You're going to pay more per year for car maintenance if you live in a western state, and the cheapest states for repairs related to a "Check Engine" light are Mississippi and Washington D.C. That's according to fresh data from the annual CarMD Vehicle Health Index, an analysis of repairs made to 225,000 vehicles with problems that led to a CEL. The average cost to fix the problem and extinguish the lamp is $305.56 in the United States, with Florida coming closest to said average at $305.05. Alaskan motorists can expect to pay the most for such repairs on average ($353.74), while Mississippi residents have been shown to shell out the least ($256.47).

Among the study's other bits of wisdom, if you live in Alaska, you're more likely to be stuck replacing a catalytic converter than you are an airflow sensor, a common repair item in America's dry Southwest region.

Across the board, the most common repair is replacing an oxygen sensor, and the CarMD study breaks out its results by average parts and labor cost in each state. While informative, these results are admittedly narrowly focused on problems on OBD-II vehicles (built between 1996 and present) that cause the "check engine" lamp to alert the driver. The sample size of a quarter-million vehicles was polled through CarMD's network of Automotive Service Excellence-certified technicians, skipping over some shops and technicians entirely and not counting problems with other systems not tied into the check engine lamp.

Still, it's an interesting and informative look at the cost of keeping your car on the road. Check out the press release after the jump to see whether your state is cheap or expensive.

CarMD Reveals Car Repair Costs by State: Alaska Drivers Pay Most
For "Check Engine" Light Repairs; Mississippi Drivers Pay Least

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. (June 21, 2011) – Drivers in Alaska pay the most for car repairs at an average cost of $353.74, which is 16% more than the U.S. average ($305.56), including a whopping 30% more for labor. Mississippi drivers pay the least at $256.47 per transaction, according to Corporation, which analyzed roughly a quarter-million repairs made on vehicles with "check engine" light problems from 1996 to 2010. Analysis of the data also found that the District of Columbia, one of the wealthiest areas in the country, and Mississippi, the poorest state (according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau), both rank the lowest at 50th and 51st respectively. According to the CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™, the average cost of U.S. automotive repairs is $305.56, including $202.28 in parts and $103.27 in labor costs.

"Through comprehensive data collected via CarMD's nationwide network of Automotive Service Excellence-certified technicians, we are able to provide national and state-by-state transparency into vehicle repair costs," said Art Jacobsen, VP, Corp. "We are releasing this data to empower consumers and mechanics with a better understanding of common repairs and costs, and to call attention to the fact that, regardless of region, drivers who follow a regularly scheduled maintenance program and address small problems early tend to have fewer catastrophic vehicle failures, reducing overall repair costs."

Several interesting highlights emerge when comparing costs and ranking repairs for each state. While Alaska's no. 1 ranking can be attributed to cold weather, which wreaks havoc on the longevity of a car's parts, it is surprising to see Alaska's average labor costs at 30% higher and Idaho's automotive labor costs 34% higher than the U.S. average. Western states round out the top five most expensive spots, with only two non-western states listed in the top 10, including New Jersey at no. 7 and Arkansas at no. 9. Drivers in the Southwest pay about 10% more than drivers in the Northeast and 16% more than drivers in the Midwest for repairs.Southwest labor costs are higher as are the type of repairs due to dry air, build up and dust, such as clogged mass airflow sensor, which shows up more frequently and increases costs.

The following is the ranking of the top 5 states with the highest car repair costs, according to CarMD:

State Average Cost
(Parts & Labor)
Parts Cost
Labor Cost
Alaska $353.74
(16% higher than U.S. avg.)
(8% higher than U.S. avg.)
(30% higher than U.S. avg.)
Oregon $350.81
(15% higher than U.S. avg.)
(10% higher than U.S. avg.)
(25% higher than U.S. avg.)
Colorado $348.17
(14% higher than U.S. avg.)
(9% higher than U.S. avg.)
(24% higher than U.S. avg.)
California $344.57
(13% higher than U.S. avg.)
(7% higher than U.S. avg.)
(25% higher than U.S. avg.)
Idaho $340.99
(12% higher than U.S. avg.)
(on par with U.S. avg.)
(34% higher than U.S. avg.)


CarMD Ranks States with Most, Least Expensive Car Repair Costs – 2-2-2

The following is the ranking of the states/districts with the lowest car repair costs, according to CarMD:

State Average Cost
(Parts & Labor)
Parts Cost
Labor Cost
Mississippi $256.47
(16% lower than U.S. avg.)
(11% less than U.S. avg.)
(6% higher than U.S. avg.)
D.C. $265.29
(13% lower than U.S. avg.)
(12% less than U.S. avg.)
(1% higher than U.S. avg.)
Vermont $273.91
(10% lower than U.S. avg.)
(1% less than U.S. avg.)
(4% less than U.S. avg.)
Indiana $276.70
(9% lower than U.S. avg.)
(10% less than U.S. avg.)
(10% less than U.S. avg.)
Montana $280.93
(8% lower than U.S. avg.)
(21% less than U.S. avg.)
(18% higher than U.S. avg.)

Other key findings:

- Drivers in Florida pay closest to the national average for car repair costs at $305.05, just pennies less than the U.S. national average of $305.56.
- "Replace catalytic converter" ranked no. 2 among Alaska's most common vehicle "check engine" light repairs, accounting for nearly 8% of repairs, which is above the national average of 6.4%. This is likely due to extreme cold conditions and engine misfire. This causes damage to the catalytic converters and cause them to fail prematurely, especially in cold weather.
- Conversely, "replace catalytic converter" accounted for 4%, or less, of repairs in D.C. and Montana. A catalytic converter can costs upwards of $2,000 to replace, and typically does not fail unless a driver ignores a small problem such as a spark plug or oxygen sensor failure, or puts undue stress on it.
- The states with lower repair costs had a higher percentage of gas cap-related problems. A loose gas cap, which is one of the most common reasons for a check engine light problem, accounted for 12% of repairs in Vermont, 11% in Indiana, 10% in D.C., and 8% of repairs in Montana and Mississippi. Loose, damaged or missing gas caps are an inexpensive fix but cause 147 million gallons of gas to evaporate annually.
- More than 10% of the repairs in D.C. were made at zero cost in terms of parts and labor charges, likely because of a higher number of vehicles that are new or under manufacturer's warranty.
- Drivers in Nevada pay the most ($269.23) for oxygen sensor replacement, which is the no. 1 most common repair in the country. Oxygen sensors monitor the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust and tell a car's computer when there is either too much, or not enough fuel. The average cost to replace an O2 sensor is $233.42, including parts and labor, but can lead to as much as a 40% reduction in gas mileage, or nearly $700/year in wasted fuel. They can fail prematurely if subjected to sand, dust and other debris.

The average cost of car repairs was derived from analysis of roughly 250,000 repairs input from 1996 to 2010 by CarMD's network of Automotive Service Excellence-certified technicians. The repairs are all related to a vehicle's "check engine" light 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, and covers an estimated 80% of systems on cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans – foreign and domestic. The CarMD database and average cost of repair findings does not include fixes for problems that are not associated with a vehicle's on-board diagnostic computer such as tires, brakes and mechanical parts such as belts and hoses.

About CarMD
The mission of Fountain Valley, Calif.-based 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™. For more information about common car repair problems and costs, visit, visit For information about the company, its products and other consumer tips, visit

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