2012

Vehicle Health Index

Published by CarMD, April 2012

Highlights


In 2011, overall repair costs were down 6% from the previous year, including a 17% decrease in labor costs but 1.4% increase in parts costs, which we attribute to the tsunami and other natural disasters overseas, which have caused an increase in many hard good costs.


Vehicle age plays a role in the most common repair ranking.

  • The average vehicle is now 10.8 years old. The no. 1 “check engine” repair for model year 2001 vehicles, which is in line with the average vehicle age, is a damaged or loose gas cap (8.26%).
  • The gas cap is also the most common culprit for newer vehicle repairs, accounting for a whopping 26.9% of fixes on model year 2011 vehicles.

April’s Car Care Awareness Month Small problems lead to big problems with big price tags during Car Care Awarenes Month (or any time of year). It is always an important time to pay attention to small problems and warning signs. Ignore a spark plug problem (currently the no. 6 most common problem) and a $10 part could turn into a $300 “ignition coil and spark plug” repair (currently the no. 4 most common repair). Ignore that and you may need to replace your car’s catalytic converter at an average cost of $1,000 (no. 3 most common repair).


The CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™ illustrates that while hybrid repairs are still statistically rare, when they happen they can be very pricey; however, the costs are coming down with increased volume of hybrids on the road, as well as parts and people trained to service them.

  •  Hybrids accounted for 3 of the top 10 most expensive repairs in 2011.
  •  The no. 1 most expensive repair in 2011 was “replace hybrid inverter assembly” ($4,098), but the same repair has historically cost as much as $7,391 in some cases.

When caught early, automotive repairs can be affordable. The 15 least expensive repairs in the CarMD database account for nearly 10% of all repairs and average only $72.03.


Drivers in the western U.S. pay the most for car repairs at an average cost of $360.89, which is 17% more than drivers in the Midwest, who pay the least ($309.75).

Snapshot

Most Common Repairs

 Each of the 5 most common repairs will reduce gas mileage if ignored (Replace oxygen sensor, tighten or replace gas cap, replace catalytic converter, replace ignition coil(s) and replace mass air flow sensor).

  • The no. 1 most common repair is “replace oxygen sensor,” which can lead to as much as a 40% reduction in gas mileage if ignored.
  • Several new repairs appear on the top 25 this year, including “Inspect Battery and Charging System and Repair as Necessary” (no. 16), “Replace Wheel Speed Sensor(s) (no. 17), “Replace ABS Control Module” (no. 20) and “Replace Air/Fuel Ratio Sensor” (no. 24).
  • As the average age of vehicles rises, those that receive less preventative maintenance such as those with batteries that are replaced infrequently are showing up with more electrical system issues, including the need to “Inspect and Repair Battery & Charging System.”
  • “Replace ABS Control Module” wasn’t in the top 100 last year.  It is responsible for helping to ensure a vehicle’s anti-lock brake system is working properly.  While ABS has been available for decades, it’s been only recently that vehicle manufacturers made it standard on a wider range of vehicles and linked to the OBD2 system, which may explain its rapid trip upward in the list.

Repairs Costs

  • For the second year in a row, overall car repair costs are down.
    1. In 2011, the average repair including parts and labor, cost $333.93 – a 6% decrease from the average repair cost in 2010 ($356.04), and remarkably 21% less than their high in 2006 ($422.36).
  • In 2011, the national average for automotive repair labor costs decreased 17% from the previous year; however parts costs increased slightly (1.4%).
    1. Parts increases have likely affected by the tsunami and other natural disasters overseas, which have caused an increase in many hard goods costs.
    2. As for the reduction in labor rates, many independent repair shops and dealerships are reducing labor rates to keep their businesses afloat, even though parts prices are up.  Reduced costs usually mean reduced service as well.  This may also be a possible cause of multiple trips for consumers, wasted time and frustration.
  • Vehicle owners in the West paid the most for “check engine”-related car repair at 17% more than drivers in the Midwest, who paid the least. 
    1. The average cost of vehicle repairs in 2011 nationwide was $333.93 per repair
    2. The average cost of vehicle repairs in 2011 in the Western U.S. was $359.81 per repair
    3. The average cost of vehicle repairs in 2011 in the Midwest was $309.75 per repair
    4. The average cost of vehicle repairs in 2011 in the Northeast was $327.40
    5. The average cost of vehicle repairs in the South was $339.04

Most/Least Expensive Fixes

  • The CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™ illustrates that while hybrid repairs can be very pricey, the costs are coming down with increased volume of hybrids on the road, as well as parts and people trained to service them.   
  • The no. 1 most expensive fix in the CarMD database in 2011 was “Replace Inverter Assembly” ($4,098).  It is most commonly associated with repairs on 2000-2011 Honda, Lexus and Toyota hybrid vehicles, and not a common repair.
  • Conversely, the least expensive fix in 2011 was “inspect engine oil for correct level and viscosity,” which is a fancy way of saying “check the oil.  The cost?  Free. 
  • The second least expensive repair was “inspect for loose fuel cap and tighten or replace as necessary” at an average cost of just under $1.00.  This is also the second most common repair in CarMD’s database.

