Mechanics can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. They’re in the business of taking care of your car but when it comes time to face the repair bill, you can often feel more misery than relief. Sure, you’ve got a working car now, but how many nights will you be eating store-bought mac-and-cheese?

To give you a better idea of what to expect, we’ve gathered a list of the most expensive items to replace on your car. We kept the list broad but do know that some repairs may cost more than others depending on what you drive. And as always, the prices below vary from state to state and should only be taken as estimates, not quotes. Seek the experts if you’re not sure what needs replaced and/or how much it will cost when it’s all said and done.

10. Safety System Components

Have you taken a minute to count the sensors on your vehicle? Each of those sensors, whether it’s for making sure you don’t back into the neighbors on their bikes, monitoring your tire pressure, or keeping you in your own lane when you haven’t had enough sleep, costs a respectable chunk of money. These integrated safety systems are lifesavers when you need them—and costly when you have to replace them. While you’re basically paying for technology to monitor the world around you, there are quite a few benefits to keeping the safety equipment in your vehicle in working order.

9. Air Bags

It could be said that, generally speaking, if your car initiates deployment of the air bags, your car is probably totaled. At the same time, some air bags may deploy as a malfunction. Whatever the reason, replacing air bags can be a huge pain in the till. This particular facet of the vehicle’s larger safety network isn’t just a pillow fitted inside the body of the door panel. There’s much more to the air bags that keep us safe—and a larger bill when it comes time for replacement.

8. Suspension Components

You don’t have to be a car buff to know that modifications to your vehicle cost a pretty penny. One of the most upgraded parts of a vehicle—besides those parts you’d find in an engine bay — is the suspension. Jeep owners are notorious for spending their entire paychecks and then some to purchase coils, bags, struts, you name it, to beef up their 4×4 for the next trail ride. In the world of suspension, you can spend as little or as much as you’d like to get the ride quality you’re after.

7. Car Key Fobs

Gone are the days of unlocking your car door with a physical key (even though there are quite a few models with this type of “manual” entry built in for backup). With the popularity of keyless entry and key fobs that do all the unlocking for you comes the added expense of replacing these small technological devices in the event they’re lost, stolen, etc. Most key fobs cost around $250 to replace and reprogram, but the bill can be much higher, too.

6. Diesel Particulate Filter

Simply put, diesel particulate filters prevent diesel trucks from rolling coal. The filter helps to reduce pollution by containing the soot that defines the act of rolling coal. While it might take the fun out of leaving that Prius behind you in a cloud of black smoke, the wind will really blow out of your sails when you realize that those filters cost about $2,000-$4,000 apiece. Yes, owning a diesel can be very expensive.

5. Engine Control Module (ECM)

Technology pervades nearly every minute of our daily lives. Your vehicle is no exception. The engine control module, or ECM as it’s sometimes called, is the command center for your vehicle. Think of it as the brain of the operations. If this component goes awry, plan on spending quite a bit to get any repairs done. Damages can be anywhere from slight and fixable to costly and requiring full replacement.

4. Hybrid Battery

Hybrid vehicles may save you at the pump but they certainly won’t be kind to your checkbook if you need to replace one or more of their batteries. Unlike traditional car batteries that can run only a couple hundred dollars at most, hybrid batteries cost “between $4,000 and $7,000 depending on the car model.” The newer they are, the more expensive they’ll be to replace.

3. Paint/Body Work

Here’s an expensive fix you might not have considered before. Did you know that your vehicle’s paint can be pretty costly to fix, even if it’s brand new? Think of it this way: what stands out on your car the most? Most people will notice blemishes in your paint before any other defects.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to the cost of repainting your vehicle. Either way you slice it, there’s prep work since the painter can’t cover existing paint with the new paint. Sometimes they may even have to remove the entire interior in order to paint your vehicle. Whatever the case may be, there’s a lot more that goes into painting a car than you might initially think.

2. Transmission

Another obvious addition to our list, the transmission is also just as important to moving the car as the engine is. Most replacement transmissions cost around $5,000 but the price can vary depending on the age of the car, the manufacturer, and the availability of a new or rebuilt transmission, to name a few. While manual transmissions are still available in some vehicles, finding a replacement one is becoming harder with each model that does away with the stick shift as an option.

1. Engine (and Associated Components)

If you didn’t see this one coming, you should probably invest a bit more time in learning how a car works. Because if the heart of the car — the very thing that powers it from Point A to Point B — doesn’t work, you’ve really just got a ginormous lawn ornament. Engine repairs are often costly because they’re time-consuming. Removing an engine from a vehicle isn’t just a 20-minute job. Most of the components wear much faster because they’re in constant motion from the time you turn the key on until you turn it off. So failure from one piece can mean catastrophe if left unchecked. Repairs typically range in the thousands of dollars for this component.

Investment vs. Depreciation

A lot of experts talk about cars as depreciating rather than gaining value but the real value of a car comes in what it allows you to do on a daily basis. Let’s face it: it’s much harder to get to work if you have to walk the entire way, especially on those wintry weather days. Sometimes you have to pay for that privilege, so don’t take it for granted. Keep your car in working order and it will work for you.


Rebecca Henderson has a Master's in German and a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. She alternates her time between writing and working on a variety of motorized projects. Most recently, she and her boyfriend have been building a custom drift trike. Rebecca believes that language, love, and a life worth living are only the first ingredients to happiness.