Beware offers of third-party automotive warranties

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted Oct. 13, 2013, at 9:21 a.m.
A senior consumer from the Bangor area wrote recently, saying he ignored the card in the mail that screamed, in red capital letters, VERY URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE. It said the “notice will expire by the deadline date,” which was Sept. 30.

The folks who sent it must have been serious. Another card arrived, with a deadline of Oct. 3. Another card said Oct. 4, and an entirely different company set the date at Oct. 9. Still other senders gave up on dating their notices but still urged a quick response.

What were they so insistent on selling? Extended vehicle warranty protection.

When a new or used vehicle calls your driveway home, the folks who troll the lists of folks paying excise taxes are front and center with their offers, warning that either the warranty has expired or is about to expire. Without their coverage you’ll have to pay when something goes wrong. The notices urge, “Don’t wait for a repair bill to hurt your economic recovery.”

Nice current events tie-in, right? And look, some of the offers even have you pre-approved for zero percent interest …or maybe they figured out most people have zero interest in their offers.

We urge consumers to take the advice of the folks at Edmunds.com to read carefully, compare coverage and give a wide berth to offers that are long on hype and short on specifics. One official at Edmunds says anything short of a manufacturer’s warranty is risky.

If the coverage doesn’t include original parts and won’t pay for factory-trained technicians to install them, you’re probably smarter to save your money. That’s not a bad strategy anyway; you invest the money in a savings account earmarked for repairs as they are needed. If the car or truck never needs work beyond oil changes and tires, use some of that set-aside for something else.

That theory breaks down a bit when you examine the intricacies of today’s vehicles. Computers run lots of the systems, and dealing with those repairs can get expensive. That reinforces the argument to stick with a manufacturer’s extended warranty, rather than accepting a third-party offer.

Edmunds says dealerships generally mark up extended manufacturer’s warranties they sell, so there may be some room to negotiate a lower price. You won’t know unless you ask. Also, ask about the exact cost of the extended warranty (the dealer may want to talk instead about so many dollars a month). You can find links to most major auto manufacturers to study terms of their extended warranties at www.edmunds.com.

Back to those cards in the mail (you’ll get the pitches over the phone and online, too). Don’t take a salesperson’s word for it that your existing warranty is about to expire. Find out when it does expire, and use whatever time you have to find your best deal. Examine third-party warranty offers carefully and know what you’re getting before you buy.

If some shady operators use robot-dialing, ignore any sales pitch. The caller is breaking the rule against “robo-calling” that the Federal Trade Commission established in 2009. Also, be aware that some scammers will use your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to try to convince you that your vehicle has been “blacklisted” and that no one else will sell you a warranty. There is no such list.

And never give personal or financial information to a cold caller.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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