National Car Maintenance Survey: How Do You Measure Up?

Toco Joe from Toco Warranty holding a wrench and explaining Toco Car Maintenance

We surveyed 1,001 car owners across the United States to find out how—and how well—they take care of the cars. The results are mostly good news.

So How Did They Do?

Overall, drivers earned a solid C when it comes to maintenance. 76% of drivers take good, basic care of their cars. They check the tires, change the oil and keep it washed. That's great!


But Are They Doing It Enough?

Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find some issues--like how often they did those things. For example, 98% of people change their oil, but only 50% do it every 3 months or 3,000 miles and 7% go a year between changes.

For instance, batteries and belts don’t get much love. A dead battery--or corroded cable--is one of the most common breakdowns. A broken belt is close behind. Surprisingly, our survey showed that only 17% of people check their batteries monthly. Belts get even less attention. Only 9% of our respondents check their belts for cracks and wear. Keeping on top of inexpensive, easy to check items like belts and batteries can save a lot of you a lot of headaches.

Some Are Better Than Others

Not all drivers are created equally, however. The following groups score better than others on the Car Maintenance Index, meaning there is a statistically significant difference in their car maintenance performance against the comparison group:

DIY is going strong

While the majority of respondents use a professional to perform most maintenance tasks, a solid 30% of drivers do their own maintenance, right down to pulling spark plugs and flushing their coolant systems. The following graphic shows how often respondents opt to perform car maintenance themselves.

It can be a great way to protect your investment and save money. Be sure to save your receipts for oil, filters and other materials, though. If you ever have a warranty claim with the manufacturer, or a service contract claim with a company like Toco, having those receipts will prove that you’ve been following the scheduled maintenance for your car.

How Much Are People Spending on Car Maintenance?

  • Eight out of 10 surveyed drivers (83%) report having spent money on routine maintenance and repairs to keep their cars running in the past 12 months.
  • The average spend across all drivers polled was approximately $549.
  • More than a third report having spent less than $250 on routine maintenance and car repairs.
  • Nearly one out of five people (19%) reported that they have a vehicle service contract (in other words, a contract for repair, or replacement for an operational or structural failure of a vehicle)

Why Did We Do This Survey?

With the average car owner keeping their car for 10 years, drivers should resolve to stay on top of their car’s recommended maintenance schedule.

We felt it was important to develop a consistent, easy-to-understand way of measuring how well people do the things necessary to help keep their car running well, and the National Car Maintenance Index does just that. It can be used to assess changes in car care habits over time, and we hope will serve as a friendly reminder of the important role maintenance plays in keeping your car – and life – running well.

Why is Car Maintenance Important?

Keeping your car in good running will make it last longer and reduce the chance you’ll breakdown. Sure, it costs money, but in the long run, it’s totally worth it.

Take changing your oil for example. Oil breaks down in the high heat of your engine. Over time it stops doing it’s job lubricating all the parts in your engine and starts sticking to parts and clogging your engine’s arteries. Run old oil long enough and your engine will fail—and you’ll be stuck with $5,000, $10,000 or higher repair bill that not even a new car warranty will cover.

Tips for Making Car Maintenance a Habit

Cars are a major investment. Spending a small amount of time and money each month can keep them going strong for years. Plus, a well-maintained car--with records--is worth more when it comes time to trade it in or sell. Here are some ideas for staying on top of your car’s maintenance.

  • Make one day a week car day. Set aside 15 minutes a week to do a basic check: tires, belts, oil level and battery.
  • Send an invitation. Use the calendar on your phone or computer to set reminders for major service checks like changing your oil.
  • Celebrate your car’s birthday. Throw your car a party once a year and treat it to a trip to the mechanic. You could celebrate the day you bought it, it’s manufacturing date--it’s up to you

Have trouble sticking to schedules? Track one task--like checking your tires—for three months. If you succeed, give yourself an award for a job well done. Or, you can always delegate. If you have kids give them the responsibility and the reward. You’ll be helping them learn about cars and keeping your vehicle well maintained.

About the Toco Car Maintenance Survey

Data was gathered on behalf of Toco in late 2014 by global data collection service provider Critical Mix, to determine whether and how often respondents perform, or have a professional perform basic car care items. In order to earn a perfect score, drivers had to indicate that they perform, or have a professional perform each prescribed car maintenance item at the recommended frequency (or more often).

Using car maintenance recommendations based on industry sources, the Index provides a snapshot of how well drivers in the U.S. are maintaining their cars. Respondents earned 5.55 points for each of nine common maintenance items performed (whether by themselves or by a professional) and earned 5.55 points for each item performed at the generally recommended frequency (or more often). A perfect car care score would be 100* if a person performed each maintenance item at least as often as recommended.

1. Critical Mix on behalf of Toco Warranty Corp, 2014

* Rounded from 99.9