Hybrid repair costs drop, especially in the Northeast

Basic car repairs are more expensive than they used to be, but repairing hybrids is going the other direction. 

Ann Hermes/Staff/File
Fox Valley Technical College Vehicle Refinishing and Repair majors, Ross Blazer, left, and Eric Van Rooy, right, work on a Toyota Prius as part of their training in hybrid car repair on campus in Appleton, Wisconsin in 2011. Hybrid repairs are getting cheaper, even as basic car repair costs rise.

We have good news and bad news for hybrid car owners. 

First the bad news: basic car repairs are more expensive than they used to be. According to a CarMD survey of repair costs across the U.S., problems associated with the "check engine" light cost $367.84 to repair in 2012. That's 10% higher than in 2011.

A little more bad news: on the whole, rates on the East Coast seem to be outpacing the rest of the country. Things were at their worst in New Jersey, where motorists paid an average of $392.99 for repairs last year.  

The good news? As we reported a few months ago, repairing hybrid cars is getting cheaper.

And by sheer coincidence, it's cheapest of all in New Jersey.

In 2012, New Jersey motorists paid an average of $2,005.05 to have their hybrid batteries replaced. At the other end of the scale, in Arizona, the price was over twice as high, at $4,409.94. 

The drop in hybrid repair costs is likely due to the growing popularity of hybrid vehicles, which means that more shops stock parts for those vehicles and hire mechanics to install them. As a result, prices come down thanks to economies of scale and good old fashioned capitalist competition.

CarMD doesn't suggest why hybrid repair costs are so low in New Jersey, though. We know that hybrid penetration is high in that market -- at least higher than in Arizona -- so naturally, repair costs should be lower there.

But hybrid repairs may have been especially common in New Jersey last year due to Hurricane Sandy. The storm destroyed thousands of vehicles and forced many more owners to bring in their cars for repair. That jump in service may have temporarily brought down repair prices. We'll know whether it's part of a larger trend when the 2013 figures roll in next year.


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