The average cost for a transmission replacement is over $1,500 for a used transmission, and that’s only if you drive a small, common sedan. A used transmission for a larger car could easily exceed $3,000.
However, if you don’t want to take the gamble on a used transmission and you want to buy one new, you’ll likely spend between $2,000 and $3,500. As a result, transmission failure usually equates to purchasing a used car.
How to Prevent Transmission Failure
Often, transmissions on newer cars are only planned to last around 150,000 miles, as the dealer will be happy to sell you a new car when that time is up! For this reason, we strongly suggest only purchasing cars that allow for transmission fluid changes.
Although, fluid changes are misleading. When you replace the fluid in your transmission, you’re usually only able to access around 30% to 40% of the liquid, as the fluid is much thicker than your engine oil.
Consequently, we recommend changing your transmission fluid more often than your manufacturer recommends. If your car manual suggests replacing your transmission fluid every 100,000 miles, we suggest doing it every 50,000 miles or sooner. It’s inexpensive and it protects the most expensive component on your vehicle.
However, if you exceed the period your vehicle was set to receive a transmission flush and replacement, you may be too late. Believe it or not, changing very old fluid can force gummed-up fluid into the gears within your transmission, essentially making failure imminent. For this reason, some shops won’t even offer fluid changes.
2. Engine Replacement or Rebuild
Nobody wants to burn out their engines. It’s the part of your vehicle that makes it run. However, anything that’s causing thousands of explosions every minute is bound to wear out over time.
Replacing an engine can cost up to $7,000 for a larger V8 vehicle that wants a brand new engine, and around $4,000 for a 4-cylinder. Although, you can definitely find used engines for $3,000 from an engine dealer, and even cheaper at a pick-and-pull junkyard.
Now, the reason we put these below transmissions, even though they are more expensive to buy new, is that you can choose to rebuild your engine, replace various parts of it, and protect your engine for much longer.
Also, entire repairs are very unlikely, as you may only need to replace the engine head or a cylinder. This will still cost a pretty penny, but it won’t be more than a transmission. Quality engines will last for a long time if you take care of them, so let’s talk about how.
How to Prevent Engine Failure
Yes, engines will wear over time, but you can control how fast that process goes. Fortunately, there are things you can do to care for your engine, and they’re easier than you think.
First of all, and most importantly, change your oil on time. Ideally, you don’t want to wait for your car to say 0% oil life, and definitely, under no circumstances, should you ever go past 0%.
Also, don’t wait for your dealership or mechanic to contact you about it. Diligence is key if you want to take care of your engine, which means you should change your oil early every time. If you get into this habit, your engine will last for as long as you want it to.
To briefly explain why this is so important, you have to understand how engines work. There is perfect timing that is aligned for a series of explosions, pushing the pistons out and back, forcing filtered air in for oxygen, and using fuel for the explosions.
Without engine oil, or with older engine oil, the metal pistons will grind on their metal tracks, which causes significant damage in a short time. Metal grinding on metal thousands of times a minute cannot last very long, but you will find conflicting information about your oil change frequency.
Consequently, if your dealership recommends changing your oil every 10,000 miles but you look online and experts recommend changing it every 5,000 miles, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Conversely, keeping your coolant levels optimal to cool down your engine, your spark plugs updated, and replacing your timing belt every 60,000 to 100,000 miles will keep your engine on time and working optimally for the long haul.
3. Battery Replacement (Electric/Hybrid)
If you drive a car with a combustion engine, you’re probably thinking “batteries are only $100 to $200, what’s the big deal?”
Well, the big deal is that batteries on hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) are often the most expensive component of the vehicle. Some of these batteries can power an average American home for over a week, and we’re still often surprised by the cost of AA batteries at our department stores.
Well, EV batteries use the same lithium-ion technology, it’s just scaled up massively. Currently, the average cost to replace a battery on an EV is around $5,500, with some exceeding $10,000.
