Usually, a car that costs a lot of money to buy will cost a lot of money to maintain, or at least that's one of the general trends I've been able to observe. Take the brand BMW, for example. BMWs are sold as luxury vehicles, meaning everything in the car is going to sound posh and actually be luxurious. One of the things that come to my mind is the BMW i8, which exudes all the effort and detail put into the car. Right from the get-go, you can see the sharp exterior, which is very aerodynamically friendly—there’s a hole through the sides for air, if you hadn’t noticed it. And then, the interior has some of the best technology; just look at the way you input information in the i8. You’re freed from the tyranny of buttons; instead, all you do is type with the movement of your fingers. Unfortunately, the engine is wired accordingly, meaning your local auto body-shop guy probably isn’t the best person to be working on it. So, you’re forced to go to a BMW dealership, which will, of course, cost you significantly more money for standard maintenance.
Of course, there are several lineups that defy the parent model and cost an exorbitant amount of money to maintain, so you're paying for the "uniqueness" of the lineup.
The cost of maintenance is for over a 10-year period. Here we go!
20 Expensive: Acura TL ($12,100)
Getting the party going is the Acura TL, Honda’s luxury brand. There was another article where I had criticized Acura TLX, the successor to the TL, for not being as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other cars had been, which is especially disappointing, considering that it cost more than some of the other base Acura models. At that point, I wasn’t aware of the maintenance cost of the TLX (I’m going to assume it's similar to the TLX), but now, this car really becomes a punishing option, as it has nothing to boast about yet costs a hefty sum of money to buy and then another $1K-plus to maintain a year. And as far as the TL is concerned, things were even worse for it, as it was a few years older and thus didn’t have any of the updates of the TLX.
19 Expensive: Subaru Forester ($12,200)
The Forester is one of the best in Subaru's lineup. In 2017, Jalopnik did a review of the 2017 Forester and was dumbfounded—not because the 2017 model year brought something magical but because, except for the relatively new engine, it remained unchanged from the previous few years. Yet, sales went up like an ascending fighter jet escaping the bullets of enemies on the ground. I’m completely serious about things being unchanged, though.
It has gained a total of—get this—five (5) more HP since its launch 20 years ago.
As much as car enthusiasts like the glory of the WRX STI, Subaru has found a new team captain: the Forester. The car is relatively expensive to maintain, though, but I guess that hasn’t deterred prospective buyers.
18 Expensive: Mazda 6 ($12,700)
If you’re a Mazda fan, you might think Mazda 6 doesn’t need anything more to it. It looks good from the outside, is designed by a company that considers driving “fun,” and even has a manual gearbox. And off the chance you thought it was lacking a bit of power, the 2018 model year brings a 2.5-liter turbo engine. There you have it, a car that satisfies all your needs and demands. It gives you a vibe of “premium car.” And I don’t think that’s an accident since that’s one of the tactics employed by Mazda to gain better traction in the industry already dominated by giants like Toyota, Honda, and Ford. That “premium image” brings not only an increased base price but also a hefty maintenance cost of $1,270 per year.
17 Expensive: Dodge Ram 1500 ($13,300)
If you were to do a head-to-head comparison of the Dodge Ram 1500 and the Ford F-150, you’d realize it’s a difficult decision. Many aspects would have to be considered, such as price, handling, and safety. Ram would win in some areas, such as the handling—the cushioned ride really takes your breath away—although both trucks are really close in terms of handling.
When it comes to the price, the Ram 1500 would be just a little cheaper than the F-150. However, when you factor in $1,330 cost of maintenance per year for the Ram 1500, you realize you’d be paying more by choosing the Ram 1500.
By no means is the Ram 1500 not a great truck, though. Everything is superb, and the difference between it and the F-150 is a lot more personal than anything else—except for the average maintenance cost.
16 Expensive: Dodge Grand Caravan ($14,500)
I guess owning a Dodge isn't cheap at all, huh? First, the Ram 1500 and now, the Grand Caravan. Maybe it has something to do with how Dodge has been aging without making gains. In other words, all of their lineups are at least seven years old, with their average age being 8.6 years. People are waiting for updates on the current lineups, Dodge. The Grand Caravan, for instance, has been confined to the mediocrity of the fifth generation since 2007. Folks, it’s 2018 now. Jalopnik actually brought this to the attention of Dodge, and Dodge could only boast of “three new vehicles this year alone,” referring to the updates on the Demon, the Hellcat, and the Durango. When probed deeper, Dodge refused to answer further. At $1,450 maintenance cost, the future doesn’t look that bright for the Caravan.
15 Expensive: Chevrolet Cobalt ($14,500)
As good as the Cobalt SS was, the Cobalt itself was a terrible car. Even before diving into the more abysmal aspects of the car, let’s just discuss the safety. It received a “Poor” score for side impacts and “Marginal” on another criterion.
