Looking at a used vehicle? Check the maintenance history carefully.
Yes, buying a pre-owned vehicle is a great way to save money, but there’s always a catch. The majority of new passenger vehicles and light trucks sold in Canada come with a three-year or 60,000-kilometre base warranty and a longer powertrain plan. Yes there are exceptions, but even these require owners to properly maintain their vehicles in order for the warranty to remain intact.

And there’s the rub. When you bring any vehicle into an authorized dealership for warranty repairs, unless it’s an issue with a component that doesn’t require any scheduled maintenance, you’ll almost always be asked to prove that such services were completed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

More than a few customers have been disappointed to find their factory warranty wouldn’t apply because they couldn’t come up with maintenance records. And for those that think consumer legislation requiring information packages (with service history docs) be included with used vehicle transaction will protect them, think again.

There’s a world of difference between routine oil changes and a carmaker’s recommended service schedule. And while a good lube tech will check every fluid level and make top-ups as required, if this isn’t recorded in an inspection form few automakers will accept your receipts as proof of maintenance. Basically to them, if it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist.
If you think that buying a used vehicle from an authorized dealership protects you, you may be wrong. Few automakers give their retailers the ability to self-approve major power-train repairs such as engine or transmission replacements. Instead they are required to get pre-approval for such procedures and this requires, among other things, you guessed it, proof of maintenance.

So, what do you need to do to protect your warranty and wallet? First, a little easy homework. Almost all carmakers post their vehicle maintenance schedules online. So, if you’ve narrowed your shopping list down, take a few minutes to check out these resources and print out or save the appropriate pages. Then compare these docs to the vehicle maintenance history receipts that the seller should have. If you find anything missing (especially if it involves an engine or transmission service) you can safely assume you’ll have a hard time getting any warranty coverage down the road.

Don’t assume it’s just the powertrain you need to worry about. Remember those longer comprehensive warranties offered by certain automakers? The requirement for proper maintenance on those plans can apply to brakes, cooling systems and various other steering and suspension components as well.