Consumer Reports: Are prepaid car maintenance plans worth it?

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When you buy a car, should you also spring for the prepaid maintenance plan?

Here's advice from Consumer Reports.

If you've bought a car recently, there's a good chance the dealer tried to sell you a prepaid maintenance plan encouraging you to pay up front for regularly scheduled maintenance.

"It's different than an extended warranty, which covers things on the car when they break. A prepaid maintenance plan covers the services that you're required to do, to keep the car running in top shape. Things like oil changes, filter replacements, and rotating your tires," said Mike Monticello of Consumer Reports.

Automotive experts at Consumer Reports said there are pros and cons. The cost can be bundled into your auto loan, so the monthly bump in price can feel negligible. But that means you'll be paying interest. To avoid that, pay for the plan in full and separately.

"For a lot of people, it's about peace of mind. And you can't really put a price on that," said Monticello.

Also, ask whether the plan can be transferred with the car, if you sell the car before the plan expires and, as always, read the fine print.

Some plans have restrictions, like where the work can be done.

"Factory backed plans are typically honored at any dealership that sells the same brand of car that you bought. Which is helpful if you move. But if you live far away from a dealership, this can be a hassle. Or if you have a local mechanic that you'd actually rather use," said Monticello.

Most importantly, do the math. Compare the cost of the plan you're considering, against the cost of the actual maintenance it covers.

Ask the dealer what each service will cost so you have an idea of a plan's true value.

You can also get an idea of what a typical service costs by consulting Consumer Reports' "scheduled maintenance" guide online.

Consumer Reports: Guide to prepaid car maintenance plans
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