Cost to replace brake pads and rotors

Expect to pay about $600 per axle for new pads and rotors

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Kia, BMW and Omega Auto Care
brakes and rotors on a table in a garage

Brake pads and rotors have a simple yet critical role — bringing your vehicle to a stop.

When you push your brake pedal, your brake calipers squeeze your pads and rotors together, creating friction and slowing you down. As a result, these two parts wear down together and often have to be replaced at the same time.

So, what does it cost to replace pads and rotors together? What about just your brake pads? And how can you save some money when the time comes?

Read on to find out.


Key insights

The cost of a full brake job (replacing pads and rotors) usually ranges from $400 to $900 per axle, depending on your vehicle’s make and model.

Jump to insight

The cost to replace your brake pads alone is around $350 per axle. But the cost can vary from $200 to $600-plus, and you’ll probably want your pads resurfaced, too.

Jump to insight

You don’t necessarily have to replace your pads and rotors at the same time. If you drive an American, Japanese or Korean car, you may be able to resurface your rotors for half the cost of replacing them.

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Warranties typically won’t cover brake pads or rotors because they’re considered “wear and tear” parts that are expected to fail within about 50,000 miles.

Jump to insight

How much should it cost to replace brake pads and rotors?

When a mechanic replaces your pads and replaces/resurfaces your rotors at the same time, it’s called a “brake job,” and it’ll usually cost you anywhere from $400 to $900 per axle.

Brake jobs often include the following services for that price:

Resurfacing your rotors is a short-term alternative to replacement that’s about half the price. Just know that it’s not always an option, and you’ll still have to replace them eventually.
  • Replacing your brake pads
  • Replacing or resurfacing your brake rotors
  • Bleeding the brake lines (i.e., removing air from your hydraulic brake system)
  • Inspecting your brake calipers
  • Tightening your parking brake

Check the table below for a few rough estimates of full brake jobs on a single axle of some sample vehicles.

Note: These estimates are only for a set of two wheels, front or rear, and they include the cost of fully replacing two rotors, not resurfacing them. Your price may come in a little lower if you drive a suitable vehicle and you haven’t resurfaced your rotors yet, but you may also pay twice as much if you have to replace the pads and rotors on both axles

The per-axle cost is important because, at minimum, you need to replace all the brake pads on a given axle at the same time, depending on your manufacturer’s or mechanic’s recommendations and how fast your front and rear brake pads wear down.

It’s possible that you might only need to replace the pads on one axle at a time, though some sources say you should replace the pads on both axles at the same time. The simplest answer is to just replace your front and rear brake pads when they actually need replacing (i.e., when there are only about 3 millimeters of material left).

Brake pads typically last around 50,000 miles, so have them inspected starting at around 30,000 miles — especially if you engage in a lot of hard braking.

Brake pads usually consist of a coarse friction material on a steel backing plate.

The friction material on most brake pads used to be made out of asbestos, but thankfully, it’s usually now a mixture of glass, fiber, carbon, rubber, kevlar and other fire-retardant materials. Ceramic and semi-metallic brake pads are also available, though, and they have different characteristics than more common non-asbestos organic (NAO) pads.

What if your car is under warranty?

Auto warranties typically don’t cover brake pads or rotors because they’re considered “wear-and-tear” parts. That means they’re designed to fail within a certain mileage, and warranties cover parts that are not expected to fail.

This distinction can be confusing because other parts of your brake system, like your brake calipers, might be covered by your car warranty.

Warranties cover the cost of fixing factory defects, but brake pads and rotors are meant to wear down over time, so they’re not covered.

“When he gave me the paperwork, I read it and it said that they cover brake systems. So, I figured that included brake pads,” said a ConsumerAffairs reviewer in California. “I didn't have a rotary problem. It was just the brake pads needed to be changed. … They just didn't fit what I needed.”

To muddy the waters even more, some manufacturers — like Genesis — and extended warranty companies — like Omega Auto Care — offer complimentary maintenance as an added perk. Those benefits usually do cover brake jobs, but they’re separate from the provider’s actual warranty coverage.

» MORE: What does a car warranty cover?

Can you replace brake pads without replacing brake rotors?

You can replace your brake pads without fully replacing your rotors, but not every time.

“It depends on the state of the rotors,” the shop manager at an Atlanta-based repair shop told us. “If we can resurface your existing rotors, you won’t have to replace them with your new pads.”

Resurfacing is the process of using a lathe to shave off the rough outer surface of your existing rotors. This leaves a nice, smooth finish that looks and acts like a brand-new rotor.

You can probably replace the pads two or three times before having to replace the rotors. ”
— Eric Hamilton, founder of Whyte Knyte Inspections

“American and Japanese cars come with rotors that can generally be resurfaced,” Eric Hamilton, founder of Whyte Knyte Inspections, told us. “If you drive a Ford Ranger, for example, you can probably replace the pads two or three times before having to replace the rotors.”

