With recent news that Detroit can’t keep pace with the demand for new cars, we thought it was a good time to remind everyone that you’re not required to use the dealer when your new car is under warranty.
We know this is a common misconception because we often hear, “Oh, you guys are wonderful, but I bought a new car. I’ll be back as soon as the warranty is up.” If this were by choice, that would be one thing. We would be sad to lose them as clients for a few years, but we would understand. Sadly, however, too many consumers switch to the dealer because they believe they haveto.
Let us set the record straight: You are never required to use the dealer, even when the vehicle is under warranty. Most motorists want the dealer to cover the cost of warranty repairs, which only makes sense. However, unwritten dealer policies may prevent them from notifying you of needed warranty items, and you may want to go elsewhere for your maintenance. Here’s more on the “unwritten policy” and the difference between warranty repairs and maintenance services:
Your new car warranty covers parts failures or malfunctions, such as a sunroof that won’t open, a Service Engine Soon light or an antilock brake (ABS) light. In these cases, your dealer will cover the diagnostics and repairs at no cost to you.
But your warranty does not cover routine maintenance, such as oil changes, tire rotations, air filters, brake service, fuel filters, or cooling system and transmission fluid flushes. You pay for these out of pocket, and you’re free to have these services done anywhere without jeopardizing your new car warranty. Your choice is protected by federal law, the Magnuson-Moss Act of 1975, and you simply need to keep records verifying the maintenance was done.
Some carmakers do advertise that maintenance is “free” with the purchase of a new vehicle for so many miles or so many years. (What these free maintenance plans typically include, such as a single oil change per year, is the subject of an upcoming blog post.) If your new car purchase includes free oil changes, we certainly understand why you would make the trek to the dealer. We simply want you to realize that you’re free to choose any auto repair shop you like.
Also, when you use the dealer for your oil changes, there is no guarantee they’ll notify you of a needed warranty repair unless you specifically ask them to investigate a problem. Why? The carmakers allocate a specific amount of money in warranty repairs for each vehicle sold. (Our sources tell us about $900 per vehicle.) Every dollar they don’t pay out in warranty work is more profit for the manufacturer, so they don’t encourage the dealers to proactively seek out warranty repairs. In fact, it’s not hard to imagine just the opposite—a dealer being penalized for filing too many warranty claims. On the other hand, when you choose an independent shop for your oil changes and other maintenance services, they are likely to perform a complete vehicle inspection and notify you of any warranty repairs. They have nothing to lose. In fact, they stand to gain you as a loyal client because they’ve just helped you.
Have any questions about warranty vs. maintenance items? Don’t hesitate to ask.