Should you spring for a prepaid car maintenance plan?

SAN ANTONIO – Whether you're in the market for a new or used car, there are plenty of add-ons to consider. 

Should a prepaid maintenance plan be one of them?  

A prepaid maintenance plan is different from an extended warranty, which covers car parts when they break.

"A prepaid maintenance plan covers the maintenance you're supposed to do to keep the car running in top shape, such as changing the oil, replacing the filters and rotating the tires," said Consumer Reports' Mike Monticello.

Automotive experts at Consumer Reports said there are pros and cons to a prepaid maintenance plan. 

The cost can be bundled into your auto loan, so that the monthly bump in price can feel negligible. But this means you'll be paying interest. To avoid this, pay for the plan in full -- separately. 

Also, ask whether the plan can be transferred with the car if you sell the vehicle before the plan expires.

And read the fine print. Some plans have restrictions, such as where 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," Monticello said. 

But if you live far away from a dealership or if you have a local mechanic you'd rather use, it can be a hassle. 

Most importantantly, do the math. 

Compare the cost of the plan you're considering with the cost of the actual maintenance it covers. You can ask the dealer what each service costs to get an idea of a plan's true value.

You can also get an idea of what a typical service costs by clicking here.

About the Author: