Top 5 car warranty and maintenance considerations 

Why car maintenance and warranty coverage is an important part of the car shopping process

By Laurie Izzy Wheels.ca

Jun 10, 2015 5 min. read

Article was updated 8 years ago

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When you're shopping for a new vehicle it's just as important to compare car warranty and maintenance information as it is to compare price and monthly payment.  Car warranty coverage is measured in terms of time and total mileage driven during the period of vehicle eligibility, whereas free maintenance programs may or may not include more than an oil change or two during the first year of ownership.

Vehicle repairs can add up to thousands of dollars throughout the vehicle ownership experience and things like frequent synthetic oil changes, tire rotations and brake jobs all add extra weight to the already hefty vehicle expense pile.

To be sure you're getting the longest and most comprehensive car warranty and maintenance coverage possible, consider these top 5 tips to help investigate what's covered and what's not when shopping for your next new vehicle.

1. Check the vehicle's warranty start date

New vehicle warranty coverage typically starts from a vehicle's 'in service' date. A Dealer may put several vehicles 'in service' to use as demonstrators, service loaners or employee vehicles so although they are sold as new, they may have accrued a few thousand kilometres and/or been on the road for a year. You don't want to be surprised to learn the demonstrator you bought for a great deal has its new vehicle warranty coverage cut by a third even before you drive it home.

car warranty research

Furthermore, new vehicles with little to no mileage on them may have their warranty clocks ticking long before you take ownership, so be sure to ask for the 'in service' date before you sign on the dotted line.
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2. Compare all categories of car warranty coverage

Some brands offer comprehensive new vehicle warranty coverage while others only cover parts and service on specified components for a limited time. Most new vehicle warranties will not cover normal wear and tear items. New vehicle warranty coverage varies by brand, mileage and value added services such as roadside transportation or courtesy transportation.   Use this checklist to compare the length, term and exclusions of the warranties of each of your favourite brands to help find the best one for you:

New Vehicle Warranty Checklist

New vehicle base warranty Diesel components
Powertrain warranty Hybrid components (including battery coverage)
Roadside Assistance Rust perforation
Courtesy Transportation Rust corrosion
Emission system & components Tires


3. Evaluate the 'no charge' or 'free' maintenance programs

Several vehicle manufacturers now offer no charge or free car maintenance as a value-added benefit to purchasing their brand over another. For instance, BMW has a 'no charge scheduled maintenance program', there is Volvo's 'carefree coverage' , Chevrolet offers a 'complete care' maintenance program and Toyota advertises a 'Toyotacare' maintenance plan.

What does it all mean and how free are free maintenance plans?

Read the fine print of the no-charge maintenance offer and compare the dollar value to the services they provide to determine how much added value is really there. What are you getting, how often, for how long and what are the services worth? Are they going to charge you for the regular scheduled maintenance inspections as set out in the owner's manual or do you get those for free also?
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Car maintenance is a category of car care that covers and excludes a variety of daily wear components that normally deteriorate over time. To help you determine what you're actually getting for no-charge, and more importantly, what you're not getting, use this checklist to compare any free maintenance offers you receive while shopping around:

Maintenance Checklist

Oil changes Light bulbs
Tire rotations Brakes
Belts, hoses, filters Fluids, coolants


4. Check the car warranty conditions

Every new vehicle warranty has conditions that need to be met if a Dealership and Manufacturer are going to replace and/or repair vehicle parts at no charge.

For example, if you add accessories or modify the original equipment, and the modifications cause a malfunction or damage, the warranty may not be valid. If you replace certain parts of your vehicle that are not OEM (original equipment manufacturer) approved and they disrupt or cause issue with other parts, you may not get warranty coverage.   In some cases, if you attach booster cables to your battery and something goes wrong in the electrical system because of it, the repairs will not be covered by the warranty. And, if you don't take your vehicle in for regular scheduled maintenance inspections as set out in your owner's manual, any subsequent damage due to lack of maintenance may not be covered.
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car warranty checklist

5. Compare dealership service departments

It can be said that a dealership's service department has the potential to sell more vehicles than the salespeople in the showroom due to customer-centric characteristics like loyalty, trustworthiness and convenience. When you purchase a new vehicle it's only a matter of time before it's going to have to see the inside of a service bay, even if it's only to get the oil changed. Which service department will treat you and your car right?

Here is a list of things to look for so you can feel confident that your new vehicle will be professionally serviced by qualified people who care as much about taking care of the vehicle as they do about taking care of you while you wait.

Dealership Service Department Checklist

Hours of service Service loaner car availability Knowledge of staff
Location Free Wi-Fi in waiting area Reputation & reviews
Shuttle service Cleanliness of waiting area Fair labour rates

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