By on October 29, 2021

Since the hottest news surrounding the automotive industry today happens to be rolling updates about supply shortages, factory downtime, and how it’s not impacting manufacturing profits as much as anticipated, I’ve been diving back into studies and research pertaining to the future of the automotive industry. It’s a little more enjoyable for my own gray matter to process and might provide readers with a touch more to ponder than another story about how automakers are stalling production because an insufficient number of doodads were placed on a boat that’s waiting off the California coastline.

Earlier this week, we examined research exploring how much electric vehicles actually cost to run and that theme will persist. There’s a new study suggesting EVs boast lower repair bills than gasoline-driven alternatives. But there’s an interesting tipping point that occurs early in a vehicle’s lifespan that makes it happen. Before that, it’s cheaper on average to maintain something equipped with an internal combustion engine. 

According to the Deepview True Cost analysis released on Thursday by analytics firm We Predict, EV owners spend an average of $123 to service their vehicles within the first three months and $306 over the first year. By contrast, the owners of gasoline-powered cars were average bills of $53 within the first three months and $189 by year’s end.

Things change after three years, however, when EV servicing averages $514 against the typical gas burner’s $749. This shows that maintenance fees actually decline as electrics have had some miles put under their wheels, while ICE costs grow exponentially. But that’s counterintuitive, as nobody really expects to encounter fewer problems as vehicles get older. We Predict chalked this up to EVs having fewer moving parts, suggesting that they’ll cost more to service but will ultimately spend less time being wrenched on. This is assuming you’re having someone else do the work — which is likely with an ICE and all but guaranteed on EVs.

The Michigan-based We Predict said it came to these conclusions after tallying the money spent by manufacturers and vehicle owners on repairs and maintenance. This includes items under factory warranties and excludes collision repairs on data amassed from 13 million vehicles across 400 models. All told, the research encompassed 65 million maintenance and repair orders.

That makes a little broad, likely negating some of the differences between premium and mainstream models using a multitude of electric and gas-driven powertrains. The outlet offered a pretty broad range, saying that the actual servicing fees can vary wildly in those first few years — anywhere between $202 and $5,012.

We would have also liked to see a study that went beyond 36 months since the average automobile on the road is far older. Problems also don’t tend to crop up with much regularity until cars start approaching 100k on the odometer, which a three-year-old vehicle is unlikely to reach. But We Predict suggested that the Deepview True Cost study maintains relevance for the secondhand market, as 36 months tends to be the point where leases come back.

As with the previous ownership cost study we covered, the researchers may have a bias represented by their working relationship with automakers, safety regulators, insurance groups, and financial entities. But there’s plenty of useful data to be found in the study, including the fact that vehicle maintenance is getting more expensive across the board and recall campaigns are putting automakers on the hook for the bill more frequently.

For manufacturers, the cost to service vehicles from the 2018 model year averaged $731 in the first three years. That’s an 11-percent increase from 2016 over the same timeframe. Repairs became 4 percent dearer to the industry, with maintenance rising by 11 percent and servicing/recall campaigns going up 35 percent.

The difference was larger on premium models, with 2018 MY cars seeing servicing fees rise by 18 percent to $1,513 in a three-year window.  Mainstream models grew just 4 percent to $573 through the same period vs their 2016 MY counterparts. EVs ended up being particularly expensive, often boasting three times the labor cost of a similarly priced ICE. We Predict said this was due to the special requirements for servicing them and the uniqueness of their parts, stating that they would eventually come down in price as electrification was normalized.

The rest of the report is simply a ranking of which brands yielded the lowest average service and warranty costs accumulated by models across their lineup after their three years on the road. It’s not particularly useful in terms of determining which vehicles offer the lowest rates but provides automakers with an opportunity to brag (à la J.D. Power Awards) and gives a general sense of their standing against each other.

Acura models ranked first among the premium segment, with the average service and warranty costs coming out to a nice, level $600. Lincoln vehicles ranked second at $879 while Genesis models came in third at $1,181. Among mainstream brands, Kia came in first with fees averaging $369 during the first 36 months. Hyundai ranked a predictable second with a cost of $381. Dodge game in third at $420. Curiously, none of the above brands are famous for manufacturing electric vehicles.

