“Each year, CarMD taps into our Vehicle Health Index repair database to monitor trends, including state-by-state and nationwide auto repair costs,” says Art Jacobsen, vice president, CarMD. “We are encouraged to see overall repair costs trending down this year but recognize that drivers are still putting off small repairs such as spark plugs and oxygen sensors that can quickly turn into more serious problems. With the higher cost for repairs in popular western vacation destinations, our data illustrates the need for summer travelers to make preventative maintenance and vehicle safety checks paramount in their road-trip preparation.”
Several interesting findings emerge when comparing state-by-state repair rankings. According to the CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™, the average cost of U.S. “check engine”-related auto repairs in 2011 was $333.93, including $215.32 in parts and $118.61 in labor. This figure is down 6% from 2010 repair costs, due in large part to a double-digit drop in labor costs. This isn’t all good news for consumers. Industry contraction has a lot to do with the drop in labor rates, which are being partially offset by increased parts costs, and more severe repairs increasing in frequency and reaching the 10 most common problems list. Most states/districts experienced a drop in repair costs, with the exceptions being District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah. CarMD also found that Texas paid closest to the national average for car repair costs at $333.75, just pennies less than the U.S. average. CarMD attributes Wyoming’s no. 1 ranking to harsh weather and high altitude that may wreak havoc on vehicles. Another factor in Wyoming’s ranking is its more remote locations with widespread and reduced access to parts and people to service vehicles, which results in motorists’ tendency to put off smaller repairs. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that catalytic converter repairs were the second most common reason the “check engine” light came on in Wyoming. It shouldn’t even be in the top 10, let alone ranked second. This is a very expensive repair, and often the result of putting off smaller repairs.
“Just as you map your trip and make your hotel or campsite reservations, it’s important to check your vehicle’s health and pay attention to little nagging problems like diminishing fuel economy, squeaky brakes and especially the pesky ‘check engine’ light,” says Jacobsen. “You will pay less and have peace of mind by getting your car looked at by your preferred mechanic on your own time and budget, versus being forced to make repairs when you’re away from home and loaded down with luggage. Nothing will ruin a family vacation quicker than major car trouble when you are away from home.”
The following is the ranking of the top 5 states with the highest car repair costs, according to CarMD:
Car Repair Cost in 2011
(Parts & Labor)
CarMD ranking of states with the lowest car repair costs:
Car Repair Cost in 2011
(Parts & Labor)
Other key findings:
- The top five states with the highest car repair costs are from the West, including Wyoming, Utah, California, Montana and Arizona.
- This can partially be attributed to higher amounts of airborne dust. By putting off replacing air filters in western states, vehicle owners put their vehicles’ mass air flow sensors at risk. On average, this is a $400 repair.
- Three of five states with the lowest car repair costs are from the Midwest, including: Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. Rounding out the most affordable states for auto repair are Maine and New Hampshire from the Northeastern U.S.
- Drivers in Vermont paid the least for labor at $98.90, with those in Colorado paying the most at $143.17 for labor.
- Drivers in Maine paid the least for parts at an average of $175.91, with those in Wyoming paying the most ($247.70).
- The no. 1 most common repair across the country was “Replace Oxygen (O2) Sensor.” A faulty O2 sensor is often ignored because it may seem like the vehicle is driving fine, but can actually lead to as much as a 40% reduction in fuel economy.
- On average, motorists paid the least in Nebraska ($209.81) and the most in Illinois ($313.25) to have an O2 sensor replaced. The average cost to replace an O2 sensor, which measures the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust and tells a car’s computer when there is too much or not enough fuel as compared with oxygen for ideal operation was $246.39 in the U.S.
- In Wyoming, O2 sensors comprised 10.10% of repairs last year, at an average cost of $233.93. If ignored, a faulty O2 sensor can not only cause reduced fuel economy, but can also lead to more serious parts failures such as the catalytic converter. A faulty catalytic converter may then lead to complete engine seizure and roadside breakdown. “Replace Catalytic Converter(s)” accounted for 5.72% of repairs in Wyoming, at an average cost of $1,030.63. Original equipment parts are typically needed when replacing a catalytic converter. Catalytic converters contain three of the most precious metals – platinum, palladium and rhodium. They are usually not stocked by smaller or more rural repair shops due to their high cost.
CarMD’s state-by-state ranking of repair costs was derived from analysis of 163,582 repairs made from Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011 by CarMD’s network of Automotive Service Excellence-certified technicians. The repairs are related to a vehicle’s “check engine” system, which is designed to alert drivers to large and small problems that affect emissions output and drivability. This technology is standard on all vehicles manufactured since 1996. It covers roughly 90% of cars, light trucks, minivans, SUVs and hybrids – foreign and domestic – on the road today. It monitors about 80% of systems on these vehicles. The CarMD database and average repair costs findings do not include problems that are outside the scope of a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic computer monitoring such as tires, brakes and mechanical parts like belts and hoses. The CarMD® Vehicle Health System™ is an award-winning product that provides consumers with an easy way to save money by quickly and accurately diagnosing car problems from home. It also provides peace of mind before long road trips, emissions inspections, when inspecting a used car, or before and after visiting the auto repair shop.
The mission of Irvine, Calif.-based CarMD.com Corporation is to empower consumers and the vehicle market by providing the tools and information needed to make better-educated decisions about their vehicles’ health and maintenance. An ISO 9001:2008-certified company, CarMD’s premiere product is the CarMD® Vehicle Health System™. The company has also built the largest, most up-to-date database of diagnostic trouble codes; expert fixes and repair costs, which it uses to compile the annual CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™. To see where your state ranks, visit http://corp.carmd.com. To see how your vehicle ranks, visit www.carmd.com/snapshot. For information about the company or its products, visit www.CarMD.com.
(Attached is a complete ranking of U.S. states in order of most to least expensive car repair costs in 2011. Detailed state data, graphics and interviews with CarMD executives are available upon request via email: KristinB@CarMD.com)
|Average “Check Engine” Light Car Repair Costs – 2011
(Source: CarMD.com Corp., CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™)
|Ranking||State||Labor||Parts||Average Car Repair Costs
(Parts & Labor)
|32.||District of Columbia||$113.48||$211.35||$324.83|