Sizing Up Free Car Maintenance Programs

Many Plans Are Shorter and Cover Less Than They Once Did


Automakers offer free maintenance programs to sweeten a lease or purchase deal. But should a carmaker's free maintenance plan be the deciding factor in a deal?

Increasingly, the answer is no. For 2019, free maintenance plans have shorter periods and sometimes offer less coverage than in years past. BMW's free maintenance plan, for example, used to offer four years or 50,000 miles and cover wear items such as brake pads, rotors and windshield wipers. Now it's three years or 36,000 miles, and it excludes wear items. In some cases, the plans only cover select vehicles in a manufacturer's lineup, such as Lincoln vehicles in the Black Label trim level and Kia's K900 luxury sedan.

Meanwhile, Jeep and Ram are trying a new approach, offering some basic maintenance visits as part of their Jeep Wave and Ram Care loyalty programs.

In all cases, these free maintenance programs apply whether you buy or lease the car. Some plans can be transferred to subsequent owners, but others cannot. And there are time and mileage restrictions. For example, some automakers require that the free car maintenance be performed within 1,500-2,000 miles of the recommended service intervals. And the plan details change from one model year to the next.

Free Maintenance Trends

Luxury carmakers continue to be the main providers of the more generous programs.

For 2019, Jaguar offers five years or 60,000 miles of free maintenance. If you're willing to pony up for the Black Label trim level on Lincoln MKC, MKZ, MKX, Continental and Navigator models, you'll get four years or 50,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance, which also covers wear items. Plus, there's a complimentary pick-up and drop-off service. Kia's K900 luxury sedan is the only one of the automaker's vehicles that get free maintenance: three years or 36,000 miles for the 2019 model.

BMW's plan, which has scaled back to three years or 36,000 miles, is now comparable to the plans offered by Genesis and Volvo.

Cadillac is another luxury maker that's downshifting. Buyers of 2019 models receive their first maintenance visit free of charge. But if you were buying a 2018 Cadillac — and some may still be available at dealerships at this writing — you'd get select maintenance services for three years or 36,000 miles. The 2018 coverage is worth about $1,054. The 2019 is much less: $250.

Two non-luxury General Motors brands — Chevrolet and Buick — also have reduced the level of coverage for 2019. 2018 Chevrolet vehicles come with select maintenance services for three years or 36,000 miles. For 2019, it's just the free initial maintenance service. 2018 Buick vehicles get two free maintenance visits. Cut that in half for 2019 Buick models.

To further help you sort through the options, Edmunds has researched the current programs, benefits and savings, shown in this chart. Don't get too hung up on the savings figures. It's more important to look at what the carmakers' free maintenance programs cover or, increasingly, don't cover.

Manufacturer

Years/Miles

Estimated savings

Details

Audi

1/10,000

$174

For 2017 model-year and newer cars, the first regularly scheduled maintenance comes at 10,000 miles or one year. See details.

Alfa Romeo

1/10,000

$200

Coverage applies to 2017 model-year and newer Alfa Romeo vehicles, excluding 4C Coupe and Spider. See details.

BMW

3/36,000

$1,587

The maintenance items that are included when they are performed as outlined in the vehicle's maintenance booklet are: engine oil, engine filter, brake fluid, cabin microfilter(s), engine air filter(s), spark plugs, remote control/key battery, vehicle check, and fuel filter (diesel engines only). See details.

Buick

First required service

$163 ($583 for 2018 MY)

One complimentary maintenance visit for 2019 Buick vehicles. Coverage consists of an oil change, tire rotation and multipoint vehicle inspection. Air filter not included. Service visit must occur within the first year of ownership from date of purchase.

2018 Buick vehicles receive two complimentary maintenance visits. They must occur within two years or 24,000 miles of vehicle delivery, whichever comes first. See details.

Cadillac

First required service

$250 ($1,054 for 2018 MY)

For 2019, vehicles receive a complimentary first maintenance visit (oil and filter change, tire rotation, multipoint vehicle inspection). Service visit must occur within the first year of ownership from date of delivery. Does not include air filters.

All 2017 and 2018 Cadillac vehicles (excluding 2017 XT5) receive select maintenance services for three years or 36,000 miles, including oil changes based on the vehicle's oil life monitor system. See details.

Chevrolet

First required service

$173 ($752 for 2018 MY)

For 2019 models, the first required maintenance visit within the first year of vehicle delivery comes free, providing an oil change, tire rotation and a multipoint vehicle inspection. Coverage for the Corvette, Bolt and Volt varies.

