Like Mercedes mechanics in the 1980s, hybrid and electric vehicle repair experts have been harder to find in recent years, and that left green car drivers with higher repair bills than they would have had with a standard gas car. According to a CarMD study of repairs in 2014 (via HybridCars.com), the trend is now moving in the other direction. Hybrid repair costs are falling as more mechanics learn how to handle gas-electric systems and equipment costs drop.
CarMD has tracked repair information for four years as it compiles what it calls its annual Vehicle Health Index. For 2015, the index sorted through 98,000 repairs to organize relevant information for consumers and fleet managers trying to gauge the overall cost of owning a vehicle. The good news is most repairs held steady in 2014, with the “check engine sensor” light being the most common diagnostic service needed in any car on the road.
While general parts and labor costs held steady, hybrid repairs became more reasonable as mechanics learned to handle these systems and common fixes became standard operations in more shops. At last check, only one hybrid repair made the top 10 for costliest fixes, as opposed to three of the 10 in the previous year. The price of replacing a battery did increase 11% (to $3,479), but the cost of replacing the inverter assembly has been plummeting over the past five years. Here’s a look at how dramatic the change has been.
- 2010: $7,300
- 2011: $4,098
- 2012: $3,927
- 2013: $2,826
- 2014: $1,357
Equally important for car owners was the list of 10 costliest repairs. In 2014, replacing the transmission assembly ($6,400) topped the list, followed by engine replacement ($5,500) and transmission repair ($5,400). The data served as a reminder of how electric vehicles generally have a lower cost of ownership.
Last fall, Coverhound Insurance released a study showing how electric vehicles are cheaper to insure (and in most cases, own) than their combustion-engine equivalents. The biggest reason was the lack of moving parts in an electric drivetrain, not to mention the lack of a transmission, the biggest hit on a vehicle owner’s wallet in the CarMD study.
In fact, many studies have noted that the main expense with EV and hybrid repairs was the labor. With fewer mechanics specializing in gas-electric systems in the past, the exclusivity carried a higher price tag. Trends appear to be moving in the other direction.
Will it be enough to reverse the course for hybrids, which have been having a rough go of it since gas prices dropped in late 2014? Ford recently announced its first shift reduction at its hybrid car plant in Michigan to account for declines in the U.S. market, so there is an uphill battle for manufacturers ahead.
For auto consumers in the hunt for a new vehicle, it’s important to consider the full cost of ownership, from available incentives (both federal and state) to operation (in electricity costs or gasoline) and, finally, repairs when something goes wrong. In many cases, hybrids and electric vehicles are as affordable as they are green.