FIAT maintenance: cost, plans and service schedule

Cheap to maintain, pricey to repair

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red fiat with an open hood in a shop

FIATs are superb cars on paper. They’re small yet practical, fun to drive, easy to park, cheap to insure and have an endearing style to boot.

But FIAT sales have faltered in recent years, in part due to the brand’s checkered reputation for reliability.

So if you choose to purchase a FIAT, how much can you expect to pay in terms of maintenance? Repairs? What’s the difference, and do FIATs still deserve their long-standing reputation for subpar build quality?

Read on to find out.

Key insights

FIAT vehicles are relatively inexpensive to maintain ($500 to $600 per year) since they’re small, simple and don’t require high-performance parts.

Jump to insight

FIAT’s maintenance schedule looks very similar to the average vehicle. In fact, FIATs can go 8,000 miles between oil changes whereas other automakers recommend as little as 3,000 miles.

Jump to insight

While maintenance is cheap, FIAT repairs are expensive due to a high frequency of issues and a low availability of parts.

Jump to insight

Our quote for a bumper-to-bumper extended warranty was only 16% higher than average ($1,160 per year vs. $1,000), so it might be a good idea to provide peace of mind and insurance against frequent FIAT repairs.

Jump to insight

Are FIATs expensive to maintain?

To preface, let’s recap the difference between maintenance and repairs:

  • Maintenance items are things that you have to do on a regular basis just to keep your car on the road. Oil changes, brakes, wiper blades and spark plugs are all examples of “routine maintenance” or “wear-and-tear” items that require replacing at regular intervals, even if your car is in peak condition otherwise.
  • Repairs address unexpected issues or breakdowns. Things like engine failure, transmission failure, a blank infotainment screen or a wobbly suspension may require repairs.

To draw an analogy, getting a routine dental cleaning is like a form of “maintenance” for your teeth. Fillings and root canals, on the other hand, are “repairs.” Needless to say, keeping up with routine maintenance drastically reduces the likelihood that you’ll need repairs.

That’s why it’s important to factor in the cost of maintenance for any car that you’re considering purchasing. And thankfully, FIATs are pretty cheap to maintain.

“FIATs are not terribly expensive vehicles to own,” Sean Kim, an experienced Atlanta-area mechanic, told ConsumerAffairs. “I’ve seen average maintenance costs on most FIATs to be around $500 to 600 per year.”

A major reason why FIATs are relatively cheap to own compared to the average car is because they’re generally light, small and don’t require high-performance parts.

“They are smaller cars so their tires and brakes generally last a bit longer,” says Kim. “On top of that, aftermarket maintenance parts, when available, are generally cheaper for smaller cars.”

While it may be cheap to maintain a FIAT, repair costs are a slightly different story. We’ll discuss those soon, but for now, let’s look at how FIAT’s estimated annual maintenance and repair costs compare with those of its competitors.

How FIAT compares to other automakers

If we take 2019 RepairPal data and adjust it for inflation, we see that FIATs are, on average, still more expensive to own than comparable Hondas and Toyotas. Those companies set the gold standard for low ownership costs, so it’s no surprise that a small-volume Italian manufacturer can’t keep up.

Thankfully, the data also suggests that FIATs are cheaper to own than comparable Fords and especially BMWs. Again, this is likely due to the fact that FIATs are built with small, simple, nonperformance parts, which is a powerful trifecta for low cost.

*According to RepairPal

All that being said, this is still just an average across the entire brand. When it comes down to specific models (e.g., the FIAT 500, the FIAT 500X), some may be more reliable than others.

So let’s find out which is which.

FIAT maintenance and repair costs by model

While model-specific data is somewhat limited, we can still get some idea of which FIATs are more likely to give you trouble.

RepairPal data suggests that the FIAT 500L crossover may be the “problem child” in the lineup, costing an average of 15% more to own per year than the basic FIAT 500.

Data from CarComplaints seems to corroborate this, with users citing major transmission issues with the 2014 model of the 500L. 2014 was also the last year Consumer Reports rated the 500L for Predicted Reliability, giving it a dismal 1 out of 5.

