Having become an expert on extended warranties, I figured it was a good idea to get one for my 2000 Buick Century. I want to at least get another year or two of use out of it… even if I do buy a new car sooner.
For awhile, I’ve been in the market for an extended warranty for my car. Over the past couple of months, I wound up with a $1,000 total set of repair bills. That’s more than two monthly payments on a new car. Three if I went for a cheap new car.
As a consumer advocate, I’m very cautious towards U.S. Fidelis. Their executives have a shady past, and worse, the company promises the world in their ads. If it sounds too good to be true…
I called U.S. Fidelis first. The quote they gave me was around $1,000 for two years and around 50,000 miles of coverage. Powertrain-only coverage. I was told my 2000 model year car was too old for any other plan.
Then the high-pressure tactics rolled in. I was told that if I didn’t buy the warranty today, that I would be subjected to a mandatory inspection. In follow-up sales calls, I was told this was “incorrect and a miscommunication”. Yeah, right; it was a scare tactic. Actually, I would prefer a free car inspection, then there would be no disputing a breakdown later. When I asked further questions and expressed concerns (as I’ll go into below) about the underwriter… I was hung up on by US Fidelis.
Multiple other companies gave me the same plan. So, I decided to look into the underwriter. I check for an AM Best rating, couldn’t find any. Also couldn’t find this “magical second underwriter” that was supposed to back them in case they went under. All I could find was a PO Box and a telephone number. No corporate web site (not uncommon with middlemen insurers), but the lack of an AM Best rating is unacceptable. Do not buy a vehicle warranty policy unless you can personally verify the current AM Best rating of their underwater. Do not rely on a salesman to give you this info, it’s just as easy to lie and say “A-”.
The lack of an AM Best rating indicates a shady underwriter. It does not guarantee that the underwriter will/won’t go under, but an unrated insurer is a major red flag.
I decided to go with Warranty Direct and was presented with several options. I chose the mid-range (Standard MBI) plan, which added electrics, brakes, and other non-powertrain items. It cost $722 for one year of coverage or 20,000 miles. I tend to put that many miles per year on a car, so that works. Oh, and a $200 deductible.
And yes, the plan I had was underwritten by a company with a real A- rating from AM Best. This plan is actually realistic too, the amount of coverage doesn’t have that “way too good to be true” tinge to it.
In addition, I paid $30 for a rider that covers when a non-covered part breaks a covered part. I did not chose to pay for the opposite; when a covered part breaks a non-covered part. I figured that a non-covered part breaking a covered part is an easy excuse for a claims administrator, and that it would be much harder to show that a covered part was responsible for a non-covered part’s failure (or rather, that it would be hard to get them to admit it). Another option was for a $50 rider for emissions coverage, but I passed on it. It didn’t cover the most expensive emissions-related items (like the catalytic converter, something quite prone to failure on middle-aged-to-older cars).
Mostly I grabbed this plan so that I didn’t have to negotiate with car repairmen. I’ve been in very high-pressure environments, where it basically broke down to the repairman lying to inflate a bill. I had to dispute credit card charges, and even with written proof that I was lied to… it took months to get the charges reversed.
I’ve seen extended warranty negotiations, and well, it’s a lot more civil. The repairman knows that the claims administrator has access to average repair rates (a la RepairPal), and is basically clinical. Either the repairman accepts the rate, or the warranty provider tells the car owner to go to another repair facility. There’s no impression that you’re a dumb consumer and can be charged a “little extra” because of it.
Now it doesn’t mater if something short circuits, or if the transmission blows… I’m only out $200, plus $62 per month. Theoretically.
We’ll see if it actually works out that way. Bottom line: US Fidelis is on my no-no list, Warranty Direct is on my hopeful list.