How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Vehicle Computer?

By Rob Freeborn

One of the largest headaches you could ever have in life is to have a vehicle with a failing computer. So much of your vehicle’s operation is reliant upon the computer. It is essential that it stays in peak operating condition. The problem with vehicle computers is much the same as problems with regular computers. The entire thing doesn’t always fail at once. Sometimes only certain parts of the computer go bad. This can lead to havoc in both a technician’s head and your wallet. At times, it makes diagnosing the problem a very tedious task. That’s why the price for replacing a vehicle computer is very hard to estimate. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons.

Let’s Have an Example

Let’s say your Check Engine light comes on and your vehicle begins to run sluggish. The technician scans for a trouble code and gets an Oxygen Sensor code. You pay to have an oxygen sensor installed, the technician clears the trouble codes from the computer, and the vehicle seems to run better. The next day, the Check Engine light comes on, the vehicle runs sluggish, only this time the computer gives a different trouble code. Do you see the pattern here? The vehicle computer is essential to letting a technician know what your vehicle’s trouble is. If it lies, you pay. Of course, there may be other signs that help the technician to realize that the computer is indeed the culprit, but they are not always found before you play the part-changing game a couple of times. So remember, if you do end up with a bad computer and wind up replacing a couple of parts that may or may not have been bad in the process, don’t blame the technician or the repair facility; it’s really not their fault. They can only work with the tools and products they are given, and the manufacturer is the one who provides both in the case of vehicle computers.

Is There a Better Place to Take It?

First of all, we have nothing against private repair facilities. Many of these facilities employ highly-skilled technicians who were once factory-trained dealership technicians. They have the knowledge and the tools to perform the work. However, if you’re experiencing the old “troubleshooting” issue, you may want to consider taking the vehicle to the dealership. Dealerships possess all the computer software and diagnostic tools directly from the manufacturer. Eight out of ten times they will be able to diagnose the problem more acutely than a private repair facility. Yes, they will cost you more in labor and parts, but they could save you a lot of troubleshooting costs somewhere else. They will also have any updates available for your particular model. Like your home computer, there are updates released for your vehicle computer, too. You may not need a new computer, you may simply need it reprogrammed, or “flashed.”

Ok, the Dealership Said the Computer’s Shot, How Much?

Depending on your make and model, the computer itself will run anywhere from $100 to $1,000. Most of them are located underneath the dashboard inside the cabin of the vehicle. Labor will run an hour or two because of the reprogram that needs to happen once the new computer is installed. All-in-all, the total cost of replacement shouldn’t exceed $1,500, but that doesn’t include what you may have gone through to figure out that the computer was lying.

(Please remember that these repair prices can also fluctuate based on geographic location, as well as vehicle make and model; and that these numbers represent averages, not actual prices offered at any specific repair facilities.)