Friday, September 12, 2014

Maintenance: A Hidden Car Cost




There are many expenses people have to pay but one expense that is frequently overlooked or not thought about is car repairs due to road conditions.  In many states when it snows or rains the conditions of the roads get worse and it seems to take forever for them to be repaired.  According to the Federal Highway Administration in 2010, 45% or 150,000 miles of the roads in the US were were not in good condition and 12% or 71,000 of the bridges were in poor condition. 

Deficient road conditions cost U.S. drivers $67 billion a year in car repairs and operating costs or an average cost of $335 per driver. The federal gas tax has remained unchanged at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993 and has not been adjusted for inflation. Revenue from the federal gas tax is used to pay for road repairs. Studies show the damage being done to roads from lack of maintenance is costing drivers more than actually paying a slightly higher tax for gas. The states with the worst road conditions are: Kentucky, Alabama, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Hawaii, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Louisiana. Some cities with the worst roads are Houtson, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, Queens, and Washington DC.

According to the annual CarMD Car Health Index if you live in the West from Alaska to Wyoming you will pay more per year for car maintenance.  The states with the highest car repair costs are: Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, California and Idaho.  The states with the lowest car repair costs Mississippi, DC, Vermont, Indiana and Montana.

According to Consumer Report.org average car maintenance and repair costs are 4% of ownership costs over five years.  According to a study by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) car repairs cost an average 34% more at car dealerships than at independent repair shops. Car repairs for parts and labor averaged 34.3% more at dealerships, foreign repairs averaged 36.8% more at dealerships and domestic repairs averaged 31.5% dealerships.

The cost to repair a car after hitting a pot hole, a bump, a water sewer cover,  unlevel roads, debris, etc. can be as high as thousands of dollars.  According to The Road Information Program the annual average repair cost per car due to potholes and bad pavement is estimated at $402.  According to the Post-Journal  wheel balancing: $10-$20 per wheel. Wheel replacement can range from $50-$500, suspension from range from $1230-$2,000, shock/strut replacement can range from $150 to $1,200 and a wheel alignment can range from $90 - $150 per wheel. The average cost to fix an axle is $350.

Hitting a pothole can result in suspension, wheel , undercarraige and tire damage.  Check to see if pothole damage is covered under car insurance before paying out of pocket for the repairs because the deductible which in some cases may be less than the cost of the repair.  Here are some tips for AA Insurance regarding potholes:

  1.  If you hit a pothole stop as soon as possible for a quick check of your car including tires and wheels.
  2.  If you hit a pothole, document where it is, size and depth if known and take a picture.
  3.  Report potholes to the county, local or state highway authority.
  4.  Listen for sounds of damage such as “clonking sounds from the steering and suspension, a slight pull to the left or right in the steering, the steering wheel not centring properly when the car is travelling in a straight line or braking feeling'uneven or the steering wheel or entire car vibrating.
  5.  If you hit a pothole take your car to a repair shop as soon as possible to verify if there is any damage.
  6.  Keep all receipts from damage repair to support a car insurance claim.
  7. Stay alert for potholes or other road damage and conditions.  Use extra caution during rain, snow  and road construction. Debris in the roads such as gravel and stones on the road might indicate the presence of a pothole.

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