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New car buyers must have their vehicle serviced in order to maintain a warranty with the manufacturer, but - despite what your owner's manual might say - there is no requirement to have servicing completed through official dealerships.
The ACCC issued a statement in 2014 clarifying myths surrounding warranties and third-party service providers such as Ultratune, K-mart Tyre and Auto or all manner of independent mechanics.
A spokesman for the commission says manufacturer warranties remain valid as long as conditions in user agreements are adhered to, and that any suggestion that licensed mechanics could void a manufacturer warranty were “likely to raise concerns” with the consumer authority.
Stuart Charity, executive director Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, welcomed the ACCC’s clarification.
“Over many years, car manufacturers and their dealers have promulgated the myth to car owners that they risk voiding their warranty unless their car is serviced by an authorised dealer using parts supplied by the vehicle maker during the warranty period,” he says.
“The reality is that consumers have always had statutory rights under Australian law to ensure that their manufacturers’ warranties remain valid when the vehicles are serviced by independent workshops using fit for purpose parts and qualified technicians."
But there are caveats to having your car serviced through independent workshops. Sometimes manufacturers may repair a just-failed component as an act of good faith if you've had the car serviced with one of their outlets from day one. And on some cars - particularly luxury or sports models - there are times when having it serviced by the manufacturer's agent could bode better come resale time.
Manufacturers also often instigate a "service campaign" which is similar to a recall but it is not safety related. It may be a known fault with the sound system, a software update or a piece of trim that needs replacing. They're the sorts of things that will be fixed at the next service rather than as soon as possible, as is the case with a safety recall. By going elsewhere regularly you may miss these updates, something more likely to impact near-new cars.
Extended warranties, often provided by individual dealerships as opposed to the car’s manufacturer, may also be voided by third-party servicing. The ACCC says third-party service providers to be wary of extended warranties.
“A common requirement of these warranties is that the vehicle must be serviced by the dealer offering the warranty,” it said.
“If this is a requirement of a dealer’s extended warranty, an independent repairer will void the warranty if they service the vehicle.”
While the extended warranty may seem tempting initially, the subsequent servicing costs can make it far less appealing, so check the fine print.
Home mechanics should also take note of the fine print in their new car’s warranty. Many agreements specifically require qualified mechanics to perform maintenance work, and it is possible that anything more than topping up a car’s fluids could be doing more harm than good.
It pays to read the terms and conditions provided by a manufacturer when purchasing a new car, and may be pertinent to have important questions rectified by the brand’s customer service arm in writing as opposed to verbal promises from sales staff.
Under Australian consumer law, customers can ask repairers to service their car using parts they have provided, but repairers are allowed to refuse to use those parts at their discretion, particularly if the parts concerned are not of appropriate quality.
Dealerships are likely to use genuine parts when servicing cars, something that may not be the case at independent outlets as replica components are often far cheaper – and in many cases, just as capable – as genuine components.
There is a trap for consumers surrounding non-genuine parts as warranty claims may be denied due to unapproved components.
The ACCC says a manufacturer’s warranty may set out requirements that consumers must comply with, including that servicing is carried out using appropriate quality parts.
“If this is a requirement of a warranty, a consumer risks voiding their warranty if parts of appropriate quality are not used to service their vehicle,” it says.
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