[Image: Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock]

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48 Comments on “Study Suggests Time Plays Important Factor in Repair Costs for EVs vs ICEs...”


  • avatar
    mcs

    I haven’t had a chance to dig into this, but I had to laugh at some of the board members of WePredict. Rick Wagoner from GM and another guy who was “quality” director at Jaguar Land Rover. Pure comedy.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Michigan-based”

      Yep.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        On my Leaf, it was just wipers, tires, and a $70 12v battery from AutoZone.

        BTW, I think the Leaf’s 12v battery was sort of special, but small and cheap and a small town AutoZone had it in stock.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I have changed the Brake fluid as well as the radiator coolant (yes, it has one) on our Leaf as the time had passed that I would have done both in any vehicle.

          I have no doubt that an EV is cheaper to service over the long haul, but I also think that there is this fantasy that they require zero maintenance. Those fluids don’t care about the vehicle’s power source.

          I’ve had more issues with stuff not related to the ICE dirty bits failing in old vehicles as well that would have issues with in an EV as well. Anti-Lock brake modules, HVAC systems…things like that. Again, it should still be less but it isn’t zero either

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            “I have changed the Brake fluid as well as the radiator coolant ”

            Yeah, I should have done those, but didn’t. Brake fluid is more of an issue on EVs.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “We Predict said this was due to the special requirements for servicing them and the uniqueness of their parts, stating that they would eventually come down in price as electrification was normalized.”

    Other than drivetrain, I can’t think of what they are referring to. Now on my second EV, I’ve never had the drivetrain serviced, or any other part, for that matter. My annual safety inspections and tires are done at Monro Muffler (ironically).

    It’s not like there are special EV brakes, wipers, 12V batteries, cabin air filters, or tires.

    Since Tesla dominates the EV field, the numbers may be heavily skewed toward their high labor rates and crazy recommended maintenance schedule.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “This is assuming you’re having someone else do the work — which is likely with an ICE and –all but guaranteed on EVs–.”

    Challenge accepted.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “But that’s counterintuitive, as nobody really expects to encounter fewer problems as vehicles get older.”

    That’s a clunky statement.

    EV’s perhaps have a decline in maintenance costs as they age primarily because Tesla has a tendency to sell Beta test units.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      So you took the beta FSD release and extrapolated that to Tesla sells beta cars. Oy.

      The decline in maintenance RELATIVE TO ICE is probably due to few moving parts and less stress on brake systems etc. The caps are there because stuff like tires, suspension etc..are common wear items.

      There are also other EVs out there, and after about 10k miles, my Niro has had $1.98 in maintenance due to washer fluid. (I replaced it myself!!) Hope it drops from there.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    BEV Land Rover. Discuss.

  • avatar
    6-speed Pomodoro

    And yet I’ve never seen an old Tesla on the road…

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “…I’ve been diving back into studies and research pertaining to the future of the automotive industry.”

    It is interesting to watch this 2006 documentary (released 15 years ago) and notice what has changed and what hasn’t and who is still saying what in 2021:

    https://www.amazon.com/Who-Killed-Electric-Martin-Sheen/dp/B087GTS4Z8

    [Alternatively, you could watch Cowboys and Aliens – after suffering through that, I knew it was time to return to some good reality-based historical perspective.]

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    More proof EVs are a boondoggle. Being sold as some savior of the environment (laughable) and so cheap to operate (again, major lie) and then very little repair costs.

    The biggest difference (obviously) is they don’t have a proper powertrain. Well, hate to being some facts in here, but modern ICE engines are very reliable and just don’t have issues. EVs do not have an advantage over ICE vehicles in any measurable category.

  • avatar

    I cannot make any sense from this article. In three years I only changed oil in my car and it is Ford (My best regards EBFlex!). And replaced cabin filter – by myself.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Things change after three years, however, when EV servicing averages $514 against the typical gas burner’s $749. This shows that maintenance fees actually decline as electrics have had some miles put under their wheels, while ICE costs grow exponentially. But that’s counterintuitive, as nobody really expects to encounter fewer problems as vehicles get older. We Predict chalked this up to EVs having fewer moving parts, suggesting that they’ll cost more to service but will ultimately spend less time being wrenched on. This is assuming you’re having someone else do the work — which is likely with an ICE and all but guaranteed on EVs.”

