Choosing a vehicle that costs less to maintain

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vehicle20160823While sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks have become very popular in the market, some buyers of these vehicles are caught unaware of the maintenance cost these vehicles require.

There are also cases when certain dealers would require an SUV or pick-up be subjected to preventive maintenance every six months or one year to maintain its warranty. This can be sometimes painful to the pocket of motorists who have to pay the monthly amortizations for SUVs or pick-ups that could go as high as P36,000 a month.

The large engines of SUVs and pick-ups, especially those powered by diesel, also require more oil while their large tires are definitely more expensive than those found in smaller vehicles.

So those who want to make sure their pockets would not be hurt by astronomical maintenance costs could look to the compact, sub-compact and even smaller passenger cars for lesser maintenance expenses.

In fact, the passenger car, except for the ones that bare expensive nameplates like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and those for executives like the Camry, still have a following because these vehicles have lower maintenance costs compared to the SUV or pick-up.


Among the popular passenger cars with low maintenance costs are the Mistsubishi Mirage; Toyota Altis, Vios and Wigo; Hyundai Elantra, Accent, i10 and Eon; Nissan Sentra and Almera; Isuzu Alto, Celerio, Swift and Ciaz; Kia Picanto, Rio and Forte; and Mazda 2 and 3.

Also getting a following for their lower maintenance costs are subcompact SUVs like the Ford Ecosport, Chevrolet Trax and Hyundai i20 Cross Sport. Ditto for compact multi-purpose vehicles like the Isuzu Ertiga and Toyota Avanza.

Lesser Oil
The typical passenger car that is not marketed for executives and the subcompact SUV usually have engines with displacements ranging from 1.0 to 1.6 liters, and that means lesser oil to spend for during preventive maintenance work. On the other hand, a typical mid-sized SUV and pick-up have engines displacements ranging from 2.0 to 3.3 liters, and that means more oil to spend for maintenance.

The volume of oil for a 1.6-liter gasoline engine is 3.5-4 liters and lesser for engines for 1.2-liter engines. For a turbocharged diesel engine, the oil requirement is 5-7 liters.

Oil for diesel engines are also generally more expensive because they have to contain the higher operating temperatures typical of diesel engines. Also, since diesel engines produce soot during the combustion cycle, the oils must contain detergents that should help keep the engine clean.

Although car dealers can offer a choice between mineral, semi-synthetic and synthetic oil, with the last giving the vehicle owner the choice to have preventive maintenance every 10,000 kilometers or one year, synthetic oil can sometimes costs more than three times that of mineral oil. However, the advantage of using synthetic oil is not having to go frequently to the dealer, or every 5,000 kilometers. This saves a lot of time for vehicle owners who are very busy and are impatient at scheduling a maintenance work because many are also lined up (so much for selling so much cars in the Philippines).

As for oil filters, those used by smaller engines are naturally less expensive than those used in bigger engines.

Spark plugs
Perhaps the reason why some vehicle owners think that diesel engines are less expensive to maintain is gasoline engines need a spark plug. However, the new generation of copper spark plugs can last up to 20,000 kilometers and that is a great jump from the 10,000 kilometers more than a decade ago. There are also platinum and iridium spark plugs that can last up to 100,000 kilometers, but technicians recommend replacement from 30,000 to 50,000 kilometers.

Oh those big tires
While it is definitely macho or masculine to own a mid-sized SUV or pick-up that has large tires as standard (or factory-installed) equipment, the downside is they are very expensive. In fact, one set of new tires (numbering four) for a mid-sized SUV or pick-up can range from P20,000 to P50,000 depending on size and brand.

Comparatively speaking, one set of new tires for a 1.6-liter passenger car ranges from P16,000 to P25,000 depending also on size and brand.

For those who want to own a mid-sized SUV or pick-up and still want to avoid high tire replacement bills, the best option is to choose a models with smaller tire sizes. One good example is the Isuzu mu-X 3.0-liter model that has 255/65 R17 tires for the 4×4 variant and 245/70 R16 for the 4×2 variant.

Automatic transmission fluid
Another major maintenance cost issue is a vehicle’s automatic transmission fluid and again, a bigger vehicle needs more ATF. However, for those who still want the excitement of driving a manual transmission vehicle, costs related to ATF become non-existent.

Brakes parts and other items
Smaller vehicles like the compact, subcompact and smaller passenger cars also have other parts like brake pads/shoes, belts and filters that are less expensive.

All told, the smaller the vehicle and the smaller its engine, tires and transmission box (actually size), the less expensive is its maintenance bill.

Over the long term too, vehicles that have smaller components are easier to maintain beyond warranty period (which is usually 100,000 kilometers or five years), where parts for the suspension and other rubber parts are usually replaced.

Brands easier to maintain
When it comes to brands, it is common knowledge that Japanese, South Korean and Chinese brands are easier and less costly to maintain compared to European brands.

There are also some mainstream brands like Mazda that offers unbelievable maintenance perks for up to three years like free tune-up, oil, spark plugs and filters.

Surprisingly, European brands like Volkswagen and Peugeot do not require astronomical maintenance bills- just check out their prices just to be sure.

Volkswagen, for example, has one of the lowest maintenance costs for its vehicles in the industry. Unlike other cars that require a visit to the dealership from 5,000 kilometers to 10,000 kilometers, VW vehicles need to undergo maintenance works every 20,000 kilometers with prices ranging from P9,000 to P20,000 per year depending on the model.

For sure, those who own vehicles bearing German luxury brands or even up-class Japanese brands like Lexus and Infiniti will even boast of how much they spend for maintenance.

For example, the average cost for a 5,000-kilometer maintenance works for Mercedes-Benz and BMW is P25,000.

But for the rest of motorists, maintenance costs should be one of the primary considerations when purchasing a vehicle.

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