Most Common Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCS)

  • In 2011, P0171 “System Too Lean” was the no. 1 most common diagnostic trouble code (DTC) for 1996-2011 vehicles.  P0171 has also historically been the most common DTC for the past decade.
    1. A P0171 code may be triggered by a range of issues from a vacuum hose leak, an intake manifold leak, or even a faulty mass air flow sensor, which measures the amount of air entering the intake manifold; it may result in lack of power or even hesitation or surge upon acceleration.
    2. If not fixed, a P0171 code, as well as most DTCs, can lead to expensive repairs and headaches down the road.

Stats


2011’s most common ‘check engine’ vehicle repairs for…

Rank Vehicle Repair Total Average Repair Cost (Parts & Labor) % 2011 Repairs
1 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $246.39 9.17%
2 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $0.97 8.26%
3 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $1,028.53 6.39%
4 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and Spark Plug(s) if needed $296.87 4.96%
5 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $396.91 3.64%
6 Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs $314.67 3.62%
7 Replace Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) Valve and Hose (or Tube and Grommet) $102.47 2.99%
8 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $321.11 2.99%
9 Inspect for Faulty Vacuum Hose(s) at Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) System; repair
as necessary
$95.83 2.48%
10 Remove Aftermarket Alarm $82.00 2.17%
11 Replace Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor (ECT) $150.62 1.98%
12 Replace Intake Manifold Gasket(s) $337.63 1.72%
13 Replace Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP) $195.06 1.70%
14 Replace Fuel Injector(s) $496.20 1.66%
15 Replace Thermostat $170.05 1.56%
16 Inspect Battery and Charging System and Repair as Necessary $87.74 1.52%
17 Replace Wheel Speed Sensor(s) $289.82 1.38%
18 Replace Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) Purge Solenoid $164.45 1.29%
19 Inspect for Faulty Wiring and Repair as Necessary $111.89 1.25%
20 Replace ABS Control Module $850.42 1.13%
21 Replace Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) Canister and/or Vent Solenoid $200.14 1.11%
22 Inspect for Faulty Wiring at Engine Harness and Repair as Necessary $145.48 0.95%
23 Replace Differential Pressure Feedback (DPFE) Sensor $191.46 0.91%
24 Replace Air/Fuel Ratio Sensor (AFR) $326.47 0.85%
25 Replace Crankshaft Position Sensor (CKP) $202.82 0.80%
Rank Vehicle Repair Total Average Repair Cost (Parts & Labor) % MY1996 Repairs
1 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $244.23 14.07%
2 Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs $321.20 7.83%
3 Remove Aftermarket Alarm $80.43 6.50%
4 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $1,038.42 6.15%
5 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $430.25 4.62%
6 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $338.29 4.35%
7 Replace Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP) $193.18 2.44%
8 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and Spark Plug(s), if necessary $297.60 2.32%
9 Replace Fuel Injector(s) $532.53 2.23%
10 Inspect for Faulty Vacuum Hose(s) at Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) System $82.86 2.21%
Rank Vehicle Repair Total Average Repair Cost (Parts & Labor) % MY2001 Repairs
1 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $1.17 8.26%
2 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $257.94 7.85%
3 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $1,003.57 6.51%
4 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and Spark Plug(s), if needed $262.14 3.96%
5 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $400.77 3.89%
6 Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs $291.10 3.65%
7 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $325.69 2.35%
8 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and Spark Plug(s) $397.44 2.08%
9 Replace Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) Valve and Hose $111.99 1.78%
10 Replace Wheel Speed Sensor(s) $222.90 1.76%
Rank Vehicle Repair Total Average Repair Cost (Parts & Labor) % MY2006 Repairs
1 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $0.94 10.86%