    So assuming true EV has any real market share, ever, does this mean shop fees for EVs rise 20% to compensate? I can’t see the “EV” tech taking less salary, likely they will just be standard dealer techs and take a class on EV servicing… so how does the shop make up for less business?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Just like they adapted to the much more reliable ICE cars when quality improved over the years -either they sell enough additional new cars to keep the techs busy, push general service/maintenance, or reduce staff.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Let’s add some actual facts. I’ve owned an ICE (hybrid) Toyota Highlander and an EV Chevy Bolt, each for two and a half years. In that time I’ve put 15k miles on the Highlander and 11k miles on the Bolt (the Bolt actually gets driven for many more trips, but they’re shorter).

    The Highlander has had four oil changes, which is actually less than recommended (the schedule calls for one every six months regardless of mileage, and I’ve occasionally stretched that a bit), a coolant change, a brake fluid change, and new air filters for both engine and cabin. It’s also had a failed PCV valve and a failed 12v battery, but I won’t hold the latter against it as the battery was at the end of its expected service life. It’s had two tire rotations and it appears to need new front rotors. Note that except for the PCV valve this is a pretty smooth ICE experience.

    The Bolt has had… a tire rotation and a new cabin air filter. That’s it. Nothing else due in the schedule, nothing else needed.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Are 15K rotors, on a car with regen braking no less, and 2 year fluid exchanges really the typical ICE experience?

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Jeez. New rotors already? Do they use potato chips or something? While not a major ordeal, I would be fairly annoyed at having to swap them out that soon along with most likely a set of pads. Of course, if you are using the Highlander at the track day events that could explain some of the issues.

  • avatar
    mcs

    “EV owners spend an average of $123 to service their vehicles within the first three months and $306 over the first year. By contrast, the owners of gasoline-powered cars were average bills of $53 within the first three months and $189 by year’s end.”

    The first three months? Ever heard of a warranty?

    From Rick Wagoner’s, I mean “WePredict’s” FAQ”

    “What Costs Are Included In The Report?
    The cost per vehicle metric used in Deepview True Cost includes: Unplanned repairs, warranty, service campaigns, diagnostics, maintenance, software updates (except over-the-air), and recalls.”

    So, they are including warranty costs. Those numbers are not what consumers are paying.

    “Before that, it’s cheaper on average to maintain something equipped with an internal combustion engine. ”

    Totally untrue since the study basically consists of warranty work over the first three months of ownership that isn’t charged to the buyer.

    “Earlier this week, we examined research exploring how much electric vehicles actually cost to run and that theme will persist. ”

    Again, that research was riddled with gaffes and calculation errors and was debunked by Car and Driver: https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a38043667/study-electric-cars-higher-cost-questions/

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Maintenance costs vary too much by vehicle to make such a study relevant. Real quality and reliability, especially over time, is never measured. All this recommended service interval stuff is not adhered to, must people just change their oil with they think about it abs cabin air filters are good for the life of the car – no one changes them. No one rotates tires, no one aligns the vehicle unless they have a problem. Most bee cars require virtually nothing for the first 100k. EV’s may not either, it’s down the road when things break that costs come into play. New transmission, suspension rebuild, A/C inevitably, brakes. Many of these things are common to both types of vehicles abs EV’s, in general, are heavier. More expensive brakes, more expensive tires, these wear items will cost more on an EV. Inevitably the battery will suffer decreased range which will devalue the EV. I think EV batteries will last so long that their failure will spell the end for when vehicle. No one will spend figures to replace the battery in an EV with 300k on the odometer.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    “The data shows that maintenance costs are lower and maintaining an electric engine over the medium-to-long term is significantly cheaper and less fraught with larger repairs than ICE engines.”

    Water is wet…..

