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Do Young Drivers Face Higher Car Repair Costs?

August 21, 2017

Even though younger Americans appear to be owning and driving vehicles at increasingly lower rates, many still lead a very car-central lifestyle. These young drivers are different from their older counterparts in some interesting ways. They own different cars, have different driving habits, and consequently face different costs for repair and maintenance.

A recent RepairPal survey suggests that nearly three-quarters of teens and young adults are financially responsible for their car's routine maintenance costs (oil changes, etc.). When their car needs a bigger (and likely more expensive) repair, over 60% say they'd need to fork over the cash without the help of mom and dad.

We wanted to know more about how young adults are impacted by maintenance and repair costs. How do they compare to older U.S. drivers? Our data indicates that younger drivers may actually be facing higher costs to maintain their vehicle.

What young adults drive

One of the most important factors in auto repair is what type of car you drive. A given car problem might be more common for one type of vehicle than another.

To get a better sense of which cars are most prevalent among the younger demographic, we analyzed our website visitor data from the first half of 2017 to see which vehicles were most researched among two different age groups:

  • Ages 18-24 (data not available for ages under 18)
  • Ages 25 and older

The results indicate that young drivers are far more concentrated in their “choice” of vehicle. The top 5 vehicles in the 18-24 age group are all common for the population at large, but accounted for over 50% of the younger group’s views, compared with just 15% for those same models among older groups.

Top 20 Cars Viewed by Ages 18-24

most popular cars for young adults

Top 20 Cars Viewed by Ages 25+

most popular cars for ages 25 and older

Digging into the data a bit further, we noticed that, aside from the more common car models overall, there are also some that simply have a disproportionate share of drivers in the 18-24 age range, as measured by views on RepairPal.

That’s where things got a little more interesting. We found the top twenty vehicles measured on this scale was sprinkled with a wide mix of car types - from the Nissan 350z, an older and more affordable sports car, to the cult classic Cadillac DeVille.

Cars With Highest Share of Views from Ages 18-24

car popularity by age

Repair costs for young adults vs. older Americans

So now we have a sense of what young adults drive, but what about the cost of maintaining those vehicles?

Costs for a given repair service vary by location, type of car, labor hours, part costs and more. To get a sense of the repair cost impact to young adults compared with older drivers, RepairPal calculated the national average cost for major services across hundreds of make and model combinations. We then analyzed it alongside the frequency that the given make, model, and service was researched by users in different age groups.

The result: according to estimates, young adults faced an average repair cost of $724. The average for those aged 25 and older was at $567. That's a $157 difference.

Average Repair Cost Estimate by Age Group

average repair cost estimate by age

What could be causing the difference in repair costs?

Generally speaking, your car repair costs will be a factor of two big things: how often something needs fixing and how much those repairs cost.

The basic rule is that older and/or poorly maintained vehicles are more likely to have frequent problems. In addition, neglecting to repair a known issue can have cascading effects on the rest of a vehicle and on repair costs. Cars are highly integrated systems, so one small problem left unaddressed can set off a chain reaction of other - often more expensive - issues as parts start to fail.

Both of these factors may impact young drivers more heavily than older ones. They may be driving a hand-me-down family vehicle, or have purchased something older and more economical due to tighter budgets.

Finally, driving habits and your environment can also impact repair costs. For example, driving aggressively, hitting potholes at high speeds, and tons of exposure to severe elements like snow or humidity can all add to the likelihood of certain problems cropping up. Some studies show that young drivers are disproportionately involved in vehicle accidents and injuries which implies more risky driving in general, and possibly more frequent/expensive repairs as a result.

Takeaway

While there are a ton of factors at work, RepairPal data indicates that younger drivers may be more likely to face a higher bill from the repair shop when something goes wrong with their car.

There are, however, great ways to limit this expense that young adults who own or drive a car should be considering.

  1. Keep your car well maintained to avoid preventable issues. In a RepairPal survey, almost 90% of young drivers do claim to keep up with the routine maintenance for their vehicle.
  2. Whenever possible, get problems fixed earlier rather than avoiding them. Your wallet will thank you later.
  3. Get an estimate before you head to the shop to know a fair price range.
  4. Find a qualified shop for the highest-quality repair to make sure the job is done right the first time.

About the Author

John Gower is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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