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The Secret Warranty

Have you walked under any ladders lately? Broken any mirrors? Maybe you've had an expensive part fail on your vehicle just after the auto warranty expired? It could be that your luck is about to change.

Certainly, many of us have been frustrated with the thought of having to pay for a part that, had it failed a little sooner, would have been covered under warranty. Well, think again, because you may have a lucky penny in your pocket that you didn't know about. You may be eligible for a little-known program called after warranty assistance, or the "secret warranty" as some have dubbed it, offered through some vehicle manufacturers to help in exactly these situations.

After warranty assistance (AWA) is offered to customers who pursue help in paying for repairs that are past the standard factory warranty period. AWA cannot be used if the customer has an extended warranty available that covers the repair. Time and/or mileage restrictions exist with AWA just like any other auto warranty and if you are outside of the parameters, you are not eligible for assistance. For some programs, only original owners are eligible. It's no surprise that not every customer is going to be entitled to coverage. Not all of the manufacturers offer this type of program. However, based on our experience several manufacturers do have some sort of program in place.

There are several key factors the car dealer will examine before offering assistance. First and foremost, the dealer will look at the maintenance records for the vehicle, and specifically, the component in question to ensure that the vehicle has been maintained properly. We should point out here that in order to get the manufacturer to offer any assistance, they want to see that you are a loyal, dealership-oriented, maintenance-conscience customer. By offering AWA, the manufacturer hopes to keep you as a loyal customer who will remember this assistance the next time you purchase a new vehicle.

Before you say "hey, that's not fair" keep this in mind: why should the dealer offer any help on the manufacturer's behalf to customers that are not loyal to the dealer when having their vehicle maintenance performed? If you service your vehicle through an independent or aftermarket facility, what does the manufacturer owe you in terms of assistance? Manufacturers cannot control the quality of the parts used or work performed when you service your vehicle through aftermarket service facilities. Also remember that the treatment you receive as a customer has a great deal to do with you being a loyal customer to the car dealer and the manufacturer.

Once it has been determined that you are eligible for AWA, a decision is made regarding the extent to which the dealer and/or the manufacturer will participate. In some rare cases you may end up paying nothing for the repairs. Much more likely is that you, the auto dealer, and the manufacturer will split the bill.

With smaller repair bills a two-way split, with either the car dealer or manufacturer not participating, is common. Larger repairs will likely involve all three contributing a portion to the final repair bill.

The split in many situations may not be an equal dollar amount between all of the participants involved. Usually the customer pays either the same or less than the other parties. In some cases the customer may pay only for the replacement parts with the dealer picking up the labor (often the higher of the two costs). The dealer is the one who decides how the split is completed and what the split involves, and this is typically done with the vehicle owner coming out favorably.

As you can see, loyalty to an auto dealer could pay off in a situation where you are outside the range of the factory warranty and have been a faithful, dealer-service-oriented customer. You will most likely have to ask to get assistance, but isn't it worth your time to inquire about the possibility of AWA? The worst that could happen is you are declined assistance.

Now that you know the possibility of a secret warranty exists, aren't you feeling luckier already?

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