One of the best things about buying a new product is the peace of
mind you get when you know it will be dependable and operate worry-free.
The warranties that come with these new products only reinforce that
peace of mind.
All is well until one day you go to fire up your dishwasher, and
water no longer sprays out of its jets. Clean dishes and peace of mind
go by the wayside.
In today’s world, paying for a new dishwasher to replace the broken
one is more practical than springing for a new car when yours comes
down with a malady. This may be the reason why most people think they
must have their vehicles serviced at the dealership—to keep their
warranties intact, just in case.
However, for automotive service customers, this simply is not true.
It all goes back to a law enacted in the 1970s that allows you, the
automobile owner, the freedom to choose where and by whom you have your
car serviced, all without voiding the car’s warranty. And let’s face
it, that new-car warranty is one of the main reasons we buy a new car.
Well, that and that new-car smell!
The law is called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and among the
many things it does is empower the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit
car manufacturers from voiding a vehicle’s warranty because service was
done by a non-dealer.
Specifically, the 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.”
In other words, if the company that built your car was going to
require you to have that car serviced at the dealership as part of the
warranty, the dealership would have to provide that service for free.
Since not too many dealerships are in the habit of giving away free
services, it means you, the customer, are free to take your car
anywhere—a lube shop, garage, full-service auto center, even a competing
dealership—to have it maintained.
"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 of the Car Care Council. "Clearly,
consumers can have maintenance services done by their local independent
service shop without affecting warranty, even though dealers and
manufacturers often suggest the opposite.” The act also applies to the
parts required for service, as well.
"Manufacturers cannot require consumers to buy parts or services
from a particular company to meet warranty requirements, except under
rare conditions,” said Charles Tupper, former policy adviser for the
Automotive Oil Change Association AOCA. "If a consumer is told only the
original equipment filter will not void the warranty, that person should
request that the original equipment filter be supplied free of charge.
If that individual is charged for the filter, the manufacturer is
Tupper said that while it is not illegal for dealerships or
manufacturers to "suggest” owners maintain their vehicle at a particular
facility, requiring that service is.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is named for Senator Warren Magnuson
of Washington and Congressman John Moss of California. Enacted in 1975,
the law was intended to stop the then widespread misuse of express
warranties and disclaimers by merchants. At the time, many merchants
offered a "full warranty” that really wasn’t, as consumers would find
when they read the fine print. The Magnuson-Moss Act required full
warranties to not limit the duration of a warranty, to not limit
coverage to first purchasers, to provide warranty service free of
charge, to replace the product if it was unable to be repaired and
prohibited manufacturers from requiring consumers to perform any duty as
a precondition for receiving service i.e. taking their car to a
dealership for maintenance. That’s why most manufacturers today only
offer "limited warranties,” which do not have to meet the federal
minimums. Lucky for consumers, the rules governing warranty
preconditions also apply to limited warranties.
As with any rule, however, there are limited exceptions. When there
are no alternatives to recommended parts, or where the alternatives
would not permit a vehicle to operate properly, a manufacturer may be
allowed to require customers to purchase parts through dealerships,
which is why some rare motor oils or transmission fluids can usually
only be found at the dealer—and are usually much more expensive than
those found elsewhere. Once the parts are purchased, however, customers
can have their vehicles serviced at the facility of their choosing.
In the end, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act gives owners of cars and
trucks the freedom to choose where their vehicle will be serviced
without having to worry about whether or not the choice of a facility
other than the dealership will void their new-car warranty.