An Extended Car Warranty Is Probably Not Worth The Cost

In December 2016, I purchased a 2015 Range Rover Sport with 10,800 miles. At the time, I had been driving a Honda Fit but sought a larger vehicle as my wife was expecting in early 2017.

During the purchase, the option to acquire an extended car warranty was presented, offering coverage for seven years or up to 100,000 miles, whichever came first. The cost for the extended warranty without a deductible was $4,500, while opting for a $1,000 deductible reduced the cost to $2,500.

I chose not to invest in the extended car warranty as the vehicle had only accrued 10,800 miles and was still under the original manufacturer’s warranty, providing coverage for four years or up to 50,000 miles until July 2019. Now that the car will be nine years old in July 2024, let’s review the maintenance costs incurred.

The Range Rover Sport serves as a good case study, particularly due to Land Rover’s consistently low reliability ratings. Given these ratings, an extended warranty would potentially hold more value in light of the brand’s historical reliability challenges.

How Much I Spent Maintaining My Used Range Rover Sport

In late 2019, I incurred a $700 expense to replace my fan, an unfortunate cost that stemmed from a subtle clicking sound I had noticed just before the original warranty expired. It took several months for the clicking to intensify, prompting me to have the car inspected. This was my first out-of-pocket car expense.

In June 2023, I faced another repair, spending $1,200 to replace a leaking water pump. The service also involved a flush of my coolant system. Notably, water pump issues are a prevalent concern for European cars.

A crucial takeaway from this experience is the importance of using the correct type of coolant during replacement. It’s essential to choose either the orange or green coolant and avoid mixing the two, as their combination triggers a chemical reaction leading to coolant congealing.

replaced water pump for $1,200
Changed the water pump for $1,200

On January 11, 2024, I had to spend $1,050 to replace my vacuum pump and a PCV valve after my check engine light came on. Initially planning for a routine $212 oil change (was $140 last year!), this unexpected expense was disappointing. But it’s essential to include it for a more accurate and balanced representation of recent car maintenance costs.

PCV valve cracked and needed replacing
$150 to replace a cracked PCV valve
$900 to replace vacuum pump when considering an extended warranty
$900 to replace vacuum pump

Total maintenance expenses, excluding oil changes, tires, and breaks: $2,950. $2,950 is after seven years and two months of ownership. The car has about 50,000 miles.

Reasonable Maintenance Expenses

To me $2,950 in maintenance expenses seems quite reasonable after such a period of time and 40,000 miles. After replacing the water pump, vacuum pump, and PCV value, these should hopefully hold up for another 40,000 – 50,000 miles.

There’s also a good chance this could be the last of my maintenance expenses for at least two years, bringing the potential 10-year maintenance cost to $2,950. Or, this could be the start of a lot more maintenance expenses to come. Let’s hope it’s the former.

If I were to include the cost of changing tires, brake pads, brake rotors, and oil since ownership, I need to add another ~$3,800. A set of four new 22” tires cost about $2,000!

Comparing Maintenance Cost To Extended Warranty Cost

$2,950 in maintenance cost is cheaper than a $4,500 warranty cost with $0 deductible.

$2,950 in maintenance cost is also cheaper than the $2,500 warrant cost with a $1,000 deductible.

The crucial point is that both extended warranties would have expired at the seven-year mark, in July 2022. There might have been an opportunity to address the water pump issue, as it occurred in June 2022. However, the replacement of the vacuum pump and PCV valve for $1,050 occurred in January 2024.

In simpler terms, if I had opted for the no-deductible warranty, I would have paid $4,500 plus $1,050, totaling $5,550 in maintenance and warranty costs. Alternatively, with the $1,000 deductible warranty, the expenses would include $2,500, $700 for the fan, $1,000 deductible for the water pump, and $1,050 for the vacuum pump, amounting to a total of $5,250.

Inconvenience Factor Of Fixing The Car At The Dealer

The decision not to opt for the extended warranty also stems from the inconvenience associated with having the car repaired at the Land Rover dealer. The repair shop is not in close proximity to my residence, making it impractical for me. If I were to take the car to the Land Rover dealer, I’d need to rely on Uber for transportation to and from the shop.

I prefer the more convenient option of having my car repaired at a more affordable non-Land Rover dealer that happens to be within walking distance from my home. This is precisely what I did for my last two repairs.

I dropped off my car at the repair shop after driving my son to school, then walked the mile back home. When it was time to retrieve the car, I walked to the repair shop and picked up my son from school. This not only resulted in significant time savings but also allowed me to avoid the additional expense of using Uber.

Get The Extended Warranty Or No?

Based on my 20-year experience owning two used Land Rovers (LRD2 and RRS), I’ve concluded that purchasing an extended warranty is not the optimal financial decision.

A more effective approach involves conducting a thorough inspection before buying the car, reviewing all the maintenance records, and securing an affordable and reliable mechanic.

While the peace of mind provided by an extended warranty is valuable, especially in major incidents like an engine failure, such occurrences are relatively rare. The majority of issues are typically associated with normal wear and tear, which can be adequately budgeted for.

For individuals, like myself, who prefer to keep their cars for 10 years or more, an extended warranty might seem appealing. However, extended warranties rarely extend beyond 10 years. The finance experts in the extended warranty department have calculated the optimum duration and mileage to cover the car while maximizing profits.

Therefore, I would forego an extended warranty.

The likely worst-case scenario is breaking even and paying out of pocket what the extended warranty would have cost. More likely, you will end up spending less on out-of-pocket maintenance than the cost of the extended warranty. That said, a minority of people will get unlucky and end up paying way more out of pocket than if they got the extended warranty.

Remember, the car dealers are offering extended warranties because they are profitable. If they weren’t profitable, they wouldn’t offer them or they’d charge a price high enough to make them profitable.

When To Sell The Car

As my car approaches its ninth year in July 2024, the idea of purchasing another vehicle within the next three years is becoming increasingly appealing. I’m mainly looking to drive a safe and fun car to transport my family around.

However, now that I’ve spent another $1,050 on maintenance, these parts should last another 40,000+ miles at least. With my average driving distance of about 6,000 miles a year, my car should last for another five years without any major maintenance expenses. However, as pointed out by my auto mechanic, wear and tear on a car is not solely determined by mileage but is also influenced by time.

Considering these factors, my plan is likely to involve purchasing a new car in 2027, when my current vehicle reaches 12 years old. This decision allows me to make the most of the money spent on repairs in 2023 and 2024 for an additional three years. Moreover, the aim is to sell the car before facing another substantial expense exceeding $1,000.

It’s time to start saving up in my car fund! When I buy a new one, I’ll surely follow my 1/10th rule to minimize financial stress. I hope you do too.

Reader Questions

Do you think an extended car warranty is worth it? If so, what type of coverage did you get and how much did it cost? Has your extended warranty ever covered anything extremely expensive?

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