MIAMI (CBS4) – New car buyers are often asked whether or not they want to purchase a “prepaid maintenance plan.” These are not extended warranties but plans that cover routine kinds of service to your car. But are they worth the money?
“I thought the idea of a prepaid maintenance plan, where I didn’t have to worry whether or not I had money on my credit card, would be a great idea,” said Denise Karl, who bought prepaid maintenance plans for two different cars.
Her first plan cost $1,500 and was added to the cost of her lease. It saved about $600 dollars on maintenance.
“It definitely was a money saver to have it prepaid,” according to Denise. But when she got a new car and a new plan for $800, she didn’t realize it only covered oil changes and no other maintenance.
“I was very disappointed,” said Denise who discovered that coverage varies.
They may be pretty good moneymakers for dealers but the Better Business Bureau warns consumers to crunch all the numbers and read all the fine print.
“These kinds of plans are relatively new, so we’ve received about 100 complaints over the past couple of years, we’ve certainly seen an uptick in the numbers,” said Rodney Davis of the Better Business Bureau.
Some unhappy customers complain maintenance plans were added to their closing paperwork without their approval or they dropped their cars off for maintenance and the work was never done. Some angry customers say the required repair shops went out of business and they couldn’t get a refund. That’s why some consumer advocates say “buyer beware.”
“These prepaid maintenance plans are a source of profit for the dealership so they’re really going to try to steer you toward that,” according to Edmunds.com Ron Montoya.
Since the plans vary, experts have a few recommendations:
• Read the details carefully to see how long it lasts and what it covers, and calculate the expenses to make sure you see savings.
• Once you buy a plan, remember, you’re stuck going to that dealer or repair shop.
• If you finance the plan with your car loan that means you’re paying interest on it, costing you more.
If you’re tempted to buy a prepaid maintenance plan, here’s an inside secret to getting the best deal.
“We’ve been told dealers mark them up, up to 50-percent, so you know to try out offering half the price and then they may counter the offer and you can meet somewhere in between,” explained Montoya.
Always remember to check out the plan closely and don’t be rushed into signing anything. Edmunds.com offers a maintenance cost calculator that will estimate the scheduled maintenance costs for cars.
Some high-end car makers now offer free maintenance plans in the purchase price. If you plan on moving or selling your car before the plan is up, make sure it’s transferrable.