From the folks at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, your tax dollars at work:

Average expenditure and frequency reported for various types of maintenance and repair, by average age of vehicle(s), 2012
Selected maintenance and repair expenses All Average age of household vehicle(s)
New–5 years 6–10 years 11–15 years
Expenditure Level Frequency (in percent) Expenditure Level Frequency (in percent) Expenditure Level Frequency (in percent) Expenditure Level Frequency (in percent)
Average annual maintenance/repair expenditure $546  … $437  … $588  … $576  …
Tires—purchased, replaced, installed/repair tires and other repair work $132.46 16 $127.73 11 $164.24 17 $124.88 16
Lube, oil change, and oil filters 54.11 41 63.75 41 65.54 47 50.32 40
Motor repair, replacement 48.02 3 13.68 1 39.89 3 56.54 4
Brake work, including adjustments 40.82 6 25.48 3 48.75 7 44.81 7
Motor tuneup 37.18 5 30.33 4 37.81 6 42.25 6
Parts, equipment, and accessories 29.98 10 15.32 5 24.12 9 32.19 12
Vehicle air-conditioning repair/electrical system repair 28.92 4 3.59 1 32.08 4 35.49 5
Repair to steering or front end/front-end alignment, wheel balance, and rotation 28.84 5 19.86 5 32.95 6 28.80 5
Clutch, transmission repair 21.35 1 8.66 0 21.70 1 27.08 1
Bodywork and painting 18.53 1 29.04 1 18.17 1 16.45 1
Repair to engine cooling system 12.83 2 3.78 1 8.99 1 21.43 3
Exhaust system repair 8.34 1 1.62 0 6.71 1 12.49 1
Auto repair service policy 7.23 0 18.41 1 9.12 1 4.09 0
Vehicle products and cleaning services 6.99 7 10.85 8 8.72 8 5.64 6
Shock absorber, replacement 4.51 0 0.62 0 4.73 0 6.45 1
Coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and other additives 3.11 6 1.10 2 1.93 4 3.80 7
Vehicle audio and video equipment 2.50 0 2.75 0 2.54 0 3.25 1
Miscellaneous auto repair, servicing/gas tank repair, replacement (from Diary Survey) 60.11 6
See footnotes at end of table.
Average expenditure and frequency reported for various types of maintenance and repair, by average age of vehicle(s), 2012 (continued)
Selected maintenance and repair expenses Average age of household vehicle(s)
16–20 years 21–25 years 26 or more years
Expenditure Level Frequency (in percent) Expenditure Level Frequency (in percent) Expenditure Level Frequency (in percent)
Average annual maintenance/repair expenditure $483  … $457  … $502  …
Tires—purchased, replaced, installed/repair tires and other repair work $96.03 2 $78.80 14 $61.86 15
Lube, oil change, and oil filters 36.21 31 30.16 28 25.36 24
Motor repair, replacement 69.41 4 58.16 4 81.83 5
Brake work, including adjustments 29.58 6 30.66 6 17.02 6
Motor tuneup 32.69 5 33.57 5 23.72 4
Parts, equipment, and accessories 34.07 13 29.93 14 132.27 16
Vehicle air-conditioning repair/electrical system repair 30.50 5 18.95 4 18.80 5
Repair to steering or front end/front-end alignment, wheel balance, and rotation 28.11 5 22.61 4 22.43 3
Clutch, transmission repair 16.13 1 31.10 3 10.52 1
Bodywork and painting 14.87 1 22.80 1 16.11 2
Repair to engine cooling system 10.31 2 14.01 2 11.80 3
Exhaust system repair 10.43 1 4.45 1 4.90 1
Auto repair service policy 1.94 0 4.06 0 2.94 0
Vehicle products and cleaning services 3.87 5 3.42 4 4.14 5
Shock absorber, replacement 1.96 0 7.97 1 1.37 0
Coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and other additives 5.48 10 5.45 11 4.45 10
Vehicle audio and video equipment 1.10 0 0.57 0 2.14 1
Miscellaneous auto repair, servicing/gas tank repair, replacement (from Diary Survey)
Note: 23,026 consumer units with one or more vehicles = 100 percent. Dashes indicate expenditures measured only in the Consumer Expenditure Diary Survey. The age of vehicles is not observed in the Diary data, so the average expenditure is assumed to be uniformly distributed across the average vehicle age. Zero indicates less than 0.5 percent.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I love big data!

The people who bring you the Consumer Price Index, the BLS, has been collecting economic stats for the better part of a century, in detail… If you want to know what the average price of a loaf of bread was in Chicago in a particular month decades ago, they can tell you. In this instance, they surveyed 23,000 vehicle owners and asked them what their cars were costing them. That’s a “statistically significant” sample, as the stats geeks like to say. Take a look at the top line, “average annual maintenance/repair expenditure”… As expected, it’s lowest during a cars first 5 years of life. But now the surprise stats: While maintenance/repair expenses climb slightly between 6 and 10 years, those expenses don’t keep rising during subsquescent 5 year periods, clear out to 30 years!

There has to be a catch, right… Aren’t all those older vehicles owned by collectors who don’t drive enough miles to break anything? Look at the incidence of oil changes and tire replacements… Shows only a slight drop off after 20 years, suggesting that these older cars are “daily drivers” rather than rarely driven collectables. And despite seeing nearly as many miles as the newer cars, the only area where the 26 years and older cars had significantly higher repair costs than newer ones was in the “parts, equipment. and accessories category, where the quarter century and older cars “nickeled and dimed” their owners to the tune of an extra hundred bucks or so a year. Heck, that don’t even make one monthly payment on a new car!

The takeaway: New vehicles are not a necessity… Run those old ones into the ground!

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