Drive Guys on used car warranties

Ed Kriston,Jeffrey Boone

Dear Ed and Jeff;

What are your views on warranties for used cars?

We bought a 2000 Cadillac Catera a year ago, and our son drove it around New Orleans during his senior year at Tulane. After the (magnificent!) Tulane graduation, the rest of the family flew back to Washington, but Richy and I loaded up his possessions from his shotgun house and made it to the second day of travel when the car broke down in Tennessee.

It turned out that the timing belt had broken, which allowed the rest of the engine to be destroyed. (Another question for your colleagues: Why do automakers provide lights for seat belt use and low windshield wiper fluid but no indication whatsoever about a broken timing belt, which can obliterate the engine?) While driving from Virginia to rescue us, my husband recalled that the previous owner of the Cadillac had mentioned that she?d bought a warranty for the car when she had purchased it from the original owner.

One of our daughters was able to find the warranty in the file, and ultimately, Guardian covered the $2,000-plus cost of installing a rebuilt engine in the car. We paid $250 or so for diagnostics.

Based on this experience, we believe that buying a warranty for a used car is a great idea. Do you?

Cindy L.

Washington, D.C.

Jeff: An extended warranty for a used vehicle is an excellent idea. I would suggest that you research aftermarket warranties to find the policy that will serve you the best. Make sure the warranty covers as many items as possible. Some warranties may not cover as much as other, less-expensive warranties. Also check the deductibles for the warranty.

Some warranty companies will sell a policy at a lesser cost and they may sell different deductible levels. Purchase a warranty that you will be able to afford the deductible on.

Ed: My view on a used car warranty is absolutely! In many cases a one time major component failure, like yours, just about pays for the additional cost. BUT, I caution everyone to be careful about the warranty provider. I always suggest that if buying the used car from a dealer, check to see if they have a Manufacturer?s extended warranty available. If you are an AAA member we offer a Mechanical Breakdown Protection warranty to members also. When it comes to other sources ask lots of questions and do lots of reading on what their warranty covers.

This is taking into consideration that the car is several years old and has, say, less than 50,000 miles. Have the vehicle checked out by your local AAA Approved Auto Repair facility or your normal repair shop; this can be money well-spent. How the car was maintained before you purchased it is good indication of what your ownership experience would be like.

After you purchase the car you will still need to maintain it according to the manufacturer?s recommended maintenance schedule. This will keep your warranty in force and you stay safely on the road.

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