Cars - For Petrolheads

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Vehicle warranties in SA

By Franky Johnson

When purchasing a car, whether it's new or second-hand, the subject of a motor warranty will arise - do you know what this entails?

How long is your warranty valid for? Which vehicle parts are covered? Knowing what your warranty actually covers can save you from a financially-disastrous repair bill.

Car buyers who misinterpret the terms and conditions of warranty agreements.

More and more instances are reported in South Africa of customers who have purchased vehicles, purchased an additional motor warranty but when it comes to eventually claiming, their claims are repudiated.

A warranty is specially for mechanical breakdown claims. A service plan covers claims based on replacement of service parts (oil, sparkplugs, fuel filter, oil filter and air filter during your annual vehicle service). Some offer cambelt replacements as part of their service plans.

A top-up warranty covers claims and, or items that do not fall under a standard warranty. It's similar to Gap-Cover in the medical-aid industry - it's the difference between what your medical aid pays and the rates charged by medical specialists.

When buying a car - new or used - and a salesman tries to sell you a warranty, you should always ask the following questions:

  • Does the vehicle have a service book?
  • When was it last serviced?
  • If the vehicle was not serviced on time, how long do you have to before you warranty is cancelled?
  • What service intervals are expected from this warranty?

You are responsible for the health and safety of your own vehicle. Empower yourself and fully understand your vehicle and the policies you have put in place to maintain its health. After all, you're paying for it and potentially, if it's poorly maintained, with your life.

What you should know about vehicle warranties
1 Read terms and conditions
The customer has not been informed by the dealer or has NOT read their warranty terms and conditions. This specifically relates to the fact that a vehicle needs to be serviced within the first month or 1000kms of receipt of vehicle, if its service is due (this often applies to second-hand vehicles).

2 Check if the vehicle was serviced
Check the service history of the vehicle you intend on purchasing. Is it due for its next service? If so, try and arrange that the dealer competes the service, after all, they are selling you a warranty. Salespeople more than anyone else know that don't need inform you that the vehicle needs to be serviced nor are they obligated to service the vehicle. It's ultimately your responsibility as the vehicle owner.

3 Service intervals vary
Service intervals vary, so ensure you read your conditions in order to safeguard yourself. Some warranties require a vehicle to be serviced every 10 000 to 15 000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Diesel-powered vehicles must be serviced every 10 000kms.

4 The dealer/workshop might not cover the full amount
Warranties are there to “assist” if your vehicle has a mechanical breakdown. In other words, chances are, your claim amount for the replacement part and associated labour cost will be considered and either paid in full (this rarely occurs) or a contribution to the amount will be made.

Let's say your vehicle suffers *cambelt failure, a repair job that could cost "up to" R3000 - this means, a dealer/workshop will consider paying up to R3000, including labour. The dealer might decide to contribute R1500 and the customer would need to pay the difference. This is why a “top-up” or extended warranty is to be considered too.

5 You can only claim for one incident at a time
If for example you are claiming for CV joints, you cannot claim for an airflow metre. Unless these are components, dependent of each other for operation, you cannot claim for them together."

6 Consumables and diagnostics are not covered
Consumables and computer diagnostics are not covered and will be billed to the customer's account, however, when a diagnostic is performed, a dealer requires the fault code to be submitted with the claim submission.

7 A warranty isn't a maintenance policy
A warranty claim is an “assurance” in the event of mechanical failure. It’s not a maintenance policy. If you require this, you have to purchase a maintenance warranty. In other words, if you're thinking: 'I have been paying for the past two years, and I haven’t claimed, I should do so before my warranty ends.)'... No, it does not work that way, and "quite frankly, is unethical!"

8 Your warranty could be invalid if you replace parts yourself
You cannot do perform your own oil change, even though you might have read that it's a good way to reduce costs This must be done by an approved service provider or your warranty could be invalid.

9 Fraud is a serious matter, and not taken lightly by any organisation.

While warranty plans are often viewed as so called grudge purchases, if done properly, they often prove to be well worth the money paid. When buying a vehicle, especially a used vehicle, you can’t be sure of the maintenance history of the vehicle.

It’s always wise to be prepared should an unforeseen mechanical failure take place. The key, however, is making sure you understand the plan or policy and what the terms and conditions are that will enable the plan/policy to remain valid and enforced BEFORE signing anything.

Generally for an older vehicle, especially one with an unknown history, it is advisable to consider a warranty to cover unforeseen repairs. It is also advisable to consider a service plan so that you have the peace of mind that for a certain amount of services the vehicle will be properly maintained. Correct servicing often results in preventing large repairs should the service repairer identify a problem when it is relatively small.

In some cases, especially where there is a built-in maintenance plan at purchase, car owners are required to pay an additional fee into the maintenance plan as the years progress. This will be stipulated in the maintenance plan contract so make sure you familiarise yourself with this aspect.

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