The most expensive thing most Americans own, after their house, is their car. On average, Americans spend 5% of their income on purchasing a car. Another 5% goes towards ongoing maintenance and insurance costs.

But not every car costs the same to keep it running. And different cars have varying risks of leaving their drivers suddenly immobilized.

At YourMechanic, we have a massive dataset of the make and model of the cars we have serviced and the type of maintenance done. We decided to use our data to understand which cars break down the most and have the highest maintenance costs. We also looked into which types of maintenance are most common to certain cars.

First, we looked at which major brands cost the most to maintain over the first 10 years of a car’s life. We grouped all years of all models by brand to compute their average cost by brand. In order to estimate annual maintenance costs, we found the amount spent on every two oil changes (as oil changes are generally done every six months).

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Which Car Brands Cost the Most to Maintain?


Based on estimates of total car maintenance over 10 years


Rank
Car Brand
Cost


1
BMW
$17,800


2
Mercedes-Benz
$12,900


3
Cadillac
$12,500


4
Volvo
$12,500


5
Audi
$12,400


6
Saturn
$12,400


7
Mercury
$12,000


8
Pontiac
$11,800


9
Chrysler
$10,600


10
Dodge
$10,600


11
Acura
$9,800


12
Infiniti
$9,300


13
Ford
$9,100


14
Kia
$8,800


15
Land Rover
$8,800


16
Chevrolet
$8,800


17
Buick
$8,600


18
Jeep
$8,300


19
Subaru
$8,200


20
Hyundai
$8,200


21
GMC
$7,800


22
Volkswagen
$7,800


23
Nissan
$7,600


24
Mazda
$7,500


25
Mini
$7,500


26
Mitsubishi
$7,400


27
Honda
$7,200


28
Lexus
$7,000


29
Scion
$6,400


30
Toyota
$5,500

Luxury imports from Germany, such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, along with domestic luxury brand Cadillac, are the most expensive. A Toyota is about $10,000 less expensive over 10 years, just in terms of maintenance.

Toyota is by far the most economical manufacturer. Scion and Lexus, the second and third most inexpensive brands, are both Toyota subsidiaries. Together, all three are 10% below the average cost.

Most domestic brands, like Ford and Dodge, are in the middle of the pack.

While luxury cars call for the most expensive maintenance, many budget vehicles rank relatively high. Kia, an entry-level brand, surprises with maintenance costs 1.3 times the average. In this case, sticker prices don't represent maintenance costs.

Knowing the relative maintenance costs of brands can be informative, but it’s also important to consider how car costs change with age. This chart looks at the median annual cost of maintenance across all brands.

Maintenance costs increase as the car ages. A stable, consistent increase of $150 per year in costs exists for years 1 through 10. After that, there is a distinct jump between 11 and 12 years of age. After age 13, costs plateau around $2,000 per year. This is likely because people disown their cars if maintenance costs are higher than their cars’ worth.

Even within brands, not all cars are created equal. How do specific models compare directly to one another? We drilled down by splitting up all cars by model to look at 10 year maintenance costs.

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Which Car Models Cost the Most to Maintain?


Based on total car maintenance costs over 10 years


Rank
Car Brand
Cost


1
Chrysler Sebring
$17,100


2
BMW 328i
$15,600


3
Nissan Murano
$14,700


4
Mercedes-Benz E350
$14,700


5
Chevrolet Cobalt
$14,500


6
Dodge Grand Caravan
$14,500


7
Dodge Ram 1500
$13,300


8
Audi A4 Quattro
$12,800


9
Mazda 6
$12,700


10
Subaru Forester
$12,200


11
Acura TL
$12,100


12
Nissan Maxima
$12,000


13
Chrysler 300
$12,000


14
Ford Mustang
$11,900


15
Audi A4
$11,800


16
Volkswagen Passat
$11,600


17
Ford Focus
$11,600


18
Chevrolet Impala
$11,500


19
Honda Pilot
$11,200


20
Mini Cooper
$11,200

The 20 priciest car models in term of maintenance cost all require, at a minimum, a staggering $11,000 to maintain over 10 years. These estimates include expensive one-off costs, like a transmission rebuild, that skew the mean higher.

According to our data, Chrysler's Sebring is the most expensive car to maintain, which is likely one of the reasons why why Chrysler revamped it in 2010. German imports (such as BMW’s 328i and Mercedes-Benz’ E350) along with many manufacturers’ luxury or full-sized models (such as the Audi A4 Quattro) are quite expensive as well.

Now we know which cars are money pits. So which vehicles are a thrifty, reliable choice?

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Which Car Models Have the Lowest Maintenance Cost?


Based on total car maintenance costs over 10 years


Rank
Car Brand
Cost


1
Toyota Prius
$4,300


2
Kia Soul
$4,700


3
Toyota Camry
$5,200


4
Honda Fit
$5,500


5
Toyota Tacoma
$5,800


6
Toyota Corolla
$5,800


7
Nissan Versa
$5,900


8
Toyota Yaris
$6,100


9
Scion xB
$6,300


10
Kia Optima
$6,400


11
Lexus IS250
$6,500


12
Nissan Rogue
$6,500


13
Toyota Highlander
$6,600


14
Honda Civic
$6,600


15
Honda Accord
$6,600


16
Volkswagen Jetta
$6,800


17
Lexus RX350
$6,900


18
Ford Fusion
$7,000


19
Nissan Sentra
$7,200


20
Subaru Impreza
$7,500

Toyota and other Asian imports are the least expensive cars to maintain, with the Prius living up to its well-known reputation for reliability. Along with many Toyota models, Kia’s Soul and Honda’s Fit hold close to Prius’s low-cost lead. Toyota’s Tacoma and Highlander are also on the low-cost leaderboard, even though the list is dominated by compact and mid-sized sedans. Toyota completely avoids the the most expensive models list.

