What Family Vehicles are Afforable and Easy to Maintain?

When looking for an affordable family car, you’ve probably had your eye on which car has the cheapest maintenance costs. You might be factoring everything from mileage to customer reviews about reliability to what’s covered in the warranty – all of the things that could drive up the price of annual maintenance costs.

In this Spacer guide to cost-effective cars, we’ve done the research so that you can easily choose the best car for your family. We even threw in a few vehicle maintenance tips to keep your car costs low after you get the keys. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be ready to buy your new car and stick to your budget year after year! 

Some costs to keep in mind

As you start navigating your car options, it’s a good idea to have some basic maintenance costs in mind. Things like oil changes, tire rotations, and general tune-ups are all maintenance costs that can creep up on you if you’re not prepared. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the annual cost of new model cars can be somewhere around $913.50 on average. That price only climbs higher for older cars that may require more maintenance.

It’s important to keep this cost in mind if you’re deciding between a new car and a used one. If you’re looking for which car has the cheapest maintenance costs, a newer one should fit the bill, even with a higher upfront cost. Plus, some family car manufacturers, like Hyundai, Subaru, and Volvo, offer free maintenance for the first few months or years of ownership on newer models. That’s a deal that will lower your annual maintenance costs substantially.

In order to get a clear sense of what basic car maintenance will cost for you, you might want to call around to local mechanics for some basic car maintenance quotes. Here’s the list of some of the most common car care tasks that you can ask about, along with the national averages for comparison:

  • Oil and filter change. This car maintenance task should be done somewhere between every 5,000 and 10,000 miles and usually costs between $20 and $100
  • Tire rotation. You’ll want a mechanic to do this just about every time you get your oil changed, and it generally costs between $20 and $50
  • Tire replacement. Tire rotation is a way to keep your tires in good shape for longer, but about every 25,000 to 50,000 miles, they’ll need to be replaced. Tires come in a few different models, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $500 and $700 for a new set.
  • Brake check/brake pad replacement. This is a less frequent requirement, with brake pad replacement recommended about once every 30,000 or more miles. The cost of this car maintenance task varies, but can costs somewhere around $100 to $300
  • Engine air filter replacement. This car care task should be completed every 20,000 or more miles and can cost between $20 and $75.

For a full list of car maintenance tasks, and some DIY solutions, take a look at our recent article What Should Be on your Car Maintenance List. 

The family-friendly cars with the lowest maintenance costs

If you’re looking for which car has the cheapest maintenance while checking off all of the boxes for the perfect family car, you’re going to love all of the options on this list:

  • GMC Terrain: Although categorized as a small SUV, the GMC Terrain feels up for any adventure. It has an MPG of 26 in the city and 30 on the highway, and boasts of an annual maintenance cost average of $375.
  • Nissan Pathfinder: The 2020 version of this family classic is sleeker and more powerful than ever. It’s not in the top spot because the fuel economy is only 20 miles per gallon (MPG) in the city and 27 miles on the highway. And annual average costs are a tad higher, at $401. 
  • Honda CR-V: Hondas generally make the list for top family friendly cars, because they’re all around reliable vehicles. This model gets 30MPG and has a low average annual maintenance cost of $304.

Did we forget about the minivans?

You might have noticed that for a list of family-friendly cars, there’s sure a lack of minivans. Don’t worry, we’ve kept these family fun vehicles in mind! Unfortunately, they do tend to require higher annual maintenance costs. That said, if your choice is between one minivan and multiple cars to carry the entire family and additional friends, the higher price tag is probably worth it. 

  • Ford Transit Connect: something of an unconventional-looking minivan, the Ford Transit Connect is one of the most affordable and reliable family cars on the market. With an MPG of 24 in the city and 29 on the highway, it’s one of the more fuel efficient family wagons, and you can expect an average annual maintenance cost of as low as $300

How about hybrids?

Hybrids are becoming more and more popular all the time, and you might have heard that many big manufacturers will be making hybrid versions of their most popular models soon. There’s a 2020 Honda Cr-V on the market now, for instance, and Nissan is looking to expand their hybrid and electric car options in the next few years. 

But when thinking about which cars have the cheapest maintenance costs, are these options really cost effective? On the hand, yes. Higher fuel efficiency and less wear and tear on the engine are two ways that hybrids keep costs down.

The issue is that when something stops working in a hybrid, the costs can be steep. A new battery, for instance, can cost a few thousand dollars, which is much more than the couple hundred dollars you would spend every 5 years replacing the battery in a non-hybrid car. The good news, though, is that as hybrid cars become more popular, the cost to replace them is expected to go down. And, a single battery is likely to last much longer than in a non-hybrid car.

The final word? See if your favorite family car has a hybrid option in your budget. The overall costs are likely to be lower, and you’ll feel good about opting for the environmentally-friendly car.

Final car care tips

After asking the question which car has the cheapest maintenance, you might also ask yourself how you can keep your car maintenance costs as low as possible. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep up with your scheduled tune-ups. Just like you want to keep your date with your dentist, scheduling regular tune-ups for your car can catch car troubles before they become really expensive problems.
  • Take it easy on the handling. You’d be surprised at how much of an impact your driving habits have on everything from brake pad longevity to fuel efficiency to the health of your transmission. Maybe relax on the accelerator a bit.
  • Covered parking. Even when your car is not in use, extreme weather and temperature fluctuations can affect your battery life and other essential functions. If you don’t have access to covered parking, you can keep your car maintenance costs down by investing in cheap parking through Spacer, anywhere in the US including Chicago, DC, San Francisco and more. 

How are you feeling about your car maintenance budget?

With this Spacer round-up of some of the most affordable family cars, you’re well on your way to managing your car maintenance costs. If you’re still wondering how to know which car has the cheapest maintenance or any other car and parking related question, reach out to us!

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