Image of worker repairing car engine.

The Most Expensive Car Repairs And How Much They Cost

Victoria Araj5-Minute Read
UPDATED: June 02, 2024

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No matter how careful you are when creating a budget, life happens. And, oftentimes, “life” comes in the form of unexpected car repairs that you often can’t ignore or even defer.

Buying a car is an investment, and the true cost of being a car owner goes well beyond the car’s sticker price. With major car repairs, waiting to get something fixed isn’t always an option. Knowing how much you can expect to pay for the most expensive car repairs can help you plan for certain costs if and when they arise.

So, what are the costliest car parts to replace and the least affordable vehicles to keep on the road? Unlock the answers in just a moment.

What Are The Most Expensive Car Repairs?

Some of the priciest auto repairs can be essential for keeping your car running. And, if your car isn’t under factory warranty, you may be stuck with the full repair bill. The cost of the most expensive repair jobs will vary greatly based on numerous factors, including the type of car you have, your repair shop and the parts you need.

Let’s take a look at some of the most expensive car parts to replace and some of the most expensive repairs.

1. An Engine Replacement Or Rebuild

It’s no surprise that the car’s engine – the part that makes it go – can incur a large expense if it malfunctions. If more than a few engine parts need repairing, it’s called a “blown engine.” Fully replacing a blown engine will typically set you back anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000. Replacing the engine in some cars can even run upward of $16,000.

In some cases, you can opt for an engine rebuild instead of a full replacement. An engine rebuild typically costs $2,000 – $4,000, though this varies based on the parts of the engine that need repairing. For instance, if your engine’s cylinders need fixing, the cost may be equal or nearly equal to the cost of a brand-new engine.

To help prevent a blown engine, get regular oil changes and take your car in for diagnostic testing if the “check engine” light comes on.

2. EV Battery Replacement

If you drive an electric or hybrid vehicle, replacing your car battery can be very expensive. EV battery replacements range from about $4,500 to over $17,600.

Fortunately, most EV batteries last 8 – 15 years before they lose their ability to hold a charge. That said, a battery’s longevity largely depends on factors, such as how much you drive your car, how many charging cycles it goes through and the weather conditions you drive in.

Following a few best practices can help maximize your EV battery’s life. These include limiting your daily charging to 80% capacity and not charging in extremely high temperatures. 

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3. Transmission Replacement

The transmission moves power from the engine to the wheels, which is critical for making your car go. The cost of transmission repairs is typically in the $3,000 – $9,000 range, and you usually can’t avoid or postpone the repair once it’s needed. How much you pay will depend in large part on whether you replace or rebuild your existing transmission.

Thankfully, transmissions usually last a long time unless they aren’t properly cared for. Proper care for a car with an automatic transmission means keeping the transmission fluid fresh. And, in a manual transmission car, be sure not to ride the clutch too hard and too often when shifting.

4. Transfer Case Replacement

Your car’s transfer case helps the transmission move energy to the wheel axles, enabling your wheels to turn. Some transfer case repairs can be less pricey than others, but it depends on what part is broken. A full replacement tends to fall somewhere in the $2,000 – $8,000 range. Most transfer cases are designed to last for the life of your vehicle, assuming your car receives regular maintenance and is used properly.

5. Catalytic Converter Replacement

If your car takes gas, a catalytic converter controls its emissions. A functional catalytic converter can help with fuel efficiency and avoiding legal and environmental consequences. Some states won’t let your car pass inspection if the catalytic converter is missing or broken. If your car needs a catalytic converter, you should expect to pay in the ballpark of $900 – $4,500.

Catalytic converter theft is fairly common, with over 64,000 such thefts reported in the U.S. in 2022. While you can’t necessarily eliminate this risk, you can take protective measures by using anti-theft devices and parking in safe places. Plus, some car insurance policies offer coverage if your catalytic converter gets stolen.

If you have a broken catalytic converter, fixing it isn’t always a bad option. But with parts and labor, a repair can cost just as much as a full replacement. Most catalytic converters are meant to last 10 years, and they can even last a car’s lifetime with proper care. However, if you live somewhere known for snowy winters, road salt can cause issues sooner since a catalytic converter is an external part.  

6. Head Gasket Replacement

The head gasket seals the engine cylinders, preventing the engine from leaking coolant and oil. If the seal is compromised or gone, the engine can overheat and cause considerable damage. You’ll definitely know if this happens because it results in coolant and oil spraying everywhere. Fixing a missing or damaged seal is unavoidable and can come with a price tag of roughly $2,800 – $6,000. Checking and maintaining the head gasket seal can help you avoid this messy and costly repair.

What Are The Most Expensive Cars To Repair And Maintain?

Looking at sticker prices clearly shows that not all manufacturers create cars equally. Some cars have relatively inexpensive parts that most mechanics can fix or replace within a day or two. Other cars have parts that cost a ton, with very few people qualified to do repairs.

ConsumerAffairs recently published a list of the repair and maintenance costs for some of the most common makes of cars. According to this report, Porsche is the priciest car brand to repair and maintain. The 10 most expensive brands, and their average annual cost, are as follows:

  1. Porsche: $1,623 per year*
  2. Land Rover: $1,599 per year*
  3. Jaguar: $1,529 per year*
  4. Audi: $1,344 per year*
  5. BMW: $1,318 per year*
  6. Mercedes-Benz: $1,237 per year*
  7. Lincoln: $1,197 per year*
  8. Mini: $1,163 per year*
  9. Tesla: $1,133 per year*
  10. Cadillac: $1,066 per year*

*Source: RepairPal 2019 costs adjusted by ConsumerAffairs for 2024 inflation levels based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These brands are well known for making cars with excellent performance. But you may want to steer clear of them if you prefer to keep your maintenance and car repair costs to a minimum.

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Final Thoughts

Knowing what car repairs to anticipate and how to prevent or at least delay the need for as many repairs as you possibly can will help you drive with a little more peace of mind. In the event of a hefty automotive expense that you don’t have the money to pay for out of pocket at this time, a personal loan can help you cover it.

Submit an application to Rocket LoansSM today to see the interest rate and repayment term you prequalify for, for a personal auto loan.

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Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.