Free maintenance programs have begun to sprout up across the automobile industry as a tactic employed by car companies intent on differentiating themselves from the competition. There is no question that on some vehicles regular maintenance can be expensive, and adding access to free service and other perks during the period of initial ownership is an appealing benefit to many drivers.
Not all free maintenance programs offer the same level of service and features. Let's take a detailed look at 10 free maintenance programs and what they can provide new car buyers.
BMW Ultimate Service
The BMW free maintenance program is called BMW Ultimate Service, and not only was it one of the first perks of its kind to be introduced in the luxury segment but it also remains one of the most comprehensive complimentary maintenance offerings around. BMW Ultimate Service covers services such as oil changes and vehicle inspections, and it also provides free replacement of windshield wiper blades, brake pads and discs, engine belts and brake fluid.
The BMW Ultimate Service program lasts as long as a vehicle's limited warranty, which translates into four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Certain limitations apply - as with every free maintenance program, you can't fry the brakes on the track every weekend and expect continual replacements - and the program can also be extended for an additional two years / 50,000 miles.
Jaguar Platinum Coverage
Jaguar Platinum Coverage is available on all 2011 models built by the British brand. The program offers an almost identical array of services and component coverage when compared against the BMW Ultimate Service perk, including free scheduled maintenance, oil changes and brake fluid changes. Wiper blade replacements, brake pad and disc replacements and filter changes are also included free of charge.
The Jaguar Platinum Coverage free maintenance program is offered for five years or 50,000 miles - beating BMW's coverage by a full year. Jaguar is very specific about the service intervals required between brake changes and wiper blade replacements, and refers owners to a published service schedule that determines when their vehicle will be eligible to take advantage of free servicing.
MINI Boot To Bonnet Maintenance Program
Joining the elite ranks of luxury car companies that provide extensive free maintenance is MINI, the manufacturer of much more affordable automobiles. MINI's Boot To Bonnet Maintenance Program offers extensive coverage of vehicle services (inspections and oil changes) as well as component replacements (brake fluid, discs and pads, windshield wiper blade inserts, engine belts, engine and cabin air filters). The fine print that goes along with the MINI program also makes reference to clutch replacements, transmission fluid replacement, and the replacement of spark plugs and oxygen sensors, although these items would presumably also fall under the standard warranty umbrella.
MINI's coverage isn't quite as long as that offered by corporate parent BMW, lasting only three years or 36,000 miles. It can be upgraded by way of purchasing an additional three years and 64,000 miles of service to bring the total coverage period to six years or 100,000 miles. Like all free maintenance programs, service must be performed at scheduled intervals which are determined by MINI.
Volvo Complimentary Factory Scheduled Maintenance
Volvo Complimentary Factory Scheduled Maintenance is a free perk that is offered to all buyers of 2010 through 2012 model Volvo automobiles in the United States. This free maintenance service handles brake servicing and component replacement, engine oil and filter changes, vehicle inspections, cabin air filter replacements and wiper blade replacements - essentially identical to the other leading free maintenance programs.
Volvo is quite up-front regarding its scheduled maintenance intervals, listing off each of the four maintenance periods and all related services and replacements on its website. Although Volvo has been extending the length of its coverage year-by-year since it first flirted with introducing limited free maintenance coverage in 2008, it currently only offers three years or 36,000 miles of coverage, lagging behind BMW and Jaguar. Upgrades to the program can be purchased that can extend the program to 60,000 miles.
Cadillac Premium Care Maintenance
Cadillac Premium Care Maintenance is the first program on our list that backs down its coverage level with regards to 'consumable' or wear items such as brake pads and windshield wipers. These components do not fall under the provisions of the program, which instead focuses on oil change services, vehicle inspections, engine and cabin air filter replacement and tire rotation.
Despite reducing the number of items covered by its free maintenance program, Cadillac has extended the term of the Premium Care Maintenance perk to surpass that of Volvo or MINI. New 2011 Cadillac buyers enjoy protection for a period of four years or 50,000 miles, and the program is transferable should the vehicle be sold within that timeframe.
Lincoln Complimentary Maintenance
Lincoln Complimentary Maintenance began its life as a limited-time-only promotion that was eventually expanded and incorporated as part of the brand's standard perks. Like the Cadillac program, Lincoln's free maintenance eschews wear items, providing free oil changes and oil filter replacements, free tire rotations and no-charge vehicle inspections.
Lincoln Complimentary Maintenance is provided for a period of four years or 50,000 miles (for a maximum of eight scheduled service visits), and almost all 2011 vehicles qualify. Excluded from the program is the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
Saab No-Charge Scheduled Maintenance
2009 - 2011 Saab models are eligible for the brand's No-Charge Scheduled Maintenance program. What is covered by Saab's free maintenance perk? Tire rotations and oil changes, which are a standard part of each Saab vehicle's scheduled dealership visits. The program is identical to the one put in place by previous brand owner General Motors, with the all-new Saab honoring No-Charge Scheduled Maintenance on vehicles which were purchased prior to the automaker changing hands. One tweak to the perk is that maintenance can no longer be performed at just any GM dealership - owners must visit a Saab dealer to take advantage of the program.
The Saab No-Charge Scheduled Maintenance program is valid for three years or 36,000 miles.
Toyota Free Maintenance Plan / Scion Service Boost
Both Toyota and its youth-oriented Scion division offer the same free maintenance program to new car buyers. These services (known as Scion Service Boost and the Toyota Free Maintenance Plan) cover oil changes, fluid top-offs, tire rotations and cabin air filter cleanings, items which are listed in each brand's maintenance schedule.
The Toyota and Scion programs each last only two years or 25,000 miles, but they also add 24 hours of roadside assistance to the package to help soften the blow of the reduced free maintenance period. This particular perk previously did not come as part of Toyota or Scion's standard new vehicle warranty.
Volkswagen Carefree Maintenance
Volkswagen Carefree Maintenance covers the oil changes, vehicle inspections and filter changes that are part of the brand's regularly scheduled dealership service visits. Volkswagen schedules its maintenance intervals very precisely, and given that Carefree Maintenance lasts for three years or 36,000 miles, almost every VW is covered for four trips to the service bay.
The exception is the Volkswagen Routan, a minivan which was developed by Chrysler and which qualifies for six service visits. Volkswagen also allows for owners to add Car Care Service Plans to extend their free maintenance past the original term.
Hyundai Equus At Your Service Plan
Hyundai offers a free maintenance program, but unlike any of the others on this list it applies exclusively to a single model - the 2011 Hyundai Equus luxury sedan. Called the 'At Your Service' plan, this perk is part of the array of high-end features and benefits that come bundled with the Equus.
Hyundai At Your Service provides coverage for oil changes, filter changes, inspections and any other scheduled services that could crop up during the first five years or 60,000 miles of ownership. Interestingly, At Your Service also comes with a free valet feature wherein Hyundai personnel actually pick up the Equus at your house and drive it to the dealership for you, leaving you with a loaner car and the rest of your day unencumbered by service appointments. Equus owners can even contact Hyundai through the app that comes with their complimentary iPad to schedule each maintenance call.
Programs are subject to change.