Starter replacement costs

Expect to pay at least $400 — and double that (or more) for a luxury vehicle

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Audi, BMW and Endurance Auto Warranty
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Back in the day, you had to hand-crank your engine to start it. Thankfully, Charles Kettering and Cadillac gave us the electric starter motor in 1912, and we’ve started our engines from the comfort of the driver’s seat ever since. Unless your starter has failed, that is.

We’ll go over what a starter typically costs to replace and how you can save money while getting it fixed so you can get back in the driver’s seat.

Key insights

  • The cost to replace a starter motor in our sample cars ranged from about $400 to $1,500. Your cost will largely depend on whether you drive a luxury or nonluxury vehicle.
  • Some complex vehicles have starter motors buried deep in the engine bay, which is why they require more labor (and therefore money) to replace.
  • Even if your car is undrivable, you can often save money by collecting quotes from several shops. (Mechanics specializing in your vehicle’s make may be able to replace your starter faster, saving you on labor.)
  • Factory bumper-to-bumper warranties typically cover starters, and so do mid- to upper-tier extended warranties.

How much does a starter cost to replace?

The average cost to replace a starter hovers around $750, but your cost will mostly depend on what type of vehicle you drive. Estimates for our sample cars ranged from roughly $400 to $1,500.

Data collected from RepairPal and, using upper ranges of estimates when necessary

As you might expect, the estimates above suggest that it’s way cheaper to replace the starter on a basic vehicle than on a luxury car. Parts and labor are almost always more expensive on a luxury vehicle to begin with, and on top of that, it may take your mechanic extra labor hours just to access your starter.

“Starters typically range from about $450 [to] around $2,000 to $2,500, depending on where the manufacturer decides to place the starter,” according to Sean Kim, an experienced mechanic in the Atlanta area. “Some cars, the starter is easily accessible and warrant about an hour or two to replace. On some cars, it’s buried underneath the intake manifold and, depending on the model, can take up to eight or more hours to replace.”

“Starters typically range from about $450 [to] around $2,000 to $2,500, depending on where the manufacturer decides to place the starter.”
— Sean Kim, mechanic

As a consumer, hearing that a repair may take eight or more hours is all the more reason to shop around and get multiple quotes. Some mechanics who are less experienced at working on complex luxury vehicles may quote you for 10 or more hours of labor, while a highly experienced BMW mechanic may only require five, saving you $500 or more in the process.

Towing a dead vehicle to multiple shops is inconvenient, but you can get a quote from the first shop you tow it to and then call around to see what the same service might cost at other mechanics. If another trustworthy shop is $200 cheaper, it might be worth towing the vehicle one more time.

Can you repair a starter?

Technically speaking, you can repair a starter, but many mechanics will advise against it.

You’re generally better off replacing a starter than trying to fix your existing one.

The cost to repair your existing starter is pretty similar to the cost of replacing it, and replacements tend to have far better results. (If your repair job doesn’t stick, you could end up right back where you began: stranded and spending $75-plus to tow your car to the shop.)

Instead, many mechanics will tell you that the most cost-effective option is installing a starter that’s been remanufactured or refurbished. In fact, that’s the only option in most cases because brand-new starters are typically reserved for warranty repairs. (More on warranties below.)

If your mechanic suggests fitting a refurbished/rebuilt starter specifically to save on costs, be sure to ask if it comes with a warranty. Some rebuilt starters come without warranties for a reason — they were rebuilt to a poor standard and have a high failure rate.

Are starters covered under warranty?

Starter motors are typically covered under factory bumper-to-bumper warranties.

However, starters tend to be excluded from powertrain warranties because they’re considered electrical components that aren’t part of the core powertrain itself. That’s arguably a bit silly since your powertrain can’t start without a starter, but it is the industry norm.

» FIND OUT IF YOU’RE STILL COVERED: Car warranty check by VIN

When it comes to extended warranties, many mid-tier plans cover starter motors. That means you don’t necessarily need to pay for a top-tier plan if all you want is coverage for your starter and powertrain. (The Secure Plus plan from Endurance and the Powertrain Plus plan from olive are two examples of plans that cover your powertrain, electrical systems and more for less than the cost of a top-shelf exclusionary plan.)

Extended warranties usually don’t cover preexisting conditions, so you’re probably out of luck if your starter is already bad.

Just keep in mind that warranties of all kinds only cover factory defects that arise during your coverage term. If your starter failed due to a collision, weather damage, a failed DIY project, off-roading, racing or towing beyond the rated capacity of your vehicle, your warranty claim will likely be denied.

In a general sense, if there’s some outside “cause” to a part failing, it won’t be covered under warranty. But if your starter failed and you genuinely have no idea why, there’s a much better chance it’ll be covered and you’ll get the repair done for free (minus any deductible).

» MORE: What does a car warranty cover?

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What are the signs you need a new starter?

If you hear clicking, grinding or screeching (or receive no feedback at all) when trying to start your car, it could be a sign that the starter has died. In rare cases, you might also smell smoke when trying to start your car, which is a sign that oil has leaked onto the starter.

Failure to start could also be due to a bad battery, broken alternator or other issues, though.

What factors affect starter replacement costs?

Three main factors affect the cost of replacing a starter:

  1. Your vehicle make
  2. Your vehicle model
  3. The location of the starter in your engine bay

On complex vehicles with dense engine bays, it may take several labor hours just to reach your starter in the first place.

Whether or not a starter is new or refurbished doesn’t really factor into the cost since replacing dead starters with refurbished ones is the industry norm. Brand-new starters are typically reserved for repairs covered under factory bumper-to-bumper warranties.

What causes starter failure?

Any number of things can cause a starter to fail, including corrosion, damage, poor fitment and overheating. Some mechanics say that if your vehicle isn’t starting, it’s best not to “crank” it longer than a few seconds at a time, or you’ll risk overheating your starter.

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, “Starter Replacement Cost.” Accessed Feb. 16, 2024.
  2., “Genuine Honda Civic Starter Motor.” Accessed Feb. 16, 2024.
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