Study Suggests Time Plays Important Factor in Repair Costs for EVs vs ICEs


Since the hottest news surrounding the automotive industry today happens to be rolling updates about supply shortages, factory downtime, and how it’s not impacting manufacturing profits as much as anticipated, I’ve been diving back into studies and research pertaining to the future of the automotive industry. It’s a little more enjoyable for my own gray matter to process and might provide readers with a touch more to ponder than another story about how automakers are stalling production because an insufficient number of doodads were placed on a boat that’s waiting off the California coastline.

Earlier this week, we examined research exploring how much electric vehicles actually cost to run and that theme will persist. There’s a new study suggesting EVs boast lower repair bills than gasoline-driven alternatives. But there’s an interesting tipping point that occurs early in a vehicle’s lifespan that makes it happen. Before that, it’s cheaper on average to maintain something equipped with an internal combustion engine. 

According to the Deepview True Cost analysis released on Thursday by analytics firm We Predict, EV owners spend an average of $123 to service their vehicles within the first three months and $306 over the first year. By contrast, the owners of gasoline-powered cars were average bills of $53 within the first three months and $189 by year’s end.

Things change after three years, however, when EV servicing averages $514 against the typical gas burner’s $749. This shows that maintenance fees actually decline as electrics have had some miles put under their wheels, while ICE costs grow exponentially. But that’s counterintuitive, as nobody really expects to encounter fewer problems as vehicles get older. We Predict chalked this up to EVs having fewer moving parts, suggesting that they’ll cost more to service but will ultimately spend less time being wrenched on. This is assuming you’re having someone else do the work — which is likely with an ICE and all but guaranteed on EVs.

The Michigan-based We Predict said it came to these conclusions after tallying the money spent by manufacturers and vehicle owners on repairs and maintenance. This includes items under factory warranties and excludes collision repairs on data amassed from 13 million vehicles across 400 models. All told, the research encompassed 65 million maintenance and repair orders.

That makes a little broad, likely negating some of the differences between premium and mainstream models using a multitude of electric and gas-driven powertrains. The outlet offered a pretty broad range, saying that the actual servicing fees can vary wildly in those first few years — anywhere between $202 and $5,012.

We would have also liked to see a study that went beyond 36 months since the average automobile on the road is far older. Problems also don’t tend to crop up with much regularity until cars start approaching 100k on the odometer, which a three-year-old vehicle is unlikely to reach. But We Predict suggested that the Deepview True Cost study maintains relevance for the secondhand market, as 36 months tends to be the point where leases come back.

As with the previous ownership cost study we covered, the researchers may have a bias represented by their working relationship with automakers, safety regulators, insurance groups, and financial entities. But there’s plenty of useful data to be found in the study, including the fact that vehicle maintenance is getting more expensive across the board and recall campaigns are putting automakers on the hook for the bill more frequently.

For manufacturers, the cost to service vehicles from the 2018 model year averaged $731 in the first three years. That’s an 11-percent increase from 2016 over the same timeframe. Repairs became 4 percent dearer to the industry, with maintenance rising by 11 percent and servicing/recall campaigns going up 35 percent.

The difference was larger on premium models, with 2018 MY cars seeing servicing fees rise by 18 percent to $1,513 in a three-year window.  Mainstream models grew just 4 percent to $573 through the same period vs their 2016 MY counterparts. EVs ended up being particularly expensive, often boasting three times the labor cost of a similarly priced ICE. We Predict said this was due to the special requirements for servicing them and the uniqueness of their parts, stating that they would eventually come down in price as electrification was normalized.

The rest of the report is simply a ranking of which brands yielded the lowest average service and warranty costs accumulated by models across their lineup after their three years on the road. It’s not particularly useful in terms of determining which vehicles offer the lowest rates but provides automakers with an opportunity to brag (à la J.D. Power Awards) and gives a general sense of their standing against each other.

Acura models ranked first among the premium segment, with the average service and warranty costs coming out to a nice, level $600. Lincoln vehicles ranked second at $879 while Genesis models came in third at $1,181. Among mainstream brands, Kia came in first with fees averaging $369 during the first 36 months. Hyundai ranked a predictable second with a cost of $381. Dodge game in third at $420. Curiously, none of the above brands are famous for manufacturing electric vehicles.

[Image: Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock]

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