Here's a summer vacation idea for New Jersey residents who are driving around with their check-engine light on. Head up to Vermont, if you're old rig will make it there, and have the repairs done while you relax.
Sure, the Green Mountain state has beautiful vistas and crystal clear lakes. Better yet, the trip will take you from the most costly state to repair your car to the state with the lowest cost, according to the annual CarMD Vehicle Health Index.
The average cost to fix a check-engine related problem was $367.84 nationwide last year, but nowhere did drivers pay more than in New Jersey, where the average cost for a repair was $392.99. From 2011 to 2012, New Jerseyans saw a 20.7 percent increase in labor rates and an 8.2 percent increase in parts costs.
CarMD, which sells a tool for diagnosing car problems, bases its index on reports from a national network of car repair technicians. This year's list is based on the company's analysis of 161,350 repairs made on model year 1996 to 2012 cars.
Several factors contribute to high repair costs, but the most powerful appears to be the weather, which can affect some of the most expensive parts of the car to replace, or simply create a climate (so to speak) in which car owners turn up most regularly at repair shops. In the 16 years that CarMD has been conducting its study, the tough winters and hot, dusty summers that stress a car's systems have usually put Western states at the top of the cost index. In 2011, six of the top seven states were in the Mountain time zone.