The Fix Is In: New Jersey Has Costliest Car Repairs

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A bumper crop of parts-and-labor cost increases has made the Garden State the most expensive state when it comes to having your car fixed. With an average total diagnostics-and-repair bill of $392.99, New Jersey ascended to No. 1 in 2012 from No. 10 a year earlier on Corp.’s annual state-by-state ranking of car-repair costs, the California-based consumer-information provider announced today.

New Jersey was in good company, though; the repair-cost trend in 2012 generally moved from west to east while associated expenses nationwide headed north, as motorists’ attention to their check-engine lights went south. Whereas the western U.S. accounted for all five of the top states with the highest repair costs in 2011, Eastern states including New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, dominated the top five in 2012, with California being the lone West Coast representative. Overall, repair costs across the nation related to vehicles’ check-engine lights averaged $367.84, a 10% increase; the Northeast saw the greatest increase among regions, at nearly 11.6%, while the West rose just more than 6.5%. CarMD cited vehicle owners’ procrastination in having repairs made, particularly catalytic converters, as a major reason for the increases as delayed repairs become more expensive as problems worsen.

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CarMD gleaned its state-by-state ranking from an analysis of more than 161,000 check-engine-related repairs made on model-year 1996-2012 vehicles in 2012. “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,” CarMD said in a statement. “Car owners in many states also continued to put off small repairs, contributing to cumulative failures with increased repair costs.”

CarMD says Hurricane Sandy is the reason why New Jersey car owners doubled the number of trips they made to the service station, initially for flood damage but later for unrelated problems discovered during those trips that led to repairs previously put off. As a result, New Jersey drivers saw a nearly 21% increase in labor rates and an 8.2% increase in parts costs. They also paid more for catalytic converter replacement at $1,112.48; 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, CarMD reported.

Other key findings:

  • The most affordable state for auto repair is Vermont, the only Northeastern state to enjoy a decline in average costs in 2012.
  • The District of Columbia saw the largest overall increase in repair costs, up 20%, as time-consuming procedures costing more than $1,000 overtook quick fixes with smaller price tags.
  • Wyoming had the greatest drop in average repair costs, at 17%, in part attributed to fewer catalytic converter replacements.
  • Vermont also had the lowest average labor cost, at $115.90, though still more than a $25 increase from 2011; Colorado’s $150.75 was the highest average labor cost.
  • New Jersey motorists paid the most for parts on average ($256.28) while Vermont again enjoyed the national low of $153.82.

Car-Repair Costs Drop, but Southwest Still Pays Most

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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