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Buying a new car? Here's how you can avoid nasty surprises when considering a vehicle service plan or warranty

2018-10-31 09:45

Image: iStock

Whether you're buying a new car or a used vehicle, you will need to consider a motor plan, warranty and/or service plan. These can offer significant peace of mind, but issues can arise if you do not fully understand what is covered or if you have missed the fine print.

To avoid any nasty surprises, General manager of car retailer getWorth, Wesley Procter, warns that the devil is in the detail and if car owners aren’t familiar with the fine print, they could find that they have no cover, or only partial cover when they need it most.

He gives some pointers:

• Make sure you service within the manufacturer’s recommended intervals (both time and mileage). The manufacturers may allow a small amount of leeway, for example, 1 000km or one month over, but if you fall outside their parameters you risk invalidating the entire warranty or plan.

• If you are looking to have parts fitted or repair work done somewhere other than an approved workshop, check the fine print. This may invalidate the entire warranty/plan or a portion of it. It can apply even to fairly standard parts, like brake pads.

• If you need panel beating done, ask before going ahead. Cosmetic panel work should be fine, but anything requiring structural work or parts will need to be done at a manufacturer-approved panel shop.

• Be wary of modifications done by non-approved third parties. Even something like a software modification to the ECU (Engine Control Unit) will often invalidate your warranty.

• Most warranties and plans contain fair use provisions – if you drive recklessly or outside of normal driving conditions (for example, if you take the car on the track) you can invalidate your warranty or plan. A manufacturer can pick up a lot of information from your car’s diagnostic system, so don’t simply assume that keeping quiet will protect you.

READ: A nasty surprise: This is what you pay when your service plan expires

In some cases, a warranty can sound great on paper but impose a heavy hidden cost. Procter explains that there are many new cars being sold these days with limited or no maintenance plans, but extremely generous warranties.

                                                                           Image: iStock

"In order to keep the warranty intact, the owner is locked into using an approved service centre (normally a franchise dealership) for any work needed on the car. This can be more expensive than independent third-party maintenance work," he says.

Do your own background checks

"You may think you are buying a used car that still has a warranty, motor plan or service plan remaining on it, only to find that the previous owner acted outside the detailed conditions and it is invalid. You can mitigate this by buying from a reputable dealer and getting them to confirm that it is intact, or doing your own background checks," says Procter.

READ: Motorists should be 'able to choose where to maintain their cars' - SA National Automobile Dealers Association

But what are your options if you fall foul of one of the conditions? Procter explains that people can approach the manufacturers and ask them to make an exception.

He says that this is entirely at the manufacturer’s discretion and that it helps if you can provide a good reason.

                                                                         Image: iStock

"Sometimes, even if the manufacturer agrees to reinstate the warranty, they will add a condition, for example excluding certain components from the warranty," he explains.

Service times and mileage numbers are a recommendation so that your car operates at an optimal level. If you miss it by a few kilometres or a few days, you should still be within your rights to be covered.

But Procter says to remember that it is the responsibility of the customer to adhere to these service schedule parameters as well as to understand what is covered in your plans and to have read and understood all the fine print. 

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