How to factor maintenance costs into your car's sticker price

The YourMechanic website is beginning to compile data on which car brands will cost you the most in fixes over the car's lifetime. When buying a car, you should factor in to your purchase the amount of money it will cost to maintain the car.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
A technician works at an auto body shop in Rockville, Md.

When you're shopping for a new car, it's easy to fixate on sticker prices. But as we all know, buying a car involves more than just paying for it: if you're financing, there's interest to consider, and of course everyone has to shell out for registration and insurance.

Most car-related costs can be calculated before you sign on the dotted line, but one is far, far trickier: maintenance. The folks at are working to make the process a little clearer, though.

YourMechanic is a network of mechanics around the country that offer on-site service for a range of fixes and inspections, from pre-purchase check-ups to replacing serpentine belts and engines. Over time, the company has built a database of cars and the repairs they require, and it's recently compiled that data into some useful charts for shoppers.

The site explains that maintenance costs typically start low--around $1,400 for the first 25,000 miles. Over the next 75,000 miles, though, they climb ever higher, reaching $4,000 per 25,000 miles when cars cross into 100,000 - 125,000 mile-territory.

Some brands perform better than those averages, some perform worse. But most importantly: some cars require very little maintenance at first, but become far needier as they age.

For example, during the first 75,000 miles of their lives, Hyundai and Kia vehicles only cost their owners about $4,000 in maintenance--roughly $2,600 below the U.S. average. After the odometer crosses 75,000, though, the costs increase dramatically: between 75,000 and 150,000 miles, they'll need about $11,000 in fixes.

Toyotas, on the other hand, start out slightly more expensive, requiring an average of $4,300 in service during their first 75,000 miles. During the next 75,000, though, Toyota owners only shell out $6,800, on average.

There's a good bit of variation between models, too. The BMW 328i starts out pricey, needing nearly $12,000 in repairs during its first 75,000 miles. After that point, however, the Ford Mustang becomes the deepest money pit, costing owners an average of $16,900 between 75,000 and 125,000 miles. (The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee can cost a pretty penny, too.)

As far as maintenance is concerned, the Toyota Prius is the hands-down winner, costing owners just $2,800 during its first 75,000 miles and $3,900 during the next. (The Nissan Versa and the Honda Fit fare pretty well, too.)

Unfortunately, YourMechanic doesn't offer maintenance cost estimates for every make and model, but you can find some of the more popular U.S. cars, trucks, and SUVs listed here.

This article first appeared at The Car Connection.

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