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The cost of replacing a set of brake pads ranges from $115 to $270, depending on your location and vehicle. But several factors can affect the total cost. For example, while brake pads are meant to last at least 25,000 miles, the quality of the parts and how you drive your vehicle determine how often they need to be replaced.
What are brake pads?
Brake pads are a crucial part of your car's braking system. When you push down on the brake pedal, you initiate a process that causes the brake pads to be pushed against metal discs called rotors. The harder you press on the brake pedal, the more force the brake pads apply to the rotors, causing them to slow. This, in turn, causes your wheels to slow down as well. Without the brake pads, there's no way for you to slow the speed of your car on demand.
How long do brake pads last?
Most manufacturers say their brake pads will last from 25,000 to 65,000 miles. But how often they will need to be replaced on your vehicle depends on the quality of the brake pads and your driving habits.
You don't need to guess when brake pads are ready to be replaced. Most brake pads have an indicator that's hard to ignore: a little metal tab that squeals loudly against the brake rotor. So when your brakes squeal, it's time to replace the pads.
The material of the brake pads. Manufacturers use different materials for brake pads. Ceramic pads generally last the longest, semi-metallic pads are middle of the road and organic brake pads often wear out the fastest.
Driving in stop-and-go traffic. The lifespan of brake pads will be shorter for people who commonly drive in cities with countless stop signs and traffic lights and highway drivers who sit in heavy traffic and deal with constant braking.
Slamming on the brakes or riding your brakes. These driving habits create additional friction between the brake pads and rotors, which wears down the pads more quickly. Keeping a reasonable distance between cars and braking slowly can help extend the life of the brake pads.
» MORE: How to make your car last longer
When should you replace the brake pads?
Brake pads are usually measured in millimeters. New front brake pads should be around 12 mm thick, and new rear brake pads should measure 8-10 mm.
But your brake pads will thin out over time. Traditionally, mechanics use the following to determine when to recommend brake pad replacement:
7 mm or higher. Your brake pads are in good shape and likely to last a while.
6-4 mm. The brake pads are still doing their job but will likely need to be replaced in the near future.
3 mm or less. You need to replace the brake pads soon.
While you might be able to get a little more time out of your brake pads when they measure 3 mm, you shouldn't wait too long or you could damage the rotors.
Cost of brake pads
On average, drivers should expect to pay from $115 to $270 for a set of brake pads — that would be the cost to replace them on either front or back wheels. So replacing brake pads on your car would run around $230-$540.
Depending on your particular vehicle's needs, the total cost could be more than the average estimate. While replacing brake pads isn't necessarily an annual task, they add to the cost of owning a car, so be sure to budget for them.
Factors affecting cost
Make and model of your car: Because different vehicles have different specifications and might require more or less labor for installation, the overall cost to replace brake pads will vary. For example, Kelley Blue Book estimates that replacing brake pads for a 2019 Nissan Maxima sedan should be $247-$291, while the same maintenance on a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV will run $291-$345.
Location: Labor costs can vary from city to city, too. For example, replacing brake pads on a 2016 Honda Accord in Houston could cost $230-$272. But the same work on the same car will run $283-$333 in Portland, Oregon.
Material of the brake pads: If you choose ceramic brake pads, the cost of parts will be higher than for organic brake pads.
Tips to save money on brake pads
Research the best type of brake pads for your car. Certain brake pads will work better for specific types of vehicles. You can research your options online to learn which kind of brake pads you want to purchase.
Get quotes on the work. Get quotes from a few different mechanics to find the best price for brake pad replacement.
Know when to have brake pads replaced. You can measure your vehicle's brake pads on your own (search YouTube for a how-to video) or you can ask a mechanic to give them a quick look when you take your vehicle in for an oil change. If you wait too long to replace the pads, you could damage the rotors.
Plan to do the maintenance. If you're going to drive your vehicle for a long time, you'll likely need to replace the brake pads at least once. This isn't car maintenance that you can skip when the time comes, so plan ahead to avoid being surprised by the bill.