You put your foot down on the accelerator and your vehicle responds instantly — good. But then you put your foot down on the brake pedal and something’s not quite right. Whether the issue is a squealing noise or a longer stopping distance than before, it likely indicates that it’s time for a brake job, and your first question is probably “how much do new brakes cost?” The answer is that it depends on a few factors.
It may not surprise you that brakes for a subcompact commuter car are going to be less expensive than brakes for a high-performance sports or muscle car. You may even have paid extra when you bought the car for upgraded brakes. Getting your brakes back to their original specifications will usually come at a cost that’s proportional to the price of your car.
Are You an Originalist?
Whether or not you are an originalist will depend on whether you feel your vehicle must have genuine original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts rather than aftermarket parts that fit your make and model. There are many high-quality aftermarket options out there that will perform as well as OEM parts, so if you’re not having brake work done on a classic car that will be mercilessly judged on period correctness and originality, you could save significant money.
What Do Your Brakes Need?
Brake repair isn’t an all-or-nothing, one-size-fits-all job. Sometimes new brake pads are all you need, but worn brake pads can lead to other problems in short order, most often damage to the rotors. If that has happened, you may be looking at having your rotors resurfaced, and if the damage is considerable, you may have to have your rotors replaced.
Even with proper maintenance and care, the friction involved in braking will mean that, at some point in the life of your vehicle, the rotors will wear too thin to provide proper stopping power. If you’re at that point, it’s a good idea to replace the brake lines too and possibly the master cylinder, depending on its condition. If something bigger has gone wrong, you might even need a new caliper. Naturally, the more components you replace, the higher the price may be.
Who Is Doing the Work?
Dealerships generally charge more for labor than independent garages and mechanics. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, though, you could be very happy to learn the price of brakes purchased and installed at home, as the labor may cost as much as the parts if you have a garage to do the job. Just remember that brakes are a critical component of your car, and your safety depends on this job being done right. If you have a decent amount of DIY experience with your vehicle and a good understanding of your vehicle’s braking system, this might be a job you can do in an afternoon. If you don’t feel up to the job, your local NAPA AutoCare can tackle if for you.
Because of all the variables, the cost of a brake job is hard to pin down. This is where estimates from your local service department, garage or mechanic come in. You can also get an estimate for most vehicles with our online tool. Be prepared — parts alone for a brake pad replacement will likely cost more than $100 per wheel. If you’re looking at brakes, rotors, lines or more, a four-figure bill is not out of the question for a newer car.
Check out all the brake parts available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how much new brakes cost, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo Courtesy of Mike Hagerty.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.