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    We drive a ‘18 EB Flex and a ‘21 Mach E. The former gets a few hundred miles a month and the latter about 2,000 as I commute with it. Nearly the same in weight and performance though I think the Flex could take the Mach E (barely) in the 1/4 mile. I charge the Mach E off a 40 amp breaker in the garage and w/power at $.0634, it runs about $30 a month for energy costs. When I commuted with the Flex for a 6 months that cost was about $300+ per month which was similar to the Ford STA (Sport Trac Adrenalin) which I put 160,000 miles on. The STA was in for service about every two months as I commuted with it for 5 years. I treated it good and wore out 4 sets of tires, pushed the plugs to 150,000 miles, went through three sets of brakes, two batteries, a bunch of fuel/air filters, a wheel bearing, tire pressure sensor, and besides really regular oil changes and two transmission services, front and rear diff services, two radiator services, a power steering revive, it stayed remarkably trouble free. So the Mach E will still go through brakes & tires & windshield washer fluid. It’s daily operating cost is very low. I do enjoy not going to dealer service every two months as that involved 1/2 day of my time and usually Saturday mornings. My S.O. figures we’ll save about $3,000 a year on operating costs (electricity v. gas prices). If we couldn’t charge at home, I’d probably be driving a hybrid (Maverick?) but for us, that was the game-changer. Probably why a local accountant has driven a Tesla for 6 years.

  • avatar

    At one time it was cheaper to run a steam locomotive than a diesel electric, too. It is way too soon in the EV life to make this determination.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @speedlaw: Not really. This study is a work of fiction since they included warranty work as an expense to the owner. If you look at the technolology pipeline, it’s going to be even cheaper long run. There’s a tsunami of LFE battery cars coming soon and LFE batteries last forever.

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      That’s a pretty lofty claim…there is essential nothing revolutionary about EV drivetrains…and the MTBF etc. of gears, motors and bearings are very well understood…their useful life is more likely to land somewhere over the million mile mark than under it…and the battery is a pretty static component.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “That’s a pretty lofty claim…”

        Yeah, that’s true. I’m seeing 4000 cycles on a CATL LiFePo4 LFP in the specs. On a 250-mile range car, that’s a million miles until it drops to 80% capacity. At 15k a year, that’s 66 years of driving. A 16-year-old driver would be 82 years old at that point, so maybe the 80% capacity would be good for an 82-year-old. If the 80% isn’t good enough and maybe the car doesn’t last beyond a million miles somehow, the battery could be used for grid storage for a few more decades.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          Is you math for daily charging or only charging when the 250 miles is used up? I would bet most people charge at home daily which would bring those 4000 cycles in a lot fewer miles.

          • 0 avatar
            random1

            So if you charge literally every day, it’s 11 years. And that’s rather extreme. Does every little “top up” have the same degradation effect as a full charge?

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @Flipper35: ” I would bet most people charge at home daily which would bring those 4000 cycles in a lot fewer miles.”

            No, the way the batteries are rated is for full discharge cycles. Partial discharges don’t really decrease the number of cycles. I can actually vouch for that first hand since my car has way more partial discharges and charges than the full number of cycles it was rated for. At least 5 times more.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            ” Does every little “top up” have the same degradation effect as a full charge?”

            No, a full from zero charge is worst case. Battery life cycle is rated at worst case.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            To compare lighter topping up life vs. full discharge, in a batteries specs, there are both 100% and 10% DOD (depth of discharge) numbers. The lifecycle numbers will be lower for the 100% than the 10%. It varies between manufacturers because everyone has their own secret sauces for electrode coatings etc. that extend battery life.

  • avatar
    markklose

    Seems odd to use age instead of miles driven for costs.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    What in the world would cost $300 to service on ANY three month-old vehicle?! I thought the study didn’t include warranty work!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Anyone with critical thinking skills would understand this study is hogwash. EVs and ICE vehicles share common parts. Most people take the mid-price part when getting their vehicle fixed. The B&B has four distinct tiers of replacement parts: 1. cheap as possible 2. Nice compromise 3. Only the best 4. Get into fistfights over using any other part. The easiest way to save money and help the environment? Keep driving the vehicle you have.

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