A new AAA survey reveals that one out of every three American drivers isn't able to pay for an unexpected car repair.

The AAA Survey

AAA, the nation's largest travel organization, released the results of a survey earlier this month. It found that 64 million U.S. drivers aren't able to pay for an unexpected vehicle repair without going into debt. AAA says the average car repair bill is between $500 and $600.

This indicates that motorists are not grasping the concept of the "cost of ownership," or, they are simply underestimating the true cost. AAA says the average cost of owning and operating is vehicle is more than $8,500 a year.

A past AAA survey found that a third of American drivers skip or delay recommended service. Neglecting routine maintenance and/or necessary repairs only increases the chances of vehicle failure, making a driver more vulnerable to a roadside breakdown. Plus, doing so can cause further damage to the car, which can lead to even more expensive repairs.

The results of this survey from AAA remind us yet again of the importance of properly budgeting for car ownership. That is, you always need to factor in the ongoing costs associated with car ownership. These include, but are not limited to, insurance, gasoline, and maintenance and repairs.

The survey also shows why it's important to invest in regular vehicle upkeep. Routine maintenance helps you avoid surprises down the road — the type of surprises that could leave you stranded on the side of one.

Planning for Routine Maintenance and Unexpected Car Repairs

routine maintenance and unexpected car repairsIf you want to avoid being one of the 33% of American drivers who can't afford a car repair without going into debt, AAA has a few pieces of advice.

  • Budget for maintenance and repairs. AAA advises drivers to save a minimum of $50 a month as a "car care fund." You can use this to pay for routine maintenance and to be ready for unexpected repairs when they inevitably come around.
  • Always follow your car's maintenance schedule. Every vehicle manufacturer establishes a recommended maintenance schedule that you can find in the owner's manual. Following it gives you a better of chance of stopping expensive repairs and the unexpected trouble they can cause before they occur.
  • Find a repair shop you can count on. This is something that should be done before you find yourself in hot water. You can consult online reviews or ask friends and family for recommendations. Another good tip is to get estimates for the same service at several different places. Then you can compare labor rates and see which places price fairly and competitively.

Some vehicle upkeep and maintenance is unavoidable. Following these tips will help you sidestep surprises and be ready for them when the unfortunate does occur.

The Bottom Line

Make sure that you budget for maintenance needs and practice regular vehicle upkeep. This can reduce the chances of you ending up with a broken down car on the side of the road.

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