Practical Advice About Car Warranties
Warranties can protect you, if you understand how to use them
What is a Warranty?
Thousands of times a day in dealership service departments around the country, customers ask, “Isn’t it covered by my warranty?” Too many people assume that a car warranty, which provides free repair for a pre-determined length of time or number of miles traveled, is an entitlement. They think that, as a vehicle owner, they have the right to unlimited repairs regardless of environmental conditions, maintenance requirements, the age of the car, or the number of miles on the vehicle.
We’ve got news for them. A car warranty is not an entitlement. Rather, it is an agreement between the purchaser and the car manufacturer. The purchaser is responsible for following the specific maintenance requirements set forth by the car manufacturer with regard to oil changes, inspections, and other wear-and-tear items. By following these requirements and keeping records of the work performed, the purchaser has fulfilled responsibilities to the warranty agreement. Then, and only then, is the manufacturer obligated to perform any repairs due to a defect from poor workmanship or a part that fails during the time and mileage restrictions set forth by the terms of the warranty agreement. That’s it! End of story!
So why all the confusion? We’re convinced that the source of the problem lies in the common consumer misperception that a car warranty guarantees free repairs no matter what the problem. Some ‘professionals’ in the industry reinforce this attitude by telling consumers what they want to hear: “Oh, no problem! It’s covered under warranty!” Then, when it comes time to fulfill the promise and these ‘professionals’ can’t deliver because the problem is not covered, they lie to appease the customer and blame their inability to act on the car manufacturer, or the salesperson, or the service department, or whatever the situation calls for…as long as the excuse sounds believable. And then there are the service personnel who abuse the system by ‘sliding things in under the wire,’ covering parts/service under warranty that don’t actually qualify. This action usually requires the falsification of documents, mileage, Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), time periods, etc. It is these kinds of activities that further reinforce the consumer attitude that a warranty is an entitlement and not an agreement.
Because of such practices, car manufacturers now scrutinize every warranty claim that comes through the system. Whenever anything questionable comes up, the magnifying glass comes out with laser-like intensity. Such close inspection of warranty claims is interpreted by the consumer as an attempt by the manufacturer to get out of covering a particular repair. However, in reality, if the repair in question doesn’t qualify under the warranty terms then the manufacturer shouldn’t be held liable for the cost to fix it. This lack of qualification can be due to a number of conditions, ranging from abuse of the vehicle, expiration of the warranty because of time or mileage, or a part that is not covered as per the agreement.
So often we hear stories from consumers and service personnel about warranty nightmares in which there was perceived coverage…then reality struck. Educating yourself is the key to avoiding warranty misunderstandings. Make sure you know what’s covered and by whom. Read your warranty agreement carefully, fulfill your maintenance obligations, keep all your paperwork as proof that you’ve faithfully taken care of the car, and then you can expect the manufacturer to uphold its end of the deal.