How to Prevent Battery Death
If there’s one thing that’s certain about battery technology, it’s that it’s imperfect. Batteries are difficult to maintain, so we strongly suggest storing your EV or hybrid in a fair climate (preferably a garage) and making a habit of slow-charging it overnight when possible. While this won’t make your battery last forever, it will still help improve its lifespan.
If you’re in an accident and your airbags deploy, or if you do something that causes them to deploy, they will require a costly replacement.
Although, if they deploy due to faulty issues with the vehicle manufacturer or they are recalled, then this shouldn’t affect your wallet! 19 different automakers have had to recall their airbags in recent years due to safety issues.
On average, the cost to replace airbags is between $2,400 and $4,000. Why, you ask?
Well, they have to use premier technology to ensure that they are going to deploy at the right moment to save your life but to never misfire and cause any safety issues while driving.
Often, components in the airbag deployment use gold to prevent rusting, and the deployment may even cause damage to the interior of your vehicle. It’s not uncommon to have to replace your steering wheel or a component on your seats after an airbag is deployed. However, if it saved your life, then this isn’t the worst expense on the list!
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent your airbags from deploying. If you want to get them inspected, you can, but it’s unlikely they will deploy on their own.
Of course, we have to mention the suspension. A normal suspension system will include shocks, struts, control arms, tie rods, and springs.
Now, if one of these breaks and you have to replace it, it’s not that bad. However, they usually go in tandem, especially if you don’t address the issue as soon as possible.
For example, a tie rod may only cost $170 to $200 to replace on a normal vehicle, but if you drive long enough without a functional tie rod, the other components of your suspension are likely to go with it.
Consequently, if you have to replace the entire suspension system, you’re looking at a bill of $2,500 to $3,500 on average, with even more for larger vehicles.
How to Prevent Suspension Damage
If you drive on well-paved roads only, it’s unlikely your entire suspension will blow on its own too fast. However, if you’re constantly driving off-road, on bumpy roads, or anything else, we strongly recommend driving carefully.
Driving fast on well-paved roads is fine, and it’s actually good for your engine, as gasoline works as a solvent to help keep it clean (fun fact). However, driving fast over potholes or bumps will wear your suspension much quicker.
How to Save on Large Car Repair Bills
First, our tip to save on large car repairs is to follow through with proper maintenance. We offered some tips on preventing large expenses, but the truth is that the more you follow along with the guidelines, especially if you go above and beyond, the longer your car will last.
However, when large expenses inevitably come, there are still ways to save. It’s usually in your favor to do so, too, as it often pays to keep your car and avoid a large monthly payment.
Shop Around for Cheaper Parts
If you need a new transmission, engine head, or any other expensive component, taking the extra time to shop around could save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. When you shop for a new car, you’re probably looking for the best deal to meet your needs.
Well, when you’re buying such a large car component, you should do the same. Buying a used transmission that’s in good shape from a junkyard could save you well over $1,000 from buying it new, and it may still outlast the rest of your car.
Of course, you don’t want to sacrifice too much quality, but if you already have 100,000 miles on your car, then there’s no need to put a brand new transmission on it if you’re just going to junk your car in another 100,000 miles or less.
Take your time, do your research, and find the right part for your vehicle. Once you have it, you can either look up how to replace it yourself or go to your mechanic and ask for them to replace the part for you. You’ll save a lot by finding your own parts.
Although, there are some repairs mechanics can’t do, which means you might have to step up!
Find Out What You Can Do
Are you handy at all or interested in learning about cars? There’s plenty of great information about basic repairs online, and doing it yourself could save you plenty of money on labor. However, you do have to get it right, so only do what you’re confident with!
If your car is no longer worth it, then you may just want to scrap it and get a new one. If the repair is too expensive to justify the cost and you’re worried about other impending problems, then it’s probably time for a new vehicle.
Find a junkyard that’s looking to pay the going rate for scrap vehicles, as some will pay up to $20,000 for used cars. Get an offer today and see if it’s right for you!
Make Those Repairs
Now that you know the most expensive car repairs and how to save big on them, why wait? If you need a car repair, we promise that it will only get more costly over time, so consider selling your car today!