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CONTRIBUTION · 28th October 2010
Helmut Giesbrecht
Go to a sales lot to buy a new vehicle and the salesperson will at some point tell you about the warranty in the hopes of convincing you of the reliability of the vehicle. These days most warranties are for 5 yrs or 160,000 kms. The numbers may vary depending on the manufacturer and what parts are under warranty. It all sounds pretty good until you do some calculation.

To get maximum benefit from the warranty you have to drive 32,000 kms. per year in the five year period. Most people I know drive much less. If your family has a second vehicle, it spreads the total distance between two. So by the time a vehicle is 5 years old it will have maybe 30,000 kms. on the odometer and 130,000 kms. of warranty are lost. Time is not the wear and tear factor in a car, driving is.

So the average driver never gets full benefit of a warranty. I would be willing to guess that automobile manufacturers factor in the cost of all warranties and part of that calculation is the assumption that most people will have their warranty expire due to the time-destruct mechanism built into every warranty. That enables them to increase the warranty to 160,000 kms. and make it sound like you are getting a very reliable product without them really having to put their money where their claims are. How do they get away with it?

If the quality of a product is so good, the manufacturer would stand by the product for the full number of kilometers you drive it. Oh sure, if you mothball a vehicle for twenty years and then try to drive it there will be major problems but I’m talking about the average low mileage driver. Time parked in the driveway does not wear out the power train and a vehicles maintenance schedule is based on time as well as distance. There are enough ways to make sure that a vehicle maintains a reasonable level of operating time.

There is an added dimension to this issue. We are all trying to get people out of their vehicles into more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, yet if you leave your car at home chances are that in the end you will be paying for those repairs that come up long before 160,000 kms. because 5 years have passed. Had you driven it more, the problem would likely have been repaired under warranty. That is hardly an incentive to leave your car at home.

What to do to stop this scam? All that is required is for the government to pass consumer protection legislation declaring the warranty for a car sold in Canada must be based only on the distance the vehicle has been driven. Drivers who drive less would not be subsidizing those who drive more, and the auto manufactures would finally pick up the full cost of faulty workmanship. It may have the effect of reducing inflated warranties (160,000kms.) somewhat but at least you would know just how reliable a product really is. Then the manufacturers can work to improve their product to make the 160,000 km. warranty mean something.
Comment by James Ippel on 30th October 2010
Very well written, and to the point. I, also, am a driver who subsidizes those drive far more than I do.
I like your concept of holding the manufacturer accountable for the full km warranty, without the time distruct warranty. We, as a retired family, no longer drive great distances, but are penalized by manufacturers time limit warranties.
I have a 2003 vehicle that has 95,000 km on it, but all warranties have expired because of time distruct warranty. I have a 1999 vehicle that has 220,000 km on it, and have no problem with accepting the fact that both age and time distruct warranties have expired. Good maintenance on this vehicle (V-6) still give me 41 miles per gallon on a long trip. Both are GM products, and I think that GM should honor warrantiies on my 2003 vehicle, no matter the age.
Just to clarify the situation, both vehicles are previously owned. One was well maintained, and the second (high miler not) but with TLC was rejuvinated.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 29th October 2010
Removing the time-destruct mechanism in a warranty does not effect your driving situation as I explained. Unless, it is true that I as a low-mileage driver am subsidizing your warranty. I can understand your being content with that.
buy private sale
Comment by Eric Roy on 29th October 2010
I've bought three vehicles from dealers, and after the first experience don't know why I went back twice more! Now I highly recommend private sales. Get a used vehicle from a private seller, have a reputable mechanic check the vehicle over before you buy it so you don't end up with any surprises. Some of the best deals out there are private sales, and at least a private seller won't flog a warranty.
Comment by Steve Smyth on 29th October 2010
The current Canadian family averages between 19 and 24, 000 kms which translates to between 96,800 and 120,000 kms over the average 5 year factory warranty period. keeping mind this is an average Canadian mileage, people in the more "remote" locations (us, for example) frequently put on double that average, and dont get started on hockey and soccer trips-The situation is not nearly as bleak or one sided as you portray.
It would be nice if it were either way, but what suits your driving habits may not be adequate for mine.