2 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $978.15 6.92%
3 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $295.09 6.45%
4 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and Spark Plug(s), if needed $267.75 4.85%
5 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $464.14 4.10%
6 Replace Thermostat $167.08 3.16%
7 Inspect Battery and Charging System and Repair as Necessary $83.76 3.03%
8 Replace Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) Purge Solenoid $172.39 2.38%
9 Replace Fuel Injector(s) $710.60 2.24%
10 Reprogram Engine Control Module (ECM) $105.44 2.09%
Rank Vehicle Repair Total Average Repair Cost (Parts & Labor) % MY2011 Repairs
1 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $7.41 26.9%
2 Reprogram Power train Control Module (PCM) $86.75 7.5%
3 Inspect for Faulty Wiring and Repair as Necessary $94.21 5.0%
4 Replace Intake Manifold Runner Control (IMRC) Actuator $598.19 3.8%
5 Reprogram Engine Control Module (ECM) $80.49 3.8%
6 Replace Thermostat $181.76 3.1%
7 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $243.53 2.5%
8 Inspect for Faulty Wiring at Engine Harness and Repair as Necessary $103.96 1.9%
9 Remove Cylinder Head and Inspect for Faulty Components. Replace As Necessary. $1,497.17 1.9%
10 Replace Fuel Tank Pressure (FTP) Sensor $229.90 1.9%
Rank Vehicle Fix Total Average Repair Cost in the West (Parts & Labor) % 2011 Western U.S. Repairs
1 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $252.18 7.85%
2 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $1.41 7.51%
3 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $1,047.62 6.43%
4 Replace Ignition Coil(s) $299.84 5.11%
5 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $416.39 4.34%
6 Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs $322.51 4.07%
7 Replace Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) Valve and Hose $105.65 3.04%
8 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $323.86 2.58%
9 Replace Camshaft Position Sensor (CMP) $197.56 1.86%
10 Replace Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor (ECT) $151.91 1.82%
Rank Vehicle Fix Total Average Repair Cost in the Midwest (Parts & Labor) % 2011 Midwest U.S. Repairs
1 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $239.59 9.41%
2 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $0.84 8.35%
3 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $997.86 5.52%
4 Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs $293.43 4.60%
5 Replace Ignition Coil(s) $289.65 4.56%
6 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $370.63 3.46%
7 Remove Aftermarket Alarm $78.01 2.98%
8 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $388.05 2.63%
9 Replace Wheel Speed Sensor(s) $311.04 2.44%
10 Inspect for Faulty Vacuum Hose(s) at EVAP and Replace as necessary $91.26 2.15%
Rank Vehicle Fix Total Average Repair Cost in the NE (Parts & Labor) % 2011 NE U.S. Repairs
1 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $236.66 10.36%
2 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $1.02 9.69%
3 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $1,058.96 7.22%
4 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and Spark Plug(s), if needed $289.76 5.01%
5 Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs $288.64 4.30%
6 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $404.18 2.91%
7 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $291.95 2.08%
8 Replace Wheel Speed Sensor(s) $270.55 1.93%
9 Replace Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor (ECT) $147.20 1.82%
10 Remove Aftermarket Alarm $78.60 1.72%
Rank Vehicle Fix Total Average Repair Cost in the South (Parts & Labor) % 2011 Southern U.S. Repairs
1 Replace Oxygen Sensor(s) (O2S) $243.31 8.48%
2 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $0.82 7.04%
3 Replace Catalytic Converter(s) with new OE Catalytic Converter(s) $1,054.06 7.00%
4 Replace Ignition Coil(s) and spark plug(s), if necessary $293.26 5.22%
5 Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs $303.26 4.11%
6 Replace Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor $392.28 3.60%
7 Replace Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) Valve and Hose $102.67 2.99%
8 Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR ports $295.87 2.44%
9 Remove Aftermarket Alarm $77.07 2.22%
10 Inspect Battery and Charging System and Repair as Necessary $84.14 1.93%

