Dispelling the Car Warranty Myth

If you purchased a new car recently, chances are you were inundated with information about an extended warranty. Perhaps you weren’t exactly sure what it was but bought it anyway, figuring better safe than sorry. The following information will help you make an informed decision about buying an extended warranty for your vehicle:

The first thing to remember is that all new cars come with an original warranty from the manufacturer that is good for at least one year and usually much longer. Manufacturer warranties cover defects, not normal wear and tear. Look closely at your car’s original warranty to see exactly what is covered. There is a common misconception that you have to take your car to the dealer for scheduled services (i.e., oil change, tune-up, etc.), or you will void your warranty. The truth is any repair shop, not just the dealer, can perform your car’s regular maintenance, provided you keep good records. What may void your warranty is if you skip routine maintenance altogether. On the other hand, warranty work, such as a recall or something specified on your contract, must be taken to the dealership.

If you decide to purchase an extended warranty, there are two key types: those backed by the car’s manufacturer and those offered by independent companies, also known as aftermarket warranties. An extended service contract backed by an auto manufacturer is probably your safest bet. These protect the car purchaser against major repair bills beyond the life of the manufacturer’s warranty. Basically, these plans require the purchaser to pay several hundred dollars for coverage, and also to bear the cost of a deductible amount each time an auto repair is made. The nice thing is that your wallet won’t take as much of a hit at each visit. An extended warranty from an independent company could cost half as much as an extended service contract from a manufacturer. But the quality of this kind of contract varies widely from company to company. Shop carefully and read the fine print: some contracts have so many exclusions that the contract is almost worthless.

When buying your vehicle, remember that it’s the salesman’s job to sell as much as he can. An extended warranty package increases his commission. Just as you can haggle on the price of your new car, you can haggle on the price of an extended warranty. Also keep in mind that extended warranties start the day you buy them, so if you buy an extended warranty the day you buy your car, you will have considerable overlap of coverage for car repairs.

One last tip for those with a warranty contract: Have your mechanic inspect your car before your warranty expires so that you can have any warranty work completed by the dealer before the contract expires.