||The Most Expensive -- and Cheapest -- States to Get Your Car Repaired
When the dreaded check engine light illuminates on the dashboard, drivers in New Jersey now pay the most in the nation to have it diagnosed and repaired, at an average cost of $392.99, according to CarMD.com Corporation's analysis of more than 160,000 repairs made on vehicles with check engine light problems in 2012.
Indicating a coastal shift from West to East, and rounding out the top five most expensive U.S. states/districts for auto repair were no. 2 District of Columbia, no. 3 California, no. 4 North Carolina and no. 5 Maryland.
Increased frequency of expensive repairs, such as catalytic converter replacement, in those states with higher average repair costs indicates drivers in some areas continue to put off small repairs that spiral into more expensive problems and drive up check engine-related repair costs.
"In 2012, we saw a dramatic shift in the top five most expensive states for average car repairs, as many drivers along the East Coast incurred rising auto repair costs, while they simultaneously contended with Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath," said CarMD.com CEO Ieon C. Chen.
The average cost for check engine light-related repairs in the U.S. in 2012 was $367.84, up 10% from 2011. The Northeast experienced the largest percent increase (11.56%). But the West, historically known for having some of the highest car repair costs, saw only a 6.53% increase in costs. California is the only western state among the top five this year.
From 2011 to 2012, vehicle owners in New Jersey saw a 20.7% increase in labor rates and an 8.2% increase in parts costs, making it the state with the highest average parts cost. New Jersey drivers also paid more than the U.S. average for many repairs, including catalytic converter replacement at $1,112.48 per transaction.
On a more positive note, as hybrid repair costs across the country trend down, New Jersey owners paid the least to replace a hybrid battery at $2,005.05 on average, as compared with Arizona's high of $4,409.94. Some factors that can contribute to repair costs include availability of diagnostic capabilities and technicians trained to service these vehicles, as well as vehicle population mix.
Catalytic converter repairs were the second most common reason the check engine light came on in three of the five states with the highest repair costs. This is a very pricey part that is often the result of extensive vehicle age, or putting off smaller repairs such as spark plugs or oxygen sensors.
Other key findings of the study:
The states that pay the most: The 2011 ranking found all five states with the highest repair costs were from the West. For 2012, three hail from the Southeast, one from the Northeast and California remains the only western state among the five states with the highest repair costs.
The states that pay the least: Two of the five states with the lowest car repair costs are from the Midwest (Iowa and South Dakota) and two are from the South/Southeast (Delaware and West Virginia). Rounding out the most affordable states for auto repair is Vermont, the only Northeastern state to enjoy a drop in average car repair costs in 2012.
- A gap has begun to close between the states/regions with the highest/lowest repair costs (i.e., there was no change in Arizona's average repair cost, yet it dropped in rank from no. 5 to no. 22, with many states from other regions rising).
Year-over-year trends: A majority of states/districts experienced an increase in repair costs in 2012, with the exceptions being Delaware, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Labor charge trends: Drivers in Vermont paid the least in labor at $115.90. While still low, this is up from Vermont's labor rate of $90.85 in 2011. For the second consecutive year, Colorado is the state with the highest labor charge at $150.75 on average.
- D.C. had the largest increase in repair costs, up 20% from 2011 to 2012. This is partially attributed to the type of repairs being made. Time-consuming repairs that cost over $1,000 accounted for nearly 10% of D.C. repairs in 2012, as compared with 7% in 2011, while quick-fix, gas cap-related problems were down five points.
- Wyoming saw the biggest drop with a nearly 17% dip in average repair costs. Some very positive news for Wyoming is catalytic converter replacements have dropped from the second to seventh most common repair, showing drivers in Wyoming are taking better care of their cars and may also be trading in older model vehicles for newer ones.
Parts cost trends: Drivers in Vermont also paid the least for parts at an average of $153.82, with those in New Jersey paying the most ($256.28).
(Source: CarMD.com, 06/11/13)
For a more detailed look at the complete rankings, visit the CarMD.com website.
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