The Finance Manager Sets the Stage
Before we get to the questions you should answer for yourself, here's one you'll hear from the finance manager: "Do you plan on keeping this car for a long time?" It's a common question, and it's worth your consideration. Do you get tired of a car by its third year? If so, paying for an extended warranty doesn't make much sense since the manufacturer warranty will still likely be in effect. But if you are someone who drives a car until the wheels fall off, the extended warranty might be worth considering. But how long you'll keep the car isn't the only consideration. Here are five to think through before you decide.
1. Who stands behind the warranty?
Many dealerships offer third-party warranties from companies with varying track records. If you are going to purchase an extended warranty, make sure it is backed by the automaker, not just the dealership or some other company. You can use a manufacturer-backed extended warranty at any dealership across the country. A third-party warranty might be good only at the dealership that sold it to you.
If you are considering coverage for a specific purpose, such as a road-hazard policy that isn't offered by the automaker, check for online reviews to see what others are saying about it.
2. Have you shopped for the best price?
It's unlikely that an F&I manager will be willing to let you shop around on your phone while you're sitting at his desk with a pile of purchase paperwork between the two of you. This research is best done before you go to the dealer to finalize your car purchase. If buying the car is already a financial handful, you can shop for a better price on the warranty after the sale. Here's how to do that.
Get a price quote from the F&I manager for the warranty that's offered. Then shop it around by phone with F&I managers at other dealerships, just to compare prices on the car you're getting ready to buy.
The F&I manager at the dealership at which you're buying the car might say that the price of the extended warranty is not negotiable. That might not actually be the case. If you check with other dealers, you'll find that some of them do have a lower asking price for the same product. Or they might be more willing to negotiate.
The only benefit to getting an extended warranty as you purchase a car is the ability to wrap the warranty's cost into your financing. But unless you've shopped in advance and can negotiate a lower price for the extended warranty on the spot, this route could cost you more in the long run.
Here's a look at bargaining strategies an ace negotiator employs when shopping for an extended warranty.
3. Do you know what's covered?
An extended warranty isn't all-encompassing. Many wear-and-tear parts — items that will eventually break or wear out — are not covered by most vehicle extended warranties.
To complicate things even further, many extended warranties come in coverage tiers (silver, gold and platinum, for example), each with its own price and level of coverage. Take the time to read the fine print to determine what is and isn't covered.
You must also determine who will front the cost for the repair bill. Are the repairs fully covered? Do you have to pay a small deductible? Or do you have to pay for the repairs up front and get reimbursed later?
4. What's your history with car repairs?
Have other cars you've owned had the kinds of problems that would have been covered by a warranty? If you are considering a road-hazard tire warranty, for example, think about how many times you've had a flat tire. If there is a lot of debris on the roads in your area or if you've had several flat tires in a short span of time, a road-hazard warranty may be worth looking into. But if you can't remember the last time you had a flat, you may not need the coverage.
You also can add up how much you have spent on out-of-warranty repairs in the past and compare the total to the price of the warranty. For example, if you've paid $500 for repairs that occurred out of warranty, weigh that against the cost of the extended warranty.
You're never going to have the same repair history in any two vehicles, of course. But if you are buying a vehicle from the same carmaker, it can give you a rough idea of what to expect.
5. Do you really need this warranty?
Some F&I managers can make you feel that saying no to the extended warranty is like playing Russian roulette with your car. You never know when that costly repair might strike. But new cars are more reliable than ever. And the data seems to indicate that most people might not need an extended warranty.
According to the most recent J.D. Power study, overall vehicle dependability is on the upswing, improving in 2018 for the first time since 2013.
If you still want an extra measure of security, you can self-insure. Financial guru Dave Ramsey suggests setting aside half of what you would pay for the warranty and using that money to handle any car repairs that might come up.
No matter what advice comes their way, some people just aren't willing to take chances, or they prefer the convenience of an extended warranty. They're more comfortable knowing that any major repairs will be taken care of. There's nothing wrong with that. If you're a belt-and-suspenders person, just make sure you ask the right questions before you buy an extended warranty.