Cars are not cheap (duh), but some automakers make the ownership experience less painful for the first few years. Automakers like BMW and Land Rover provide free car maintenance for up to 4 years, and that could be the deciding factor for a number of shoppers choosing from the luxury brands on the market.
Car Brands Offering Free Maintenance
BMW calls its maintenance plan “BMW Ultimate Service” which goes for the first 4 years of ownership, or the first 50,000 miles. Here is some info about the plan (from the BMW website):
- BMW Maintenance Program: One of the most comprehensive maintenance programs in its class covering all factory-recommended maintenance, oil service and fluid service, as well as items that need replacement due to normal wear and tear – such as brake pads, brake rotors and wiper blade inserts.
- Four years of the BMW Assist™ Safety Plan: Many 2007 and later models include a four-year, unlimited mileage subscription to the BMW Assist™ Safety Plan including TeleService, an exclusive BMW benefit which allows your vehicle to contact your BMW center directly when it needs service or maintenance.
- Unlimited-Mileage Roadside Assistance: Receive Roadside Assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the first four years of ownership, without any mileage limitation.
- New Vehicle Limited Warranty: Your warranty covers defects in materials or workmanship for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, so you can rest assured your BMW will perform as expected.
MINI is owned by BMW, and benefits from its parentage by also getting a free maintenance program. Unfortunately for MINI owners, the plan isn’t as generous as BMW’s, but it does cover 3 years or 36,000 miles. We have a MINI and can attest that the plan is transferable if you sell the car. We bought our MINI with 30,000 and were able to take it in for the regular checkups and oil change, etc.
You also have the option to extend the maintenance plan, but at an additional cost. Talk to a MINI service technician to find out how much it would cost. As a note, the cost does differ depending on whether the car is under or over the 36,000 miles when you buy the extended plan.
While Land Rover was recently sold by Ford to an Indian automaker, they still offer the no-charge maintenance program for 2008 models for 4 years or 50,000 miles.
Land Rover says it’s not changing the prices for the 2009 models, but they are dropping free maintenance to save themselves some money. Personally, if there was any vehicle I would want free maintenance on, it would be a Land Rover, but at least you have their warranty coverage.
Surprise! Saab provides free maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles. I bet you didn’t know that, did you? This goes for 2007-2009 models (so far), but it could change at any time in today’s economy.
Another perk for Saab owners is free OnStar for the first year. If those scary radio commercials that play real-life accident recordings don’t scare you into getting OnStar, then I don’t know what will.
Volvo (2009 Models Only)
New to the mix for 2009 is Volvo, which is providing free maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles.
Yep, VW has also recently added free maintenance to its 2009 models. The plan covers 3 years or 36,000 miles, and having owned a VW Passat myself, I know how expensive even the most minor maintenance items can be on a VW. They wanted $40 for a wiper blade! Just one wiper blade! And you can’t find many VW parts at your local auto supply shop either. That’s when we decided to sell the VW…over a measly wiper blade.
Who Doesn’t Offer Free Maintenance?
You’ll notice that a few major luxury makers don’t offer free maintenance. Some previously offered free maintenance, but have recently discontinued those plans. Also, you might run into some dealerships providing “free maintenance plans”, but it’s either just for that dealership, or they include the cost elsewhere on the bill of sale.
- Mercedes Benz – I’m very suprised that MB doesn’t offer free maintenance
- Acura – I’ve owned an Acura TL-S, and maintenance costs weren’t too bad, but having those costs paid by the manufacturer would be nice
- Audi – You can buy their Audi Care package for $650, which covers about 5 years or 45,000 miles. Why does VW get free maintenance, but not Audi?
- Jaguar – now owned by the same company as Land Rover (Tata, an Indian motor company)
While automakers factor in costs like maintenance in their overall pricing plans, that little perk is enough to make many buyers choose a BMW over an Acura or Benz. The American automakers could make a believable attempt at stealing market share from the Japanese and Europeans by offering free maintenance too.
As a buyer, you need to also do the math on both the initial cost of the car as well as ownership costs such as maintenance and repairs. If you can get an Acura TSX for $5,000 less than a BMW 328i, then I think that’s a good deal. You won’t spend $5,000 on brakes and oil changes over 5 years. But buying is both mathematical and emotional, so choose wisely.