States with Lowest, Highest Check Engine Light-Related Auto Repair Costs

States with Lowest, Highest Check Engine Light-Related Auto Repair Costs
Credit: Daniel Krason/Shutterstock
If you live in California, you probably already suspect this. But we can confirm you�re paying the most when it comes to check engine light-related repair costs. That�s according to CarMD�s 10th Annual State Ranking of Car Repair Costs.

The study found that California drivers incurred the highest average repair cost ($414.24), followed by the District of Columbia, Georgia, New Jersey and Virginia. (Texas places 18th on the list.) If you�re in Vermont, you sit at the other end of the spectrum and are paying the least. Vermont had the lowest average repair cost ($342.14) followed by Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. CarMD says it�s the second time California has ranked most expensive and the second time Vermont has ranked the least expensive state for car repairs over the past decade.

CarMD says it analyzed data from more than 15.9 million cars, trucks, vans and SUVs needing repairs in 2019 to compile the ranking. It�s designed to get drivers to take their check engine light warnings seriously because fixing them sooner rather than later can save in repair costs.

A number of factors contribute to the final rankings.

�Several factors contribute to a state�s average repair costs, including vehicle age and type, how difficult the repair is, required parts, how much time is needed to make the repair and what the repair shop charges per hour,� said David Rich, technical director, CarMD.

There are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of repairs. They include staying up-to-date on car maintenance, making sure you have any warning lights attended to promptly, and using trusted repair shops.

CarMD�s ranking of the five states/districts with the highest car repair costs in 2019:

  1. California, $414.24
  2. District of Columbia, $410.16
  3. Georgia, $409.92
  4. New Jersey, $403.43
  5. Virginia, $403.19

CarMD�s ranking of the five states/districts with the lowest car repair costs in 2019:

  1. Iowa, $356.57
  2. Michigan, $350.77
  3. Wisconsin, $349.08
  4. Ohio, $348.79
  5. Vermont, $342.14

Key findings: Labor Costs: For the fourth consecutive year, Vermont had the lowest average labor cost ($123.68). CarMD says it�s not surprising since the most common cause of a check engine light on Vermont cars and trucks remains a loose or missing gas cap, accounting for 8% of repairs. For the second year in a row, CarMD says drivers in Mississippi paid the most on average for labor ($160.45), where the most common repair was to replace ignition coils and spark plugs. The type of repair, how long the repair will take and the shop�s hourly rate can all factor into the average labor cost. In Vermont, the most commonly repaired vehicle was a 2004 Honda Civic. In Mississippi it was a 2004 F150.

Parts Costs: In 2019, drivers in California paid the most on average for parts ($266.86), while drivers in Michigan, home to �Motor City,� paid the least for parts ($202.30). The most frequently recommended repair in California was to replace the catalytic converter, a costly repair that doesn�t typically fail unless maintenance and other repairs like a faulty oxygen sensor or ignition coil are ignored, or a vehicle has high mileage. The most common repair in Michigan last year was to replace an oxygen sensor. The type of vehicle, type of repair and whether original equipment (OE) parts are used factor into average parts cost. In California the vehicle most frequently needing check engine-related repairs in 2019 was a 2005 Nissan Altima. In Michigan, it was a 2008 Chevrolet Impala.

Decade in Review: Over the past 10 years since CarMD has published this state ranking of check engine light-related car repair costs, Michigan has ranked best three times (2016, 2017 and 2018) while District of Columbia has had the highest average repair cost four times (2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019). The date of the state ranking report is for data collected the previous calendar year.

You can check out the 2020 CarMD state ranking of car repair costs for data collected in calendar year 2019 here.