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How Much Does a Car A/C Compressor Cost?

How Much Does a Car A/C Compressor Cost?
Austin Kilham
Austin KilhamUpdated September 19, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Most cars come with air conditioning as a standard part of the trim package. Car A/C systems can be relatively expensive, as they have to be capable of cooling your car from relatively high temperatures in a short period of time. One critical, and particularly pricey, component of the A/C system is the A/C compressor. The average cost of replacing an A/C compressor is $1,100.Here’s a look at what you need to know about A/C compressors and the factors that affect replacement cost. 

Car A/C Compressor Overview

Your car’s A/C system works by manipulating a chemical refrigerant between a liquid and gaseous state. This is done through the control of temperature and pressure. During that process, the A/C system absorbs heat and humidity, which allows the system to pump cool, dry air in your vehicle. The A/C compressor is located at the front of the engine and is powered by the serpentine belt. It takes in low-pressure gas and compresses it to high-pressure gas, which is also a higher temperature. From there, the gas is sent to the condenser where it is cooled and changes to a high-pressure liquid. There, forced air is used to transfer heat away from the system.  The A/C compressor has a number of parts that can fail. One is the compressor clutch, which engages or disengages to turn the compressor on or off. Other parts that can fail include bearings within the clutch, the seal within the A/C compressor, and finally, general wear and tear which can lead to additional mechanical parts failing. If your A/C is no longer working and only blowing hot air, it could be a sign that your A/C compressor needs to be replaced.  

Cost of Replacing an A/C Compressor

The cost of replacing an A/C compressor ranges from $800 to $1,500. Cost will depend in part on whether you replace your failing compressor with a part of a remanufactured compressor or if you replace it with a brand new one. A remanufactured compressor is a used part that’s been taken apart, thoroughly cleaned and repaired, and put back together. This option may save you money on replacement costs, but it may not last as long as a new compressor would. You may only want to consider a remanufactured compressor as a short-term option or if you don’t plan to drive your car for much longer. Your A/C compressor clutch can potentially be replaced on its own, but in many cases, it’s more cost effective to replace the entire unit.  

Factors That Affect New A/C Compressor Replacement Cost

Other factors also play a role in replacement costs, including the make and model of your car and labor costs. 

Make and Model of Car

If you have a common and affordable vehicle, your costs could be lower since the replacement part is likely to be more readily available. However, if you have an uncommon make or a luxury vehicle, it may be more expensive to replace your A/C compressor.  

Labor Costs

The cost of hiring a mechanic typically adds $160 to $200 or more to the price of A/C compressor replacement. Consider that if you’re mechanically inclined, doing the project yourself could save you hundreds of dollars.If you’re not confident in your ability to make auto repairs yourself, take your car to a trusted auto shop. 

Additional Repairs Needed

If your A/C compressor is failing, it’s possible that other parts of your A/C may be in need of repair, as well. Additional repairs may include the condenser, the dryer, the metering device, and the evaporator. Each part could tack on a substantial sum to your final bill. For example, replacing your condenser could run you over $700, while replacing the evaporator could cost $1,200 or more. 

What Impacts a Car’s A/C Compressor’s Performance?

How much you use your A/C could have an impact on its long-term performance due to wear and tear. There is no maintenance that you can perform that will make your A/C compressor last longer. However, it is driven by the serpentine belt, so make sure that it is installed properly so the parts that run off it can continue to run smoothly. 

How Do You Know It’s Time to Replace Your A/C Compressor?

The most common symptom of a failing A/C compressor is that your A/C won’t deliver cold air. Other signs it’s time to replace your A/C compressor include being unable to turn your A/C off, your check engine light coming on, or hearing a screeching sound coming from the belt.  

Where Can I Get My Car’s A/C Compressor Replaced or Repaired?

You can get your A/C compressor replaced or repaired at your car’s dealership or at a local auto shop. If your car is still under warranty, take it to the dealership to have the compressor replaced. However, if you are no longer under warranty, taking your car to the dealership may be more expensive than using a trusted mechanic at a local garage. 

Can You Replace Your Own A/C Compressor?

Yes, you can replace your own A/C compressor. However, doing so will require familiarity with the inner workings of your car and mechanical ability. If these aren’t words you’d use to describe yourself, you may want to take your car to an auto shop to ensure your replacement parts are properly installed. 

Can You Drive With a Broken A/C Compressor?

It is not recommended to drive with a broken A/C compressor. In most cars, the A/C compressor is run by the serpentine belt. If it’s not working properly, the belt may not be able to spin as it is supposed to. The belt drives other important components of your engine, so if it can’t spin properly, you must have it fixed. Recommended: The Costs of Engine Replacement

The Takeaway

The A/C compressor is a critical component of your car’s A/C system. When it fails, your A/C won’t work, and unfortunately, the serpentine belt that drives other components of the engine may not run as it is supposed to. Fixing your A/C compressor can be a major hit to your wallet, costing as much as $1,500. If you’re looking for room in your budget to cover this cost, consider refinancing your car loan. When you refinance, you pay off your old loan with a new one — hopefully one with a lower interest rate. You can put that interest rate savings toward car repair. You could also increase your loan term, reducing your monthly payment. However, when you do so, you increase the number of months you’ll be paying interest, which can increase the overall cost of your loan.And finally, you could consider a cash-out auto refinance, which gives you cash back from the loan. This money can then be used to pay for a new A/C compressor.If you’re considering refinancing, consider Lantern by Sofi. Lantern allows you to shop around to a variety of lenders to help ensure you land the best interest rates and terms available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth it to repair a car’s A/C compressor, or should you replace it?
How long do A/C compressors last?
Is an A/C condenser and an A/C compressor the same thing?
Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade

About the Author

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. He focuses on personal finance, retirement, business, and health care with an eye toward helping others understand complex topics.
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