Does It Cost More to Maintain Your Home or Your Car?

While you’ve most likely spent considerably more to buy your home than your car, you may be surprised at how much less expensive –proportionally- it is to maintain your home.

This is great news, considering that your home is likely your biggest investment, and one that you could very well be looking to sell at some point in the future. A key difference to remember when we’re looking at cost of ownership is the fact that cars depreciate over time, while home values appreciate. Let’s compare.


The Kelley Blue Book tells us that the average price of a car in the U.S. is now $33,000. The Wall Street Journal tells us that Americans bought a record-breaking 17.5 million cars and light trucks last year. Cars are considered essential, and worth the cost of ownership.

But beyond the cost of financing and fuel, how expensive is it to maintain a car? There are several contributing factors, as you well know:

  • Tires
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Taxes, license and registration fees
  • Insurance premiums
  • Depreciation

The American Automobile Association (AAA) published a study last year that laid out the costs associated with each of these. They note that costs do vary depending upon the type of vehicle, with SUVs costing more than 50 percent more to maintain than small sedans.

Our purpose here is to compare the cost of caring for your car to that of maintaining a house. To get an idea of what maintenance will cost for a car, we can look at the average costs related to these areas:

  • Taxes and Fees $665
  • Maintenance and Repairs $767
  • Tires $147

These considerations will cost an average of $1579 annually. This cost does not take into account the average annual cost for fuel ($1682), and is in addition to any loan or insurance payments you may or may not have. It doesn’t factor in depreciation, with its messy calculations (although AAA estimates around $2500 annually!).  It’s the cost of taking care of your car.

Home Appreciation

Your home, on the other hand is all but certain to increase in value over time. That’s what makes real estate such a great investment. Bay Area home prices have come back strong from the crisis of 2008, at a rate far ahead of national numbers.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency home price indexes for the Pacific region have increased by more than 54 points over the last 5 years, well ahead of the national average of just over 29 points for the same time period.

Specifically in San Francisco, home prices rose by over 11 percent in the year between October 2014 and October 2015. In dollars and cents, that means that a home valued at $200,000 at 2014 would have gained over $22,000 in value in just one year.

The cost of maintaining your home varies, naturally. It depends on these variables, according to The Balance:

  •      Age – the maintenance costs tend to rise as the home ages
  •      Weather – extreme climates boost maintenance costs
  •      Condition – a home that’s been neglected will cost more to maintain
  •      Location – this can make a home more vulnerable to water damage and other factors
  •      Single-Family vs. Attached – the single-family home will cost more to maintain

Do the Math…

So let’s see: if the average car costs $33,000, and we can expect to spend just over $1500 to care for the car, that means we will be putting right at 4.5 percent of the car’s value back into it each year for maintenance. This line of thinking ignores the fact that the value of your car actually drops over time.

For your home, which as we’ve seen, gains value over time, experts generally recommend that you budget about 1 – 3% percent of your home’s purchase price for maintenance and repairs. So for a home priced at $700,000: budget $7000 annually for maintenance and repairs.

These numbers make one thing very clear: home maintenance is a bargain compared with caring for a car. We all expect to pay a price for using our car all year, but there’s a tendency to avoid spending money on home maintenance until something goes wrong.

That’s a key phrase, because good preventative maintenance can greatly reduce your overall costs by keeping the need for repair and replacement to a minimum. Keeping your systems in top working order increases their lifespan and helps you avoid costly breakdowns.

Want some help with that? Glasshouse Service Providers will oversee the care of your home at an annual premium of just $396.