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'Check engine' repair costs tops in N.C.

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IRVINE, Calif. — Drivers in North Carolina paid the most for “check engine” repairs in 2013 while drivers in Nebraska paid the least, according to Corp.’s annual state-by-state ranking of car repair costs.

North Carolina's average cost of slightly more than $426 surpassed New Jersey  —No. 1 in 2012 but No. 4 in 2013 — in the rankings, as drivers in the state saw a 9.4-percent jump in costs from 2012 to 2013, including a 4.8-percent increase in parts and 17.5-percent boost in labor costs.

Rounding out the top five were Massachusetts, Delaware and Virginia.

Vehicle owners in Nebraska paid the least for “check engine” related repairs, at an average cost of $323.57 for parts and labor, CarMD found.

Also among the least expensive states were New Hampshire, West Virginia, Michigan and New Mexico.

The U.S. average cost for check engine light repairs was $392.49, up 6.7 percent from $367.84 in 2012, CarMD said.

These states share several commonalities impacting total cost, CarMD said, including lower parts costs and a lower percentage of expensive and catastrophic repairs, such as anti-lock brake systems, catalytic converters and transmission replacement.

The firm said the results demonstrate that drivers in these states tend to take better care of their vehicles and address problems quickly.

“While we are not able to control weather, gas prices and hard goods costs like car parts, as consumers we can minimize overall car ownership costs with preventative maintenance and swift attention to dashboard warnings like the check engine light,” said Doug Sobieski, chief marketing officer, CarMD.

“As drivers plan their summer road trips and year-round vehicle maintenance, we encourage them to make car maintenance and repairs a top priority to reduce costs and maximize safety, regardless of where they reside or travel.”

CarMD said it analyzed “check engine” repairs made in 2013 on more than 145,000 vehicles for its report. Vehicles monitored were from model years ranging from 1996 to 2013. All 50 states, along with Washington D.C., are represented in the study.

 Other key findings from the report included:

  • Vermont, which was ranked last in repair costs in 2012 at $269.72, moved up to No. 16 after a 47.9 percent increase in average cost to $398.90.
  • Similarly, Delaware moved from among the five least expensive to the five most expensive with a 35.2-percent increase in average repair cost.
  • Oregon dropped from the No. 10 spot to No. 35 after a 1.3-percent decrease in average repair costs, joining Nebraska as the only two states that did not experience an increase in 2013.
  • California dropped out of the top five for the first time since CarMD began tracking repair costs, while New Mexico ranked No. 47, marking the first time a state from the Western U.S. has been included in the bottom five.
  • South Dakota car owners paid the most ($183.46) for labor charges, while New Hampshire drivers paid the least ($143.53).
  • Massachusetts drivers paid the most for parts ($273.16), driven by a high percentage of transmission and hybrid-related parts replacement, while Nebraska paid the least ($163.24).
  • Hybrid repair costs continued to trend down across the U.S., with Missouri as the most affordable state at an average battery replacement cost of $2,386.66. The most expensive was Nevada at an average cost of $3,977.05.

Complete rankings can be found on



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