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Monday, February 23, 2015

Understanding Your New Car Warranty

When you buy your new car your salesman will tell you that it has a “bumper to bumper” warranty. The most common coverage is for 3 years or 36,000 miles whichever should first occur. “Bumper to bumper” warranty sounds like it means that everything is covered. Unfortunately this is not the case. For example, your tires are not covered at all by the car manufacturer but under a separate warranty by the tire manufacturer.

It can be tedious, but the only way to completely understand your warranty is to actually read it. All warranties now are required to use the word “limited” unless there are absolutely zero exclusions and this, to the best of my knowledge, is never the case.

Some of the most common items that are mistakenly believed to be included in warranties are tires, rental car coverage, maintenance, and faded or damaged paint from various kinds of air contaminants.

I don’t know why all car manufacturers choose to exclude tires from their “bumper to bumper” warranties. After all, they choose the tire manufacturer just like they choose the manufacturer of other components on your car which they don’t manufacture themselves like the sound systems. The owner of a car has an established relationship with the service department of the dealership because she is bringing her car back every 5,000 miles or so for factory recommended maintenance. In most cases, she doesn’t even know who the tire dealer is. It would be far more customer friendly for the manufacturer to allow her dealer to handle warranty claims on tires. My suggestion is to ask your dealer’s service advisor or service manager to “broker” the warranty claim on your tires on your behalf. The dealership is more likely to have an established relation ship with a tire store and they can be your advocate.

New car warranties virtually never provide for a free rental car unless the vehicle must be tied up overnight for repairs. All too often, car salesman will promise you a “free loaner” anytime your car is in for service. Verify this with the service department before you rely upon it. There are extended service contracts which you can buy in addition to your new car warranty which will provide rental car coverage.

A new car warranty covers only “repairs” not maintenance items. A very common request is that a front end alignment be performed under warranty. Your alignment should have been checked before your car was delivered. If your car goes out of alignment after delivery, it is usually considered owner’s maintenance. Brakes are another item often misunderstood as being covered under warranty. Brake wear is almost always a maintenance item. Only a mechanical defect in your brakes is covered under warranty.

Faded or pitted paint can be from defective or improperly applied paint or from external causes like industrial fallout or foreign substances sprayed in the air (crop dusters or insect control airplanes). Of course there can be a good argument made that paint should have resistance to a certain amount of air pollution. This type of claim may require the inspection by a factory representative to determine the cause. From my experience, certain colors of paint seem to have more problems than others. Red and white come to mind. Ask the factory service representative if they have experience problems with your particular color. Stand your ground if you feel that the factory should stand good for faded or pitted paint. Get a second opinion from your insurance adjustor. You may even have an insurance claim. If you have your car washed and waxed regularly and keep it garaged it is highly unlikely that you will ever have a paint problem.

The manufacturer’s representative can authorize repairs to your car when it is out of warranty. This is called goodwill. Oftentimes the service manager of the dealership can also authorize goodwill repairs. This is a subjective ruling and depends on how close to being under factory warranty you are, how regularly you maintained the vehicle according to factory recommendations, how many cars of this make you have bought, and how you present your request. A car that is out of warranty by just a few miles or weeks can usually be covered under goodwill. If you maintained your vehicle regularly with your dealer and have bought several cars from this dealer, the further out of warranty you can expect goodwill repairs. Presenting your case in a positive, courteous manner helps a lot. Service managers and factory representatives have high pressure jobs and are often confronted by loud, rude, demanding customers. Your claim may be absolutely legitimate, but your chances of success are enhanced by being nice.

Some manufacturers offer longer warranties than others. The amount of time and number of miles that a vehicle is covered is important, but the quality of the vehicle is more important. Sometimes manufacturers will increase their warranty coverage to sell more cars because the quality of their cars is in question. Quality trumps length of warranty and I would always advise buying the higher quality rather than the one with the longest warranty.

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