As for which FIAT 500 years to avoid, CarComplaints overwhelmingly suggests avoiding the 2012 model due to electrical problems. The 2015 also has issues with its turbo compressor failing, costing owners $2,000-plus to fix. Consumer Reports only gave the FIAT 500 a Predicted Reliability score of 1 in 2012, 2 in 2013 and 1 again in 2015. It hasn’t rated the model since.

*According to RepairPal

So far, there’s plenty of data to suggest that FIATs are cheap to maintain, but expensive to repair. In other words, it’s cheap to bring them in for routine things (brakes, tires, oil changes) but expensive to repair them, despite their relative simplicity.

Before we dive into why that is, let’s look at how much regular maintenance will cost you.

FIAT maintenance cost and schedule

As mechanic Sean Kim mentioned above, the cost of maintaining a FIAT is relatively low. Expect to pay around $500 to $600 per year at a trustworthy independent mechanic, depending on your zip code (if you live in an expensive city, the cost of maintenance will track with the cost of living).

Either way, $600ish is far less than the $900 average annual cost it takes to maintain a car these days.

As for what you have to change and when, FIAT’s routine maintenance schedule looks very typical for a regular, nonperformance vehicle. In fact, it’s a little less intense than average. FIAT recommends oil changes every 8,000 miles or eight months, whereas some automakers say every 3,000 or six months.

You can see the FIAT factory recommended maintenance schedule here, courtesy of Benson FIAT Studio.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room.

» COMPARE: Average car maintenance costs

FIAT repair costs

In a nutshell, FIATs are cheap to maintain but expensive to repair for a few reasons.

  1. Poor reliability: As mentioned above, the little reliability data we have for FIAT doesn’t paint a pretty picture. FIAT vehicles almost always score below average for reliability and build quality, meaning they’ll need more frequent repairs than the average vehicle.
  2. Limited part availability: There simply aren’t many FIATs or FIAT dealers in the USA, meaning it may take longer to find the FIAT part you need compared to a Ford or Toyota part. “Dealership availability is sparse and product support is lacking in many parts catalogs,” says Kim.
  3. Independent mechanics aren’t a fan: Broadly speaking, independent mechanics prefer to work on vehicles that are simple, familiar and have plentiful spare parts. “But due to their sparsity and lack of popularity,” says Kim, “many mechanics are not comfortable working on FIATs.”

So while FIATs are cheap to buy and cheap to maintain, poor reliability and limited parts availability can lead to frequent and expensive repairs.

If you still have your heart set on a FIAT, you may be able to protect your wallet (and your stress levels) with an extended warranty.

» LEARN: What is a manufacturer’s warranty?

Quick and easy. Find an auto warranty partner now.

    How can an extended warranty help?

    For context, FIATs come with a three-year/36,000-mile factory bumper-to-bumper warranty. That means if you buy a used FIAT with very little factory warranty left (or none at all), you might want to consider an extended warranty for added peace of mind.

    An extended warranty essentially takes your factory coverage and stretches it out longer, so if you encounter build quality issues or factory defects beyond mile 36,000, it may help to cover the cost.

    Third-party warranty company Endurance quoted us $1,162.80 per year for a bumper-to-bumper plan with a $100 deductible to protect our hypothetical 2022 FIAT 500X. That’s 16% higher than the $1,000 average across brands, which is to be expected given FIAT’s reputation for below-average reliability.

    For more info on extended auto warranties, and potentially a lower quote, check out our list of the best extended warranty companies.

    » MORE: Car warranty vs. car insurance

    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. RepairPal, “Fiat Repair & Maintenance Costs.” Accessed May 24, 2024.
    2. RepairPal, “Fiat 500 Reliability Rating.” Accessed May 24, 2024.
    3. RepairPal, “Fiat 500X Repair & Maintenance Costs.” Accessed May 24, 2024.
    4. RepairPal, “Fiat 500L Repair & Maintenance Costs.” Accessed May 24, 2024.
    5., “FIAT Overview.” Accessed May 24, 2024.
    6. Consumer Reports, “Fiat.” Accessed May 24, 2024.
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