Owning a car is a great convenience. You get to come and go as you please, never worrying about finding transportation to places like work, school, or the grocery store. But ownership also comes with a downside—the expense. As soon as you sign the paperwork to complete the sale, all future costs automatically become your responsibility.
While many of these expenses include paying for auto insurance, gas, or car washes to prevent corrosion and rust, they also comprise routine maintenance and mechanical repairs. Still, lessening the financial burden of keeping your car running well is possible. With an extended auto warranty, also called a vehicle service contract (VSC), you can protect yourself from paying the totality of a high-cost repair bill out of pocket.
What about a car component deteriorates over time? Do you have to pay the total bill to replace it, or can an auto protection plan cover some of the cost? While the answer depends on your provider and policy, sometimes you can invest in a contract with maintenance coverage. Most extended warranty providers don’t offer it.
What Is Vehicle Wear and Tear?
The auto industry refers to wear and tear as the normal breakdown or deterioration of parts because of daily use and vehicle age. This includes operating performance. Examples of components that require routine maintenance or service as they gradually deteriorate over time are:
- Brake pads
- Batteries and belts
- Discs and drums
- Filters (air and fuel)
- Spark plugs
- Shocks and struts
Other examples of car wear and tear damage can include interior and exterior scratches or burns, tears in the fabric, and chipping paint. But like most things we buy and use—clothing, appliances, furniture, etc.—they eventually wear out. It’s our responsibility to take proper care of them to help extend their lifespan.
Think of it this way: we can’t expect a department store to replace a marathon runner’s sneakers after 5 years of training and racing. By doing so, the company would lose big money! But if the soles of the runner’s new shoes fall off during the first use, that person could make a strong case for getting a free replacement because the product was defective. Owning a newer vehicle that experiences an untimely breakdown is a similar scenario. Manufacturers design original factory warranties to protect drivers from defective parts. Hence, a factory agreement should cover repairs for mechanical breakdowns when normal wear and tear is not the issue’s cause. Kelley Blue Book (KBB) depicts one such circumstance—brake pads wearing after 10,000 miles. As a component that often needs replacing every 25,000 to 70,000 miles, having to change them that quickly would be unusual. Therefore, the warranty would likely cover the replacement cost and the diagnostics to find and fix any other brake system issues driving the rapid deterioration.
Is Tire or Battery Coverage an Option?
Again, most automakers protect against new car defects within a specific timeframe, including tires and batteries. Why? They naturally wear with age and use. But once that time runs out, and the contract expires, any future repairs are your responsibility. Still, you can extend your contract if the manufacturer offers it or buy a new one to cover that component explicitly. With that said, several tire and battery manufacturers provide product warranties, protecting against defects.
According to Edmunds, tires showing evidence of wear across the tread may qualify for a manufacturer replacement through the company’s tread-life warranty, but only if the driver has not hit the mileage limit. Also, a workmanship and materials warranty may be available, protecting against manufacturer and material defects. These contracts often provide lifetime coverage. But to activate any warranty coverage, you must provide proof of purchase, tire rotation, and upkeep services.
Although your car’s manufacturer may offer extended protection for battery failure in case of a product defect, battery manufacturers also provide warranty coverage. AAA gives up to 36 months of warranty protection for its batteries, while Walmart (Everstart battery), Duracell (Power Battery), Autocraft (Gold Battery), and Autozone offer their own warranty coverage.
Can I Get a General Maintenance Plan?
If you have concerns about paying out-of-pocket for regular upkeep, know that finding an extended warranty with maintenance is possible. While most businesses—including dealerships—don’t offer maintenance plans, certain ones add routine services to their contracts. In fact, three of the industry’s top providers do:
Protect My Car (PMC)
PMC is a direct administrator of claims that helps its customers directly. Several of the company’s plans include extra maintenance benefits, allowing up to 3 free oil changes and 2 free tire rotations per year.
As one of the industry’s largest auto warranty providers and direct claims administrator, Endurance delivers one free year of Elite Benefits with any vehicle protection plan. (A small activation fee applies.) Among these perks is complete tire coverage, which reimburses up to two tires yearly because of road hazard damage.
In business since 1984, EasyCare offers Select Bundled Packages that include some or all of the following perks:
- Tire/wheel repair and/or replacement for damage caused by public roadway hazards;
- Limitless repairs on cosmetic damage for alloy or steel wheels, including wheel or rim abrasions, scratches, and scrapes;
- Unlimited qualified repairs for dents and dings up to 4 inches in diameter, excluding paint; and
- Front windshield repair for chips and cracks up to 2 inches in diameter.
Should I Check the Terms of Service?
Before committing to any vehicle service contract, always read the terms of service thoroughly. Ensure you understand what the agreement covers and excludes and where you can go for repair work when necessary. Remember, every service provider is different, so carefully weighing your options by assessing coverage levels, perks, and payment flexibility will be critical in getting a great deal.