2018 Chevrolet vehicles receive select scheduled services in the first two years or 24,000 miles (whichever comes first), including up to two oil changes and four-tire rotation. Maintenance visits must occur within two years or 24,000 miles of vehicle delivery, whichever comes first. See details.

Genesis

3/36,000

$785

The program is for 2017, 2018 and 2019 model-year vehicles and includes factory scheduled recommended maintenance. Also, Genesis Service Valet will perform a remote diagnostic check, pick up the car if necessary for service, provide a loaner vehicle, and return your car when it's ready. See details.

GMC

2/24,000

$175 ($589 for 2018 MY)

2017 and 2018 vehicles receive the first two maintenance visits, including oil change, multipoint vehicle inspection and four-tire rotation. Maintenance visits must occur within two years or 24,000 miles of vehicle delivery, whichever comes first. Does not include air filters. See details.

Jaguar

5/60,000

$1,260

In order to get scheduled vehicle maintenance, owners must bring the vehicle to an authorized Jaguar retailer within a month or 1,000 miles of the scheduled maintenance interval. If they don't, they might not receive the missed interval service. See details.

Jeep

1 or 2 oil changes and tire rotations for eligible Jeep Wave vehicles

$326

Jeep Wave is a loyalty program with some maintenance benefits. If enrolled, two-year memberships provide four oil changes and four tire rotations. One-year memberships provide two oil changes and two tire rotations. See details.

Kia (K900 only)

3/36,000

$1,005 (for 2018 MY)

The K900 is the only Kia vehicle that gets this benefit: six free maintenance service visits (over the course of three years or 36,000 miles) and the use of a K900 or Cadenza loan vehicle during service. (2018 Kia K900 models get five visits over the course of 37,500 miles.) See details.

Lexus

1/10,000

$196

Complimentary first and second scheduled maintenance services, provided at six months/5,000 miles and 12 months/10,000 miles. See details.

Lincoln (Black Label trim level only)

4/50,000

$1,459

Covers all recommended service and wear items, with complimentary pickup and delivery within an extended 50-mile radius. See details.

Mini

3/36,000

$728

For 2018 and 2019 model-year vehicles, the maintenance items that are included when they are performed as outlined in the vehicle's maintenance booklet are: engine oil and filter, brake fluid, cabin microfilter, engine air filter, spark plugs and remote-control key battery. See details.

Ram

1 or 2 oil changes and tire rotations for eligible Ram Care vehicles

$106

Ram Care is a loyalty program with some maintenance benefits. A two-year membership provides four oil changes and four tire rotations to be used over the term of the membership. One-year renewal memberships provide two oil changes and two tire rotations. See details.

Toyota

2/25,000

$327

Covers normal factory scheduled service for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. Toyota provides additional coverage and benefits for Mirai vehicles. See details.

Volvo

3/36,000

$1,241

This covers the first three factory scheduled maintenance services, set at 10,000, 20,000 and 30,000 miles. See details.

Note: Maintenance costs are based on national averages. Some OEM maintenance costs are not available. Costs are sales weighted to reflect only those styles eligible for free maintenance (Lincoln Black Label and the Kia K900, for example).

The Appeal of Free Maintenance

Getting your car serviced at a dealership isn't cheap, and prices can vary greatly from one dealer to the next. So for many consumers, free factory-qualified maintenance can eliminate the hassle of trying to find the lowest price. But for other people, the decision might not be one of pure dollars and cents. They may be drawn to buying a car that's covered by a free vehicle maintenance program simply because of convenience. It can be comforting to know that all you have to do is bring your car in at the proper mileage interval and the service department will take care of the rest. Plus, carmakers are helping franchised dealers by introducing customers to their service departments free of charge. If they like what they get for free, there's a hope that they'll come back on their own dime, or opt for a prepaid maintenance plan.

The Bigger Picture

Maintenance isn't the only ownership cost to consider when you're buying a car. A more comprehensive look at costs can be found in the Edmunds True Cost to Own (TCO)® information for the vehicle. This assessment takes into account a number of variables, including maintenance, insurance, fuel and registration fees over a five-year period. If you're weighing the ongoing costs of one new car against another, TCO is a better indicator than just free maintenance because it takes into account all the costs associated with ownership.

In other words, free car maintenance is a nice perk. But when you're car shopping, focus on the price of the vehicle itself. You can use the money you save in negotiating the best price to pay for car maintenance down the road.


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