If you're looking to purchase a vehicle, you'll likely encounter offers for maintenance plans. They can be offered either by the dealer you're purchasing the vehicle from, or they can be offered by independent companies. There are so many options out there that it can be difficult to know where to turn - and with your money and your vehicle's reliability on the line, it's important to make the right choices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to get a maintenance plan?
Whether you're looking at a new or used car, you always have the option of getting a maintenance plan. In many cases, the dealer that supplies you the vehicle will offer a maintenance plan, or there are many aftermarket companies who will cover your vehicle. Many drivers consider a current maintenance plan to be an essential part of their motoring life, and a small investment to get the peace of mind that comes with owning a reliable vehicle.
How do maintenance plans work?
Maintenance plans take many different forms, but broadly speaking, they cover any mechanical issues your vehicle faces within a defined period of time. You can often pay outright for a maintenance plan, or you can choose to pay in monthly/quarterly instalments depending on how your provider operates.
All maintenance plans are different, and cover different things, so it's always important to make sure you read the fine print and clarify exactly what your plan is and isn't going to cover. Most maintenance plans cover the cost of scheduled service items, and will often at least cover part of the cost of replacing any parts that are necessary to keep the car roadworthy. The amount of coverage depends on the plan that you choose.
Maintenance plans almost always cover just that - the costs involved with the ongoing maintenance of the vehicle, but they won't cover you if you damage the vehicle through your own fault or negligence. In those circumstances, you'll more likely have to rely on your general car insurance to cover the costs of repair.
What will a maintenance plan cover?
Put simply - it depends. There's no simple answer because all maintenance plans are different depending on the dealer or provider who is issuing the coverage. That's why it's always of the utmost importance that you're clear exactly what your specific plan actually covers before you agree to take out the policy.
Maintenance plans are generally designed to cover the cost associated with service items. Your vehicle needs an annual service to keep it operating properly. As a part of that service, certain things will need to be replaced, such as the engine oil, brake fluid, oil, fuel and air filters and other ancillaries.
Your maintenance plan should cover those costs. It should also cover the replacement of any parts that break or need replacement due to the age and condition of the vehicle. All machines need parts replaced as they grow older, and your maintenance plan will help cover the cost of replacement parts usually to a set amount.
What are the benefits?
The benefit of a maintenance plan is, naturally, that you have some assistance with the running costs of your vehicle. How much use this is to you depends on the vehicle that you've bought.
For example, if you have a small, simple family hatchback it's likely going to be reliable, cheap to service, and parts should be relatively inexpensive. In which case, a maintenance plan might not be that helpful. This changes if you have bought a larger, more complex, or generally more luxurious vehicle.
As vehicles are growing more and more complicated with every new model, there is more risk that potentially expensive fixes are going to be required through the life of the vehicle. Similarly, if you buy a vehicle from a premium brand, then you have to account for the associated expense of parts.
If you're thinking of buying a larger, more complicated, or more luxurious vehicle, then a maintenance plan is a great investment to help lower the overall cost of ownership.
Do you need a maintenance plan?
It depends on you, the vehicle you choose, and how you drive it. If you rely on your vehicle then a maintenance plan can be helpful in ensuring it's more affordable to keep it reliable. Similarly, if you're buying a more complicated vehicle, a maintenance plan will make it more affordable to keep on the road.
Ultimately you need to decide how much of an investment you're willing to make for your own peace of mind.
What is a service plan?
Regular servicing helps keep your vehicle running as smoothly as possible. Service plans cover the cost of these regular services, including parts and labour.
Minor services are usually conducted annually, or after a set number of miles. They tend to involve vehicle's fluids (oils) being drained and re-filled, and the oil, air, and fuel filters changed. Often the spark plugs are replaced if your vehicle runs on petrol - diesels have glow plugs.
Major services occur every few years, or after set number of miles, and consist of a minor service plus the changing of things such as timing belts and water pumps if necessary.
What is a maintenance plan?
A maintenance plan is designed to help you cover the costs of keeping your vehicle properly maintained, which can require more coverage than a service plan.
All vehicles will require parts to be replaced at some point. It's natural that as your vehicle ages and covers more miles, certain components will either break or require preventative replacement. A maintenance plan will help you with the costs of replacements, in addition to servicing costs.
Maintenance plans vary in terms of what they cover, so make sure you're clear about what you are covered for before you take out the policy. They often won't, for example, cover you for repairs caused through either your negligence or someone else's - that'll be down to insurance.
What is a warranty?
A warranty covers the cost of parts and labour when things on your vehicle need replacing or repairing. While a maintenance plan is there to help you with consumables and scheduled part replacements, warranties are there to cover unexpected breakdowns.
A warranty is essentially a statement made by the seller that the vehicle they are selling is in a roadworthy condition and should give you reliable motoring. If, for any reason, your vehicle breaks down within the warranty period, the warranty will cover some or all of the cost of fixing the vehicle if the conditions are met.
Importantly, warranties won't help you if the vehicle is found to have broken down because of driver error or as the result of another party.