Unfortunately, not all rotors can be resurfaced. If they’re too worn out, warped or damaged, they can’t really be salvaged and will have to be replaced when you replace your pads.

Some rotor manufacturers don’t recommend resurfacing their products. Check with your mechanic to decide if resurfacing is viable for your car.

In addition, some rotors are also just too soft or thin by design to handle resurfacing. “German vehicles and high-performance cars and SUVs typically have rotors made with a softer composite, so the pads wear almost evenly with the rotors,” Hamilton told us.

Either way, an honest mechanic will tell you whether your rotors can be resurfaced or not.

It can be worth it, too, since resurfacing rotors can be half as expensive as replacing them — and take hundreds off the cost of a brake job.

Can you replace brake rotors without replacing brake pads?

Theoretically, you could replace your rotors without replacing your brake pads, but it simply wouldn’t make sense in most cases.

“The only time you’d ever replace rotors without pads is if you recently replaced just your pads and you still feel pulsation while braking,” said Hamilton. “That’s pulsation in the brake pedal or the steering wheel. Both are signs that the previous pad warped the rotor and it’s time for new rotors.”

To summarize, you’ll most likely need to replace your pads and rotors together, and you’ll need to do at least one axle at a time.

If you drive an American, Japanese or Korean vehicle, you may be able to resurface your rotors instead of replacing them along with your pads, but you’ll still need to replace them eventually. And if you drive a German, luxury and/or performance vehicle, you may need to replace your pads and rotors together every time.

Brake pad replacement costs

Assuming you only need to replace your brake pads, expect to spend around $350 per axle.

But $350 is just an average. If you drive a simple car, like a Honda Civic, and you visit your local independent shop, the cost could be as low as $150 per axle. But if you drive a luxury and/or performance car, like a BMW M3, and go to the dealer for labor, the cost could be $600 or more. Plus, you’ll still have to pay for resurfacing.

Once again, the cost for our sample BMW is much higher due to the increased cost of parts and labor sourced from BMW. But, if you find an independent mechanic you trust — and high-quality, third-party brake pads — you can potentially save hundreds on both.

What affects the cost of brake pads and rotors?

The cost of pads and rotors really depends on two main factors:

  1. The make and model of your vehicle
  2. Where you get the work done

As mentioned above, luxury and/or performance cars almost always have pricier parts, especially if you buy from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), and brakes are no exception.

Plus, as we already said, if you drive a German, luxury or high-performance vehicle (e.g., Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Porsche), you also may not be able to resurface your rotors and will have to replace them each time, further driving up your costs.

Regardless of what you drive, you may be able to save money on a brake job by visiting your local mechanic instead of the dealer. In the estimates we collected, the cost of a dealer-sourced brake job was roughly 20% higher in all cases.

The estimates we got from dealerships were roughly 20% more expensive than those from independent mechanics.

Quick and easy. Find an auto warranty partner now.

    FAQ

    What’s the difference between brake pads and rotors?

    Your brake rotor is the big shiny disc inside your wheel well. Brake pads are small pieces that create friction between the caliper and the rotor.

    When you brake, the caliper squeezes the brake pad onto the brake rotor to bring your car to a stop.

    How often do you need to replace your brake pads and rotors?

    You should replace your brake pads and rotors roughly every 50,000 miles, but it’s best to have them inspected every 30,000 miles.

    You should also pull over and have your brakes inspected ASAP if you notice loud squeaking, poor braking performance, pulsing or other strange behavior when you brake.

    How do you know when it’s time to replace your pads and rotors?

    Any time your brakes start acting unusual or making loud noises, it’s time to have them inspected.

    Brake calipers, pads and rotors share some common symptoms when they fail. For example, a grinding sound could be a sign of a seized caliper or a faded pad. That’s why it’s best to leave the diagnosis to the professionals.

    How much do brake pads cost?

    A pair of brake pads can cost anywhere from $30 for basic pads to $150-plus for high-performance pads.

    Can you replace your own brake pads and rotors?

    You can replace your own brake pads and rotors, but in addition to parts, you’ll need tools like a socket set, brake piston compressor and jack stands.

    A do-it-yourself brake job might be worth it if you already have the tools and experience. Otherwise, it’s probably worth paying a professional.


    Article sources
    ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
    1. Kelley Blue Book, “Kia Brake Repair Prices.” Accessed Jan. 8, 2024.
    2. Kelley Blue Book, “Ford Brake Repair Prices.” Accessed Jan. 8, 2024.
    3. RepairPal, “BMW 330i Brake Pad Replacement Cost.” Accessed Jan. 8, 2024.
    4. Kelley Blue Book, “BMW Brake Repair Prices.” Accessed Jan. 8, 2024.
    5. Haynes, “HOW TO CHECK THE THICKNESS OF BRAKE PADS.” Accessed Jan. 24, 2024.
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