So what, specifically, makes some brands more expensive than others? Some brands have a higher incidence of routine maintenance. But some cars tend to have the same problems time and again.

We looked at which brands have maintenance requirements that occur unusually often for that particular brand. For each brand and issue, we compared the frequency to the average across all the cars we serviced.

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Unusually Common Car Issues


Based on issues found by YourMechanic and compared to the average car


Car Brand
Car Issue
Issue Frequency


Mercury


          Fuel pump replacement

28x


Chrysler


          Exhaust gas recirculation/EGR valve replacement

24x


Infiniti


          Camshaft position sensor replacement

21x


Cadillac


          Intake manifold gasket replacement

19x


Jaguar


          Check Engine Light is on inspection

19x  

Pontiac
Intake manifold gasket replacement
19x


Dodge
Exhaust gas recirculation/EGR valve replacement
19x


Plymouth


          Not starting inspection

19x


Honda


          Valve clearance adjustment

18x


BMW


          Window regulator replacement

18x


Ford


          PCV valve hose replacement

18x


BMW


          Idler pulley replacement

18x


Chrysler


          Overheating inspection

17x


Saturn


          Wheel bearing replacement

17x


Oldsmobile
Not starting inspection
17x


Mitsubishi


          Timing belt replacement

17x


BMW


          Drive belt tensioner replacement

16x


Chrysler
Camshaft position sensor replacement
16x


Jaguar


          Battery service

16x


Cadillac


          Leaking coolant

16x


Jeep


          Crankshaft position sensor replacement

15x


Chrysler


          Engine mount replacement

15x


Mercedes-Benz
Crankshaft position sensor
15x

Mercury is the brand that suffered most chronically from a design flaw. In this case, Mercury cars most frequently had fuel pump issues (Mercury was discontinued by parent company Ford in 2011).

We can see some issues cross from brand to brand within the same manufacturer. For example, Dodge and Chrysler, which are both part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) conglomerate, can’t seem to get their exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valves working correctly. Their EGRs need to be fixed at roughly 20 times the national average.

But there’s one problem customers care more about than any other: which cars will simply refuse to start? We answer this question in the below chart, which limits the comparison to cars 10 years old or less.

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Car Brands Most Likely Not to Start


 Based on service by YourMechanic and compared to the median model


Rank
Car Brand
Frequency of Car Not Starting


1
Hummer
9x


2
Mercury
6x


3
Chrysler
6x


4
Saturn
5x


5
Dodge
5x


6
Mitsubishi
4x


7
BMW
4x


8
Suzuki
4x


9
Pontiac
4x


10
Buick
4x


11
Land Rover
3x


12
Mercedes-Benz
3x


13
Chevrolet
3x


14
Jeep
3x


15
Ford
3x


16
GMC
3x


17
Acura
3x


18
Cadillac
2x


19
Scion
2x


20
Lincoln
2x


21
Nissan
2x


22
Mazda
2x


23
Volvo
2x


24
Infiniti
2x


25
Kia
2x

Although this could be a reflection of some owners' diligence just as much as the cars' build quality, the results of this list are quite damning: three of the top five brands were discontinued in the last several years.

In addition to the now-defunct brands, the premium segment (such as Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, and BMW) is represented in this list. Notably absent are many of the brands from the least expensive list: Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai.

But the brand doesn’t reveal everything about a car. We dove into the particular models that don’t start with the greatest frequency.

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Car Models Most Likely Not to Start


Based on service by YourMechanic and compared to the median model


Rank
Car Model
Frequency of Car Not Starting


1
Hyundai Tiburon
26x


2
Dodge Caravan
26x


3
Ford F-250 Super Duty
21x


4
Ford Taurus
19x


5
Chrysler PT Cruiser
18x


6
Cadillac DTS
17x


7
Hummer H3
11x


8
Nissan Titan
10x


9
Chrysler Sebring
10x


10
Dodge Ram 1500
10x


11
BMW 325i
9x


12
Mitsubishi Eclipse
9x


13
Dodge Charger
8x


14
Chevrolet Aveo
8x


15
Chevrolet Cobalt
7x


16
Mazda MX-5 Miata
7x


17
Mercedes-Benz ML350
6x


18
Chevrolet HHR
6x


19
Mitsubishi Galant
6x


20
Volvo S40
6x


21
BMW X3
6x


22
Pontiac G6
6x


23
Dodge Caliber
6x


24
Nissan Pathfinder
6x


25
Saturn Ion
6x

The worst cars failed to start 26 times as often as average cars, perhaps explaining why some of these models got the axe: the Hyundai Tiburon, Hummer H3, and Chrysler Sebring (all in the top 10) were discontinued. Some premium models make it into the shameful list as well, including BMWs and several Mercedes-Benz models.

For as long as cars have existed, Americans have debated car ownership and the questions of cost and reliability. This data reveals which companies live up to their reputation for reliability (Toyota), which brands sacrifice reliability for prestige (BMW and Mercedes-Benz), and which models deserved to be discontinued (the Hummer 3).

Still, car maintenance is about much more than the average cost. Factors such as how well a car is maintained, how often it is driven, where it is driven, and how it is driven all affect maintenance costs. Your mileage may vary.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as The Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain and was authored by Maddy Martin.


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