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Why that warranty doesn't guarantee peace of mind

You don't know much about what happens under the bonnet and you're worried that the used car you've just bought might let you down. Should you take out cover?

It takes a cool head to go shopping for a used car. How often have you found yourself haggling with a salesman only for the negotiations to reach impasse? He wants his minimum figure, and you won't budge from your maximum spend. Just when you think the silence is about to become unbearable, he plays his trump card. Pay the higher price and he'll throw in a year's warranty, free.
As sales techniques go, it's a pretty good one. After all, who stops to go through the small print of the warranty before they slap the salesman's hand away? In fact, this is exactly what you should do.

Over the past five years, such dramas have increasingly been played out at used car lots and car supermarket sites across the US. Thousands of us have either bought or been given warranties (in reality the cost is hidden in the price you pay) that are supposed to pay for the cost of repairs in the event of the car breaking down. The problem is that in many cases they don't.

My friend bought a 2003 Honda Odyssey EX, for $4000 bellow MSRP on October 2003. It has almost all options including leather, DVD player, remote door opening and closing. Wow, that's a really good deal you got there, I said to him. I almost bought an Odyssey myself last year November 2002 when they still has riculous mark up on the Honda dealership. He told me how he haggled for 8 hours the day he purchased the minivan. He said the sales person would not let him go when they cannot reach agreement. Finally, they said ok, they will gave the car for $5 k bellow msrp but he had to get $2000 warranty coverage good for additional 2 years of the factory warranty. Well, my friend bought that car after that and I knew why the dealer sell the car to him. So its' not a "real" $4000 bellow MSRP, its only about $2000 bellow MSRP so basically almost the same as the invoice price. But it still was a good deal for an new minivan that won "the best minivan of the year" for several years.


Wear & tear


Used car warranties offered by retailers are nothing more than basic insurance policies. Buy a car from a main dealer and the windscreen price usually includes a warranty provided by that manufacturer's official used car warranty scheme. Purchase at a non-franchised dealer or car supermarket and it will be a stand-alone product.

The problem is that the level of cover is incredibly varied. Some of the schemes offered by the best car manufacturers have almost as much protection as if you were buying a new car. Other policies, however, have so many get-out clauses that it's virtually impossible to make a claim.

As with all policies, it is worth looking closely at the policy document and getting some help if you're not mechanically minded - before you buy it. The document will include exhaustive lists of components and spell out exactly what is and isn't covered, but the most important phrase is "wear and tear". Anything that the insurer can argue has worn out naturally, such as wheels, tires, exhausts, catalytic converters and brakes, are not covered.

The truth of warranties is, if you buy a car with 50,000 miles on the clock and the clutch goes a month later, you'll pay to get it mended.


The devil's in the detail


Even if you are unlucky enough to break down and the fault is covered by the warranty, there are still a few tricks some companies at the cheaper end of the market use to get out of paying claims. For example, many policies limit the amount that can be claimed in the event of an engine failure.

Take the classic case of damage brought about by a failed cam belt. Some policies will pay for a replacement belt (which is usually less than $100) but refuse to pay more than $500 for the damage its failure caused to the engine. Most engine rebuilds by main dealers cost substantially more than that, and even some of the so-called executive policies will only pay for the first $1,000 of such a claim - which is absurd when you consider that repairs could cost three times that figure.

Again, if a cheap rubber hose fails and the car overheats, lots of policies will not pay for any resulting damage, which could easily be $1,000 in the case of a large executive brand. Some policies reserve the right to use parts not supplied by the manufacturer, others set a maximum labour rate payable to the garage doing the work at just $25 per hour - around half most dealers' charges - and leave you to pick up the difference. One can go on, as the list is endless...


Should you buy them at all?


Earlier this year, the Consumers' Association looked at the issue of extended warranties offered by main dealers and concluded that schemes offered by just a handful of manufacturers (Volvo, Toyota, Saab, Vauxhall, Lexus, BMW and SEAT) were probably worthy of the name. If the official schemes run by some of the other car makers aren't up considered up to scratch, you have to wonder where that leaves some of the stand-alone policies. Well, we did our research for you on the company and the coverages.

Auto Extended Warranty Repair did research and based on our findings we found that Warranty Direct is the only company that has an excellent record and coverage, we found no complaint at all on the company which has been operating for 23 years in business.

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Auto Warranty Articles:

Warranty : usually written guarantee of the integrity of a product and of the maker's responsibility for the repair or replacement of defective parts

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