Keeping Your Warranty Coverage Alive

Many people continue to have their vehicle serviced at their new-car dealer because they think that if they don’t, their factory warranty will be null and void. But those folks might be spending more than they need to, on a mistaken assumption. It’s the law of the land that independent repair shops can provide the services to maintain your new-car warranty.

“It’s a common misconception that only car dealers can perform the maintenance services on a newer vehicle that is under warranty,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Consumers can have maintenance services done by their local independent service shop without affecting their warranty, even though dealers and manufacturers often suggest the opposite.”

According to the Council, consumers are protected by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and the general principles of the Federal Trade Commission, which prohibit a manufacturer from voiding the vehicle warranty because service was done by a non-dealer. Prohibiting independent shops from participating in the maintenance of vehicles under warranty would represent an illegal restraint of trade and be anticompetitive.

Specifically, the legal language states: “No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer's using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection may be waived by the commission if -- (1) the warrantor satisfies the commission that the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and (2) the commission finds that such a waiver is in the public interest.”

So you can have an independent shop perform repairs and maintenance without voiding your warranty, and that can be a money saver, but you should take some precautions. When using a non-dealer, independent aftermarket shop to maintain your vehicle, the Car Care Council strongly recommends adhering to scheduled maintenance requirements and keeping records and receipts for all maintenance that is done to the vehicle. If a warranty claim arises, these records will provide proof that maintenance has been done in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and requirements, which is absolutely key to maintaining warranty coverage.

One way to locate a non-dealer, independent vehicle repair and maintenance facility is by visiting the Car Care Council’s Web site, which has a searchable list of about 70,000 independent repair facilities, auto parts retailers, body shops and engine installers and rebuilders. Many independent repair centers also have Web sites that include information about their services and credentials. Automotive aftermarket trade associations, the Better Business Bureau and AAA are also resources to use to locate a repair facility. Independent repair shops often charge a lower hourly rate than new-car dealerships, and they frequently have all the equipment needed to perform proper maintenance and repairs. Keep your car well maintained, hold onto those records, and you’ll be money ahead.