You can be saved a huge number of dollars by understanding a costly car's price over time.

The trick is understanding when to invest.

It's relatively easy to see which cars cost a lot more to buy initially. But it is harder to know how much you really will get soaked in depreciation, insurance, care and repair, and even fuel. Consumer Reports' owner-price approximations bring to light all these hidden costs over 1, 3, 5, and 8 years of ownership.

And they contain some surprises. For example, a four-cylinder Mazda6 family sedan might seem like a great deal, at a price $1,900 less than a similar Toyota Camry. But the overall expense of owning the Mazda for five years is $2,000 higher than the Camry. Likewise, you'd save more than $5,000 by buying a Toyota Highlander SUV, over the long haul, rather than a Dodge Journey that costs $1,600 less up front.

The factors contained in our owner price approximations are sales tax, fuel, interest on lending, insurance, depreciation, and typical maintenance and repair costs you can't find anywhere else. Regardless how long you own your new car, checking out these estimates can save you a huge number of dollars by the time you sell it.

Prices vary among models that are similar

Below are some other noteworthy discoveries we made in our analysis:

Over the very first five years of ownership, the median automobile costs more than $9,100 a year to own--about what it costs to own an upscale sedan like the Lexus ES or a midsized SUV such as the Nissan Murano. She's the author of the books, "Whispers of the Soul," "A Slice of Life," "Whispers of the Soul for the remainder of Your Life," "From Where I'm Sitting," "View from the Sidelines," "Reaching for the Brass Ring of Life," "Purple Days and Starry Nights," "Here and There," "And That's the way that it Goes," and "The Counseling Effect."But it is not difficult to find nice cars that cost considerably less. Sporty cars for example the base Mini Cooper can cost as few as $5,800 a year to possess.

This really is somewhat due to lower depreciation costs, and due to keeping the car for a couple years after the loan has been paid off.

Among the most inexpensive cars to own in our estimate is the small Honda Fit, which costs just over $5,300 a year most expensive car to possess for five years. It combines exotic cars for sale a comparatively low purchase price with great fuel economy, low depreciation, excellent reliability, and fairly low care and repair costs.

Paying more for a hybrid vehicle can save you cash--so long as you choose the best hybrid. Most mainstream hybrids that aren't high-end or SUV versions cost less to own over five years than their less expensive standard counterparts. (Two exceptions are Honda Insight and the Chevrolet Volt. It takes six or seven years to compose the purchase price that is added in fuel savings for those autos.)

Big and luxurious SUVs have the highest ownership prices by far, a year, often amounting to more than $13,000. Pickups of all kinds aren't far behind.

While Hyundai and Kia versions have low prices and long warranties, the savings in many cases are offset by lousy resale values. Hyundai's Accent and Elantra don't prove any more cheap after five years than Civic and Honda high-priced Fit.

Most Lexus models have relatively high most expensive cars maintenance and repair costs (mainly as a result of maintenance), despite their excellent dependability.