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One of my concerns before purchasing a car is how expensive repairs are going to be down the road. For example my car up until recently was a Volvo 850, and the air conditioner didn't work in it; the cost of getting it fixed was significantly higher than other cars because of the way the A/C unit is installed in the car, so I went on without air conditioning. Another example is the service light in the car - while the car had a standard OBD-II port which could read error messages, it required a special Volvo reader to reset the service light.

I know a lot of generalizations can be made about one make versus another, but those are obviously not allowed on this site (in fact, I hope this question is allowed at all...) - so that's not what I'm looking for. And I know there is a wide range of problems a car can encounter, and many of them are universal - replacing tires, for (a bad) example.

So, just like I can go to KBB and look up the recommended price of a car, is there someplace I can go to look up a make & model of a car and see what proprietary, extra-expensive parts are in the car? Something that, for example, I could have put in the Volvo 850 and it would have told me about those above-mentioned peculiarities alongside undoubtedly a number of other proprietary bits that I didn't have problems with.

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2 Answers 2

There are a lot of sites that have reliability statistics about vehicles. I think msn.autos list common problems and typical costs for the repair of those problems.

One big factor is the price of the parts. Parts for vehicles that were produced in large numbers are generally cheaper. So you should expect parts for a Nissan GTR to be more expensive then a Versa. Also, parts for luxury vehicles are typically more expensive. For example at GM, pricing for the same part at a Cadillac dealership is typically more expensive then a Chevy dealership.

Another factor is your mechanic. Dealership's are going to be far more pricey than local shops. However, a poor mechanic anywhere is going to waste your time and money. Look for ASE Certification.

Last, if you are buying used, then the previous owner is typically going to be a big factor as well. Where they rough on the car? Did they preform service at the recommended intervals? Did they do repairs with cheap parts? etc.

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Your best basic resource for a question like this is an objective publication that specializes in collecting exactly this sort of information. For example, Consumer Reports provides exactly this sort of information: be aware, it will cost money if you want full access to their website. However, there's a good chance that they have the magazine at your local library.

There's also a meta level of knowledge to be gained by people who work on a particular brand of car regularly. For example, reading what people have to say about modern Subarus was what drove me to buy the cars I have now. Aside from the AWD, the fact that all Subarus are effectively the same fundamental design layout and engines wrapped in different bodies really appealed to me. I don't find myself hunting around for a particular component: they all look the same once you pop the hood.

So, if your mechanic friend loves working on a particular type of vehicle, that's generally a good sign. If they are always cursing about the special code reader that they can only use on a particular model year, perhaps that's an "avoid" signal.

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