Should you buy a prepaid maintenance plan when you purchase a car?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- 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? The car experts from Consumer Reports share some important tips, to help you make the right choice.

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

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"It's different than an extended warranty, which covers things on the car when they break," said Mike Monticello from Consumer Reports. "A pre-paid 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."

Automotive experts at Consumer Reports say there are pros and cons to considering one.

The cost can be bundled into your auto loan, so 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. "For a lot of people, it's about peace of mind. And you can't really put a price on that," said Monticello.

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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 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," said Monticello. "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."

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

Here is link to more information. Just click on "scheduled maintenance."

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