Consequently, it had the highest fatality rate in compact cars—there were 117 deaths per million registered years.
That’s 46 more deaths per million registered years. And then, there were millions of recalls due to faults in this car, faults such as failure of ignition while in motion. Put two and two together, you realize the car could fail at any given moment, and when it would, it would come face to face with the poor safety features. On top of all this, there was the $1,540 maintenance cost per year. No, thanks; I don’t want to die.
14 Expensive: Mercedes-Benz E350 ($14,700)
There’s a reason why Mercedes is a “status” car. It has some of the best amalgams of luxury, fuel economy, and performance to offer to you. So, when you’re out and about driving in your shiny E-Class, you’re very well aware of what you want to state to others. However, there’s a price to pay. While all the other cars listed so far have had a relatively high yearly maintenance cost, none of them had a high average cost for the entire brand. In other words, not only does the E350 itself cost $1,470 a year to keep on the road, but the entire brand has an average cost of $1,290 a year. So, you have to be able to afford that—that’s what makes it a “status” car.
13 Expensive: Nissan Murano ($14,700)
The Murano made a blast upon launch at the beginning of this century—it was even nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award. And the best part is, even now, the Murano rocks. Just in 2015, the third generation of the Murano was released, with the company wanting to present it as a “casual sports car.”
While its status as a sports SUV is debatable, the comfort experienced by passengers is not.
Seriously, the entire car is equipped with seats that are so plush and soft that you think you’re on one of those mattresses that you don’t buy due to the high price. The exterior looks sharp and, more importantly, intriguing. But the matter of fact is, you better get ready to put aside $1,470 per year for maintenance—twice more than what the average Nissan’s upkeep would cost you.
12 Expensive: BMW 328i ($15,600)
Remember the previous entry about Mercedes being a “status” car? Well, here’s BMW, another German beast that appeals to a lot of people. I actually wanted to know who’s better between the two, so I went ahead and did some research. Turns out both brands are really good at keeping their customers happy, with each one attracting drivers for different reasons. And the winner? BMW by a hair—so not exactly a winner in the grand scheme of things. But I’ll tell you what—you can either spend the same amount of money on maintenance over 10 years on a BMW or consider a low-end car for the same $17,800. The 328i itself costs $1,560 a year to keep going on the road.
11 Expensive: Chrysler Sebring ($17,100)
I was equally surprised when I saw this one all the way at the top. I expected the Germans to occupy the top spot but was definitely not expecting to see a Chrysler, although, on the other hand, some of you might be correctly reasoning, “It’s a Chrysler—what do you expect?” Either way, this car had nothing in its favor.
Critics to commentators, strangers to sisters, enthusiasts to eunuchs all detested this car.
There was simply nothing to this car. If you were of a reasonable mind, you might consider having this car if it was given for free. But somehow, this car would find a way to cost you money—it has a yearly ownership fee of $1,710. Something will act up; free is not actually free.
10 Cheap: Kia Optima ($6,400)
Starting off this side of the list is the Optima. Kia is doing a lot better than what it had been doing even just a decade ago—just take a look at the 2018 Stinger GT. With a powerful engine, a plush interior, a beautiful exterior, and an affordable price tag, Kia decided to change its perception of what it can do in the mind of others. Going back to the Optima—the car that has just reached voting age—was actually showered with accolades by a Jalopnik writer, who urged users to give this a shot instead of the Camry—nothing wrong with that, as I believe one should move out of one's comfort zone in a planned manner. It has some of its own uniqueness and style that might appeal to some. Plus, at $640 a year, it’s relatively cheap to maintain.
9 Cheap: Scion xB ($6,300)
Scion isn't the first box-shaped endeavor in the history of the automotive industry, although it perhaps looks a little less likable compared to others, especially in light of its compact nature. With the intention of appealing to the young adults, Scion made things simple by keeping everything in one color, transmission, trim, and the like. But what started out as the strength—or at least the strategy for making sure Scion was doing well—became one of the pillars that cracked during trying times; people were simply unsatisfied with Scion due to lack of variety. And then, all the other things—lagging technology, and weird products—caught up to Scion, which was eventually killed by Toyota. However, Scion xB had one of the lowest yearly operating costs at $630.
8 Cheap: Toyota Yaris ($6,100)
So, what did Toyota do with the lineups of Scion? Incorporated them with its Yaris lineup. This is one of those compact cars that looks good—as long as you can forgive the slightly odd-looking grille in the front—and drives even better. It’s essentially a Mazda 2 in terms of handling and driving. Once you find a car that you like in the category, you realize a lot of your earthly problems were like liquid nitrogen: what was once a visible liquid in a container turns out to be a mere gas out of the container—they were non-existent, for all intents and purposes. In other words, your problems vanish as parking becomes easier, fuel cost decreases, and driving becomes cozier. On top of all that, yearly maintenance costs decreased to $610. Go, Yaris!
7 Cheap: Nissan Versa ($5,900)
However much you like Nissan for making the GT-R and the Z-line, don’t forget it also produced the Versa. Apparently, it’s still in production, and when you go looking for reviews online, you’re forced to realize how terrible these cars are. There’s a world of difference between the Yaris and the Versa, despite them being similar in size.
The Versa looks significantly deformed—and the worst part is that Nissan hasn’t done anything to improve that look.
Nonetheless, there are three things you can boast of in this car: a spacious trunk and a cheap maintenance cost of $590 per year. The third? Cheapest base price. At roughly $12K, this was the cheapest car in the US in 2015. Jalopnik even did a very interesting comparison of the cheapest car (the Versa) with the priciest item (the RR Silver Ghost) from 100 years ago.
6 Cheap: Toyota Corolla ($5,800)
Because of the Ford Focus, the Chevy Cruze, and the Subaru Impreza—two of which I think are good cars—people are starting to act like the Corolla is the ugliest thing they've ever seen in their lives. A lot of cars have their “moments,” which can be a few months to years to a generation in the car world, but not a lot of the other compact cars have been around since 1966. Not a lot of them have seen the myriad of things that the Corolla has seen and learned from. Not a lot of them wear the reliability badge of Toyota that the Corolla wears… Not a lot of them will make it after a few years. The car provides excellent interior space and a reliable engine, which only asks for a petty $580 in allowance per year.
5 Cheap: Toyota Tacoma ($5,800)
It boggles my mind how careful Toyota was in making sure it had a lineup in each of the categories—compact, sedan, pickup, EV, etc. And these weren't created just for the fun of it but to make sure drivers got the best bang for their buck—and sometimes even more than that—to get an exceptional deal. That’s exactly what Tacoma is: an exceptional deal. For instance, when the used-car market was oversaturated a year ago, Tacomas were still nowhere to be found.
There were some people who were willing to pay a higher price for a Tacoma with 45K miles on it than a brand-new Nissan truck.
That’s how solid these trucks are. The best part? Despite being a truck, its cost of maintenance is exactly the same as that of the Corolla: $580 per year.
4 Cheap: Honda Fit ($5,500)
Here’s a car that looks like its designers worked hard to develop the product. As good as the exterior looks, the interior has more charm to it, though. It can do whatever you'd like it to do: fold any seat (besides the driver) however you’d like and store whichever items you’d like. It’s a pickup truck without the associated cost of a pickup truck, essentially. And when you don’t need it in the capacity of a storage vehicle, it can still haul a family of four without any trouble. That’s the magic of “Magic Seating,” a term used by Honda to market the vehicle during the beginning years of the third generation in 2014. The subcompact car costs just a little over $15K and bugs your wallet to shed out only $550 a year for maintenance.
3 Cheap: Toyota Camry ($5,200)
I've been touching on the reliability of Toyotas, and of course, the top-selling lineup Camry is one of them. You have to understand the history of Toyota to really understand the reliability of Toyotas. Allow me to introduce you to the Toyota Hilux, a pickup truck found in the Japanese domestic market. Toyota claimed it was nearly indestructible. So, Jeremy Clarkson took one and drove it down beautiful sets of stairs, intentionally colliding it during turns. Nothing happened. He crashed it into a tree. Nothing. He took it to the beach, tied it down, and drowned it. The show people recovered a sand-filled truck a few hours later. But the engine roared (after fixes with some basic tools). Angry, he dropped the truck from a height. Nothing. Then another vehicle on top of it. The car was crushed, but the engine still roared. Only fire killed it.
2 Cheap: Kia Soul ($4,700)
While the marketing of the Soul was a hit with the hamster characters, the success of the car has to do with the features of the car, too. It’s a car that looks nice, despite being boxy. And that’s another piece of evidence that a boxy car need not be bad just because it’s boxy—it can look good with its idiosyncrasies, much like the Mini Cooper. Of course, it’s not exactly “iconic” as it tried to market itself as, but it’s a good car. However, Kia couldn’t sell the car by saying “it’s a good car.” The interior is innovative, with curves and shapes that you wouldn’t expect—just like the exterior. Anyways, the best part of the Soul is its supremely cheap cost of maintenance: 470 bucks a year.
1 Cheap: Toyota Prius ($4,300)
“You don't feel the Prius in your loins — you feel it in your brain, conscience, and guiltless superego rather than your rubber-burning id” (businessinsider.com). Whether you agree with the quote or not (I’m talking about the car part, not whether there’s actually a superego and an id), the Prius has improved quite dramatically over the years and generations, unlike the Versa. The first-generation Priuses weren’t too terrible—especially when you consider what GM was producing for its EV section—the EV1. But over the years, these cars have become much more refined. Looks are certainly not the weakest link anymore.
The company’s dedicated effort to the Prius has resulted in it becoming the top-selling hybrid in the world.
And if you own one, you might already know it costs only $430 per year in maintenance.