By Chris Przybylski
If you’ve ever purchased anything of value—from home entertainment systems to your cellphone—you’ve likely been offered a warranty. Manufacturers know that a warranty or money-back guarantee provides customers peace of mind at a cheap cost. The reason is simple: very few people will use the offer, either because they forget, or it isn’t worth the trouble. In the sage words of Chris Farley in the film Tommy Boy, “Here’s the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box ‘cause he wants you to feel all warm and toasty inside ... Ya figure you put that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might come by and leave a quarter, am I right?”
When it comes to your fleet, however, the availability of an extended warranty is likely among the many driving factors behind why you chose that brand and specific vehicle, whether it’s a sedan or something larger—and some of those larger vehicles have multiple warranties on certain components that you need to be in tune to. When you run and turnover as much metal as chauffeured transportation operators do, the relationships you have with the dealer, service center, and even the manufacturer are as important as those with you have with your clients.
What Is a Warranty, Really?
Simply put, a warranty is a contract. The contract states that if a product breaks or fails to perform, the manufacturer will fix it or replace it. What many people forget is that the contract affects two parties: the manufacturer AND the user. It’s imperative that you uphold your end, as well, including with regular (and documented) maintenance.
Surprisingly, despite a steep increase in the purchase price of vehicles, manufacturer warranty costs have actually fallen in the last 10 years. Still, a warranty is only worthwhile if you use it when you need it, so let’s start by discussing the most common reasons companies fail to collect on warranty claims.
- Difficulty: Some warranties have terms that make it challenging to deliver on that contract. Whether it’s requiring you to document usage, track install dates, provide the original receipt, or wait for approval, the process can be set up to make you skip it and pay out of pocket—especially if you’re pressed for time.
- Tracking: To claim a warranty, you have to know about it. If you don’t track what was replaced and when, or make yourself aware of the length and terms of the warranty, you may not know you qualify. Don’t leave money on the table.
- Location: For operators in smaller or more distant markets, driving to an authorized repair shop may not make sense. Shipping parts is easy and sometimes cheaper than making that trek, but they still have to be installed by a qualified mechanic.
- Self-repairs: There’s a common misconception that doing your own maintenance or using parts that aren’t OEM will void your entire warranty. That’s not generally the case. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requires a dealer to prove that aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs before it can deny warranty coverage (although they may still charge you for diagnostics). See the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for more information.
- Track your warranties: No matter what method you use to record your maintenance, make sure that you also track your warranties on parts and repairs. Include what is covered and until when, and attach the receipt and warranty document if you can. See our article in the June 2021 edition of Chauffeur Driven for tips on tracking maintenance.
- Fight for reimbursement: When a vehicle is out of service, it costs you money. Most manufacturers will reimburse you for tow bills and your own mechanic to conduct the repair if their authorized shop isn’t readily available or nearby. Make sure you document any work that was done, including invoices if using a shop, so that you have a record in case it is challenged in the future.
- Read the terms: A common warranty exclusion is “commercial use,” which applies to the chauffeured ground transportation industry. Know the terms and take them into consideration when choosing parts and vehicles. Also read the “what’s not covered” section of the warranty, which usually accompanies your owner’s manual.
- Be persistent: Don’t be pressured into giving up if you think you’re within your rights regarding the warranty. This is where relationships with your dealer and manufacturer will be crucial. There’s often a bit of latitude when it comes to determining if something is covered, so you can always escalate the claim up the chain and include your fellow operators who have had similar problems. Note that you’ll probably have more success by being firm, consistent, and informed rather than being rude, shouting, or making threats.
Warranties can be a great way to reduce risk and keep costs in check, but only if you use them. If you receive a warranty, track it, store it for easy retrieval, and make sure you understand the terms. [CD0721]
Chris Przybylski is the co-founder of LBC Fleet. HE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..