Most everyone has heard these words, “I’m sorry but you’ll have to pay for this repair because your car is out of the manufacturer’s warranty." What should you do say or do? Obviously, we’re not talking about cars that are “way out” of warranty. A 10-year old vehicle with 200,000 miles that had a three year or 36,000-mile warranty will not be repaired free by your dealer or manufacturer. However, for cars those that are “close” to being within the warranty time and mileage, there is a good chance that you can persuade the dealer/manufacturer to pay at least a portion of the cost of repair. This article is designed to tell you how best to accomplish this.
The easiest way to have your car repaired at no cost is if you initially brought the vehicle in for a problem while it was still under warranty, the dealer “attempted” to fix it, but did not. When the problem resurfaces, as long as you have in writing and on the record that this happened, you should have no problem getting your car repaired at no charge.
To the lesser degree that your car is out of warranty, the greater is your chance that the factory authorizes a “goodwill” repair. Goodwill is what they call all repairs made at no charge when the car is out of warranty. If your car is only five miles out of warranty, this should be very easy to have approved. The further out of warranty, the more difficult this is, and the less likely that you will have 100 percent of the cost paid by the manufacturer. For example, a car that’s 3,000 miles out of a 36,000 mile warranty may be granted just 50 percent of the cost of the repair under goodwill.
It’s important to understand that the dealer often has no say in whether an out of warranty car can be repaired under goodwill. A good dealer should support your request for goodwill because he gets paid by the manufacturer for doing the repair and this makes his customer happy. A bad dealer might not support your goodwill request because he would like to charge you more for the repair than the warranty will allow. A dealer can charge you anything he wants for parts and labor, but the factory allows him only his approved warranty labor rate, markup on parts, and time to complete the repair. If a dealer is reluctant to support your request for goodwill, be sure to take your request all the way to top. Take it to the service manager, then to the general manager, and then to the owner. If the dealer won’t support you, try taking it to another dealer who will. It’s very important that you have the support of the dealer when you take your request to the manufacturer. Without it, it’s highly unlikely you will get help.
Some dealers are granted the authority to make goodwill adjustments directly as well as making decisions as to whether a repair should be covered under warranty. This can be good and bad. As I said earlier, a dealer can have an ulterior motive for not wanting to repair your car under warranty…he can make more money if he makes you pay. A dealer who is authorized to make warranty/goodwill decisions is so authorized because he has kept his warranty and goodwill costs low. This is bad for the customer if the way he has kept them low is by denying legitimate claims to make himself look good in the eyes of the factory and to avoid a warranty audit. To some service managers, it’s more important to be popular with the factory than with the dealer he works for. You want a service manager who works for a good dealer and whose loyalty is with that dealer who will be for his customers.
Manufacturers and dealers will favor those customers who have bought cars from them and had their cars serviced with them. The dealer/manufacturer has your entire sales and service history on their computer. If you have bought two or more cars of this make and had them serviced regularly by the dealers of that make, they will “stretch” on the warranty coverage and goodwill.
When asking for repairs for your car that is out of warranty, be courteous, factual, and as brief as possible. Never threaten to take your business away, sue, or call the media. Never raise your voice or curse. Dealership and factory employees are just like you — they tend to respond more positively to someone who is courteous and rational. You should put your request in writing, email or regular mail. If things are moving too slowly, it’s a good idea to call the factory 800 customer assistance number. Your request will be referred back to the dealer, but it’s good to be on record with the factory.
When encountering difficulties, search the Internet for your repair problem; you can often find chat rooms and other sources of information about people who have the same problem. You will be amazed at the number of people who have had the same problem. Sometimes even your dealer may not be aware that this repair is common among owners of the year, make and model. Knowing this gives you a strong psychological advantage.
When you search for your repair problem, you may find out that the manufacturer has issued a notice to their dealers about this problem. This kind of notice is referred to as TSB or technical service bulletin. Sometime s TSB will authorize the dealer to repair the car under warranty but only if the customer asks! You may even learn that this repair is covered under a recall campaign, but the dealer should have known that when he checked your VIN in his computer.
The bottom line is don’t just take “no” for an answer. Go through the steps that I’ve covered above and you should have a pretty good chance of getting at least some of your repair paid for by the manufacturer.
Earl Stewart is a Toyota dealer in North Palm Beach, Fla., author of "Confessions of a Recovering Car Dealer" and a radio host. This piece was republished from his blog with permission.