When it comes to having teenagers, driving is a right of passage for most of us. However, most teenagers only think about the driving aspect. They don’t realize just how much driving a car can cost. In fact, they usually only think about how much money it will take to fill the car up with gas and that’s it. But, you and I know that is definitely not the case. Driving a car has so many more costs associated with it than just the purchase price. Which is why it is extremely important to teach your teenagers about how much a car costs to drive now before they get in too deep.
Regular Maintenance Car Costs
The first, and easiest, lessons to impart to your teenager about car costs are about regular maintenance. Besides gas, your teenager will need to learn about the basics of maintaining a car. After all, the more diligently a car is maintained, the longer it usually lasts. And the less it costs in the long run for upkeep. This is a good lesson about the long game for them.
So, the main regular maintenance car costs they should be thinking of are:
- Filling Up Tires – Whenever the weather changes drastically or when the tires begin to wear. If you fill them up at a gas station, the cost is around $2. But, if you purchase a portable air compressor to keep in the car, you can usually get them for $20 – $30. And it will be there in case of an emergency.
- Windshield Wiper Blades – Your teenager should be able to tell when these need to be replaced because the windshield will be streaky or squeak every time they use the windshield wipers. On average, every year to year and a half, unless you live in a place that never gets any rain. These are usually really easy to replace, so you should teach your teenager to do it themselves and save some money. Windshield wiper blades can run between $10 – $25 per blade, depending on size and style.
- Cabin Air Filter Replacements – Most people replace these annually. But you could use the 15,000 – 30,000 mile gauge also, depending upon how many contaminants your filter is working through. These usually run between $15 – $100, depending upon if you change them yourself or pay a technician to do it. They are pretty easy to change, most of the time, once you find their hidey hole.
- Engine Air Filter Replacements – These should be replaced every 15,000 – 30,000 miles, depending upon where most of the driving is taking place. These are a little more expensive than the cabin air filters and can cost anywhere from $20 – $100, depending upon if you do it yourself or have a technician do it.
- Oil Changes – These should be done every 3,000 – 5,000 miles usually. If you put full synthetic oil in the car, then your teenager may be able to stretch it until around 10,000 miles instead. Either way, these can get pretty pricey. Depending upon whether your teenager chooses full synthetic, a blend, or regular, the price can range between $45 – $100 if they aren’t doing it themselves.
- Tire Rotations – Tire rotations should happen every time your teenager gets the oil changed. This helps increase the life of the tires and saves a lot of money in the long run. The cost to get this done will vary between $45 – $90. But most places will give a discount if you get it done while getting the oil changed.
While your teenager may blow you off, you need to reiterate just how important properly maintaining a car is to them. These items should be done regularly to help prevent major damage down the road. So just remind them that their future self is saving money by taking care of these things now.
Less Often Regular Costs
After you go through the regular maintenance items, then come the slightly less regular recurring costs. These items aren’t usually horribly expensive, but they can add up. And, they usually have to be done every 2-4 years or so, depending upon the vehicle and driving habits.
For the items on this list, your teenager should make sure they have money tucked away in an emergency fund to help pay for them.
- Light Bulb Replacements – These don’t usually need to be replaced but every 3 – 5 years. Luckily, most car light bulbs in the headlights or the taillights are easy to install yourself also. So, your teenager should be thinking around $10 – $20 per bulb that needs to be replaced.
- Battery – Most car batteries will last between 3 – 5 years, depending upon conditions. They usually run anywhere between $50 – $120 and can be changed for free at some automotive shops.
- Fluid Exchanges – These should take place about every 30,000 – 35,000 miles or so, depending upon the make and model of the vehicle. These help to keep the car running smoothly by flushing out all of the old, sludgy fluids. These can range between $80 – $150 per fluid type.
- O2 Sensor Replacements – O2 sensors are an integral component to how the car operates, so they should be replaced every 60,000 – 90,000 miles. But, since they are so important, and can be more difficult to change yourself, they usually run between $100 – $200 per sensor to install.
- Brakes – Brake pads need to be replaced on average every 50,000 miles. Some of the cheaper ones will not last as long as that though. Just for the brake pads to be replaced usually runs between $100 – $300 per axle, and doesn’t include rotors or calipers, if needed.
- Tire Replacements – The average lifespan of tires is 60,000. But you can get tires with less mileage and some with more. So how often they need to be replaced will have to do with that factor. Ultimately, each tire can cost anywhere from $50 – $200, which doesn’t include labor. The last set of tires I bought this year ran a little over $800 with labor. So this can be a pretty hefty chunk of change for your teenager!
The Really Expensive Costs
If you have gotten to this point and your teenager is still paying attention, then tell them to hold on to their seats. This category is usually where the costs of driving a car really hit home. Because they can be extremely expensive, especially to a teenager! Therefore, if they didn’t get the hint about having an emergency fund before, they should definitely get it now.
The items in this category are things that don’t happen to everyone or with every car. But, they are good things to keep in mind because if they do happen, they could really break the bank.
- Serpentine Belt – These should be replaced every 90,000 miles and can run between $100 – $200.
- Compressor – If the air compressor dies, your teenager won’t be able to get any relief from the heat. So this is something that they may want to be replaced, but doesn’t have to be replaced if they can’t afford it. Usually the air compressor costs between $400 – $600 to replace.
- Timing Belt – These should be replaced every 60,000 miles and can run between $500 – $900. Unless the belt is broken. In which case, it can cost up to $2,000 to replace.
- Brake Line – Brake lines should last at least 10 years or more, but that isn’t always the case. And when one breaks, they usually cost around $1,000 to replace.
- Catalytic Converter – Usually, these last an average of 10 years. However, I had a car that had issues with the catalytic converter and I had to replace it every 5 years. Which gets horribly expensive! Especially if they are built into the manifold, as most are these days. To replace the cat, it can range between $1,000 – $1,700.
- Suspension – If a car is properly maintained, hopefully the suspension never goes out. But, if it does, the costs add up quickly. This is because the system is comprised of multiple parts. And in order to replace all of them, your teenager could be looking at paying anywhere from $2,500 – $3,500. Ouch!
- Transmission – If the transmission goes in a car, it might actually be time to consider retiring it and just getting another form of transportation. This is due to the extremely high cost of replacing a transmission, which can be anywhere from $4,000 – $5,000.
Car Costs Summary
Ultimately, driving a car can cost a pretty penny. But, there are plenty of ways to save money on car costs. Especially, if your teenager drives a newer, more economical vehicle and maintains it properly. As the old adage “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure” shows.
So teaching them about all of the potential expenses involved with driving a car now can only help them in the long run. Hopefully, they, and their wallet, will thank you for your sage parenting advice. Well, we can all dream!
What are some ways you have taught your teenager about how much it really costs to drive a car?