Having a car repaired can be pretty unpleasant. (A recent study suggests that half of Americans would rather visit the dentist than take a car to the shop.) But in some places, the situation is easier, or at least cheaper, than others.
To identify those places, CarMD pulled data from its nationwide network of service centers and analyzed 145,410 vehicles from model year 1996 to 2013 that were repaired between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013. To ensure that those comparisons were apples-to-apples, the repairs were all related to the check engine system.
The national average for repairs was $392.49 -- up a substantial 6.7 percent from 2012's average of $367.84. But in some states, the costs were even higher. The priciest of all was North Carolina, where the combined expense of parts and labor was $426.45. In fact, all five of CarMD's most-expensive states were situated along the Easter Seaboard:
1. North Carolina ($261.21 parts + $165.24 labor = $426.45)
2. Massachusetts ($273.16 parts + $151.39 labor = $424.55)
3. Delaware ($266.58 parts + $157.33 labor = $423.91)
4. New Jersey ($267.71 parts + $154.19 labor = $421.90)
5. Virginia ($263.20 parts + $158.29 labor = $421.49)
The states at the bottom of the list were much more geographically spread out, spanning the Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, and South. Nebraska was the cheapest state for repairs, with an average cost of $323.57. Nebraska was also one of only two states -- the other being Oregon -- where average repair costs declined.
47. New Mexico ($196.13 parts + $155.73 labor = $351.86)
48. Michigan ($188.53 parts + $151.10 labor = $339.63)
49. West Virginia ($186.93 parts + $152.57 labor = $339.50)
50. New Hampshire ($193.32 parts + $143.53 labor = $336.85)
51. Nebraska ($163.24 parts + $160.33 labor = $323.57)
Among the other fun facts CarMD discovered:
- Faulty oxygen sensors were the most common cause for repairs in the study, though replacing them isn't terrifically expensive: $235 in Nebraska, $262 in North Carolina.
- Replacing the catalytic converter remains one of the most costly common repairs. In North Carolina, replacement cost an average of $1,192.46.
- Less common but considerably more expensive is the replacement of a hybrid transmission assembly and reprogramming of the electronic control module, which averaged more than $5,900.
- That said, the cost of repairing hybrids continues to fall, as more people purchase them and more mechanics are available to fix them. However, some of the associated repair costs can be steep: replacing a battery is most expensive in Nevada, at $3,977.05.