When it comes to buying a new car, there are many factors to consider.
The car itself has to meet the buyer's needs, but it's also important to consider long-term ownership costs—often more important than many people realize.
The expenses of owning a car include not only things like fuel and insurance, but also maintenance over the life of a vehicle.
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The Toyota Prius hybrid has long been known as the most fuel-efficient car sold in the U.S. without a plug, but a new study found it is also fairly inexpensive to maintain.
YourMechanic—a website that arranges auto-repair house calls—recently reviewed maintenance-related expenses for its customers' cars.
It found that the Prius had the lowest average maintenance costs of any car over a 10-year period.
2005 Toyota Prius
The Prius averaged $4,300 in maintenance-related costs over 10 years, beating out the Kia Soul by $300.
The Toyota Camry mid-size sedan was third cheapest at $5,200, followed by the Honda Fit subcompact hatchback ($5,500) and the Toyota Tacoma mid-size pickup truck ($5,800).
While Asian manufacturers dominated the list of cheapest cars to own, a similar list of the most expensive cars was full of American and German brands.
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The Chrysler Sebring was deemed the most expensive car to own, with a starling average of $17,100 in maintenance costs over 10 years.
It was followed by the BMW 328i ($15,600), the Nissan Murano ($14,700), the Mercedes-Benz E 350 ($14,700), and finally the Chevrolet Cobalt ($14,500).
The same pattern repeated in the study's overall rankings for brands.
2005 Toyota Prius
Toyota had the lowest average maintenance costs across its entire lineup, at $5,500.
The second and third least expensive brands were Toyota's own Scion "youth brand" ($6,400) and its Lexus luxury brand ($7,000).
Honda ($7,200) and Mitsubishi ($7,400) rounded out the top five.
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The most expensive brands were all luxury nameplates.
BMW topped the list at $17,800, followed by Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Volvo, and Audi.
Regardless of the specific model, YourMechanic found that maintenance costs tend to increase by $150 each year over the first 10 years of a vehicle's life.
2007 Toyota Prius Touring Edition
At around 12 years, costs rise more dramatically, peaking at an average $2,000 per year in later years.
That is also when most owners sell their cars—or simply stop repairing them as diligently, often addressing only problems severe enough to prevent them from running.
The reliability of the Prius, meanwhile, has been anecdotally demonstrated by hundreds of the hybrid cars that have been used as city taxis, often accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles on their battery and electric components.