2011’s repair costs…

Year Labor Parts Total Average Repair Cost
2011 $118.61 $215.32 $333.93
2010 $143.61 $212.44 $356.04
2009 $138.37 $221.13 $359.50
2008 $135.21 $220.98 $356.19
2007 $152.92 $256.98 $409.91
2006 $131.06 $291.30 $422.36
Average Parts Cost Average Labor Cost Total Average Repair Cost (Parts & Labor)
Model Year 1996 $216.82 $125.61 $342.43
Model Year 2001 (in line with average vehicle age) $231.10 $115.78 $346.88
Model Year 2006 $217.54 $117.55 $335.09
Model Year 2011 $97.16 $98.14 $195.30
Region Parts Labor Total Average Repair Cost
U.S. $215.32 $118.61 $333.93
West $229.92 $130.97 $360.89
South $223.15 $112.33 $335.48
Northeast $220.54 $110.96 $331.50
Midwest $198.37 $110.63 $309.00
Rank Vehicle Fix Type of Vehicle(s) Total Cost (Parts & Labor) % 2011 Repairs
1 Replace Hybrid Inverter Assembly 2000-2010 Honda, Lexus and Toyota hybrid vehicles $4,098.16 0.003%
2 Replace Transmission and Torque Converter Various vehicles $3,982.01 0.089%
3 Replace Transmission Assembly and Reprogram Electronic Control Module (ECM) 2001-2004 Honda Civic vehicles $3,644.32 0.001%
4 Replace Cylinder Head Assembly and Replace Spark Plug(s) 1999-2005 Lincoln and Mercury vehicles $3,575.42 0.004%
5 Replace Transfer Case Shift Motor Various vehicles $3,272.96 0.001%
6 Replace Transmission Assembly Various vehicles $3,197.07 0.589%
7 Replace Gas Mass Sensor 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier vehicles $3,043.65 0.001%
8 Replace Supercharger 1999-2000 Mercedes Benz C-Class vehicles $3,017.23 0.001%
9 Replace Hybrid Battery 2000-2006 Honda Insight and 2001-2009 Toyota Prius vehicles $2,999.64 0.013%
10 Replace Transmission Case and Torque Converter 2003-2004 Saturn Ion vehicles $2,896.05 0.002%
11 Replace Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) Battery 2003-2006 Honda Civic, 2005 Honda Accord and 2007-2011 Nissan Altima vehicles $2,760.63 0.027%
12 Replace Fuel Injection Pump Various vehicles $2,505.50 0.090%
13 Inspect Transmission and Repair as Necessary Various vehicles $2,459.58 0.002%
14 Replace Hybrid Battery and Reprogram Engine Control Module (ECM) Various hybrid vehicles $2,387.18 0.006%
15 Replace Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) , Clean Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR)
Ports and Reprogram Engine Control Module (ECM)
Various diesel vehicles $2,386.78 0.003%
Rank Vehicle Fix Total Cost (Parts & Labor) % 2011 Repairs
1 Inspect Engine Oil for Correct Level and Viscosity 0.046%
2 Inspect for Loose Fuel Cap and Tighten or Replace as Necessary $0.97 8.262%
3 Adjust Transmission Shift Control Cable $72.58 0.001%
4 Replace Vacuum Hose to Throttle Body $72.58 0.001%
5 Inspect Fuel System $74.40 0.001%
6 Replace Evaporative Emissions (EVAP) Purge Valve Wiring Harness $74.40 0.001%
7 Repair Ground Connection In The EGR Circuit $75.22 0.002%
8 Inspect Starting System and Repair as Necessary $76.65 0.001%
9 Repair Cruise Control Module $76.65 0.001%
10 Replace Antilock Brake (ABS) Malfunction Indicator Bulb $77.00 0.021%
11 Reprogram Instrument Cluster Module $77.00 0.002%
12 Adjust Tire Pressure and Reset Tire Pressure Sensor $77.39 0.020%
13 Disable Air Injection (AIR) System and Reprogram Powertrain Control Module (PCM) $77.86 0.004%
14 Remove Aftermarket Accessories $78.74 0.002%
15 Clean Battery Cable(s) $78.86 0.021%

2011’s trouble codes…

Rank DTC Code Description % of all DTCs 2011
1 P0171 System Too Lean 5.91%
2 P0420 Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold 5.67%
3 p0300 Random/Multiple Cylinder Misfire Detected 5.33%
4 P0455 Evaporative Emissions System Leak Detected (large leak) 3.30%
5 P0442 Evaporative Emission System Leak Detected (small leak) 3.30%
6 P0174 System Too Lean 2.79%
7 P0401 Exhaust Gas Recirculation Flow Insufficient Detected 2.64%
8 P0301 Cylinder 1 Misfire Detected 2.15%
9 P0128 Coolant Thermostat (coolant temperature below thermostat regulating temp.) 2.08%
10 P0440 Evaporative Emission System 1.97%
11 P0303 Cylinder 3 Misfire Detected 1.82%
12 P0304 Cylinder 4 Misfire Detected 1.82%
13 P0302 Cylinder 2 Misfire Detected 1.78%
14 P0135 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit 1.38%
15 P0430 Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold 1.30%
16 P0456 Evaporative Emission System Leak Detected (very small leak) 1.29%
17 P0141 O2 Sensor Heater Circuit 1.18%
18 P0118 Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor Circuit – high impact 1.17%
19 P0340 CMP Sensor Circuit Malfunction 1.16%
20 P0446 EVAP Vent System Performance 1.10%
21 P0306 Cylinder 6 Misfire Detected 1.01%
22 P0441 Evaporative Emission (EVAP) System – Continuous Purge Flow 1.00%
23 P0305 Cylinder 5 Misfire Detected 0.99%
24 P0449 EVAP Vent Solenoid Control Circuit Malfunction 0.84%
25 P0102 MAF Sensor Circuit Low Frequency 0.75%
Qbx2012 CarMD Vehicle Health Index