Warranties, Service Plans And Roadside Assistance –
The Details

Vehicle engine

Learn the difference between warranties, service plans and roadside assistance

Old people believed that a car will develop an expensive problem one month and one week after its warranty runs out. Old people should not always be trusted, but in this case, they may be onto something. Maybe not the timing, but definitively the expensive part.

When you buy a new car or a newer used one, you will be confronted by a warranty, a service plan and/or a maintenance plan and probably some sort of roadside assistance. It will look something like this: manufacturer’s warranty 5-years/120 000km, service plan 3-years/60 000km and roadside assistance 3-years/60 000km. They mean so many years or so many kilometres, whichever comes first.

A new car will give the figures stated, while a newer used car will give you the balance of the equation. So your one-year-old used car with 50k on it will give you 4-years/80k on the warranty, ditto the rest of the stuff.

The Warranty

The biggie is the warranty, for that covers the expensive parts that make your car go from here to there every day without hassle. The warranty is normally called the mechanical warranty, which means the drivetrain – the engine, transmission, driveshafts, differentials and axles. Some will include the CV joints, some will not. It is important to find out what is covered and what is not. Ask the dealer to show you – it is not a state secret.

Warranties normally do not cover wear and tear items like tires, wiper blades, brake pads and the like. Corrosion is usually not covered, but some manufacturers will offer this as well. The quickest way to invalidate your warranty is to abuse your car (outside pub doughnuts for example) or to fit non-standard parts.

Sometimes you will get a bumper-to-bumper warranty that should include parts not of the powertrain, but yet again the onus is on you to make sure you know what is what.

The Service Plan

The service plan will cover the standard labour and parts cost associated with each service, so an oil change, this filter and those plugs and so on. You don’t have to concern yourself too much with this, apart from the peace of mind that your regular services will not cost you a cent for a specific time period. Except for the wear and tear items. It is guaranteed that from your second service onward, you will need new wiper blades and/or there is a tiny nick on your windscreen that they can fix now before it becomes a problem. Your wheels will need aligning. These things may well need fixing, but, ja well no fine.

Maintenance Plan

This is a service plan on steroids. It will include all the normal service costs, plus specific wear and tear items like brake pads and wiper blades. Yet again, you need to check.

Roadside Assistance

This means if your car stops going while you are going somewhere, a helpful person will arrive to get it going again.

The potential costs of all these plans are carefully calculated by the manufacturer and worked into the price you will pay for your new car. The moment you buy a used car, however, the equation changes a lot. Unless you are a determined buyer who will always sell within the warranty periods, you will most likely expose yourself to financial risk as time goes on. This need not be a horror story, however. Most cars are pretty solidly built and if you buy one that had been properly maintained and carefully checked out by the dealer, you will most likely get a sweet deal that will give you years of great motoring.

The thing is to go to the right dealer to start with.

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