Posted by: Rob | July 11, 2008

The Hidden Cost of the “Warranty”

This has been another of those weeks where some time was required to take care of things that were not done right the first time or do not work as they should.

The first one was relatively painless, I guess, in comparison to the rest.  We bought a 2007 Equinox in September of ’07.  It was just before the ’08’s were due out and the available inventory in the area was starting to grow thin.  A rear seat DVD player has become “must-have” equipment of late and my local dealer was unable to find one with both a rear seat DVD player and OnStar to bring in for us.  (From the factory, you can either have a DVD player or a sun roof, but not both together.  The folks ordering most of the models brought in to our area had opted for the sun roof.)

As a last resort, the dealer offered the idea of having an after-market DVD player installed.  We agreed and so our Equinox is equipped with both a sunroof and a rear seat DVD player.  We were all happy with it.

Until last winter when I started hearing complaints from Ann that the DVD player wasn’t working very well.  I went and fiddled with it a bit a couple of times and figured that the cold weather was having an impact.  But it didn’t improve much with the coming of spring and summer.  The few times that the three of us were in the vehicle together, the DVD player would usually quit working at times.  This often resulted in a significant melt down in the back seat.  (Which I, quite frankly, don’t understand; when I was a kid we had nothing to do in the back seat but inhale second hand smoke and get nauseated.  Oh, and fight with each other.  My dad didn’t even play the AM radio for any kind of diversion.)

Talking with the salesman at the dealer, our only recourse was to go to the third party vendor who installed the thing.  So, I finally got around to calling them (Certified Radio) and set up an appointment.

The folks at Certified Radio were understanding, helpful and action oriented.  It looked to them at first like there was no issue, but they were finally able to somewhat reproduce the problem we were experiencing.  They didn’t have another like for like unit to swap, but they were able to replace the disk drive in ours with one from a similar unit.  Kind of a “can-do” attitude in my book.

We drove away satisfied and happy, but the “cost” was a half day off of work for me.

The other warranty issue has been, in essence, a comedy of errors involving our 2007 Avalanche LTZ.  There have been many dealer visits related to just a few issues, but it’s pushed me to the point of deciding that I won’t buy another vehicle from them, or from GM for that matter.

Last summer, I inadvertently brushed against my eldest daughter’s old Volvo while backing out of the driveway in my then 5-month old truck.  The damage wasn’t serious, a scratch in the right rear quarter panel ahead of the rear wheel which extended into a crease in the right rear door.

I finally got around to taking in to the body shop at the dealership for an estimate ($1200!) and scheduled it in for the week we would be away to Iowa last March.  They were also going to make good on some damage done to the driver’s door panel when they had the lube bay kid replace a switch (another story) and do a warranty replacement of the bowtie on the grille (which was delaminating and would ultimately fall off).

I picked the truck up after our holiday.  The body work and paint looked good, but here’s a list of what didn’t make the grade:

1) Driver’s door panel repair – didn’t address the nicks in the panel where the underfoam was showing through.  Took it back for touch up.  Repair was satisfactory.

2) Driver’s door panel – the interior window wipe seemed wrong.  Took it back.  It was, apparently, installed upside down and backwards.  Corrected and is now satisfactory.  The bowtie hadn’t come in and was supposed to be installed on this visit.  But, the part was wrong.

3) Right rear back door – the exterior weatherstrip was initially not put back on.  I left the truck overnight the first time and this was installed.  But the entire weatherstrip wasn’t glued, I found later.  It has since been addressed, but I don’t think it meets my specification yet.

4) Right rear back door – I recently found that the interior window wipe seemed wrong.  From (2) above, I knew it was installed upside down and backwards.  It’s been corrected and is now satisfactory.

5) Right rear back door – driving back from Iowa a week ago, the exterior trim at the base of the window came loose and was flapping in the breeze.  At a stop I fully removed it so it wouldn’t get blown off and lost.  During this week’s visit, it was replaced with a new one.

6) Right rear back door sill – the sill plate was damaged during the March repair.  A plastic tab was broken off, but it was put back in anyway.  The missing plastic tab is supposed to hold another trim piece in place and without it that trim piece is wandering away from where it should be.  A replacement sill has been ordered, but is not in yet.  “Should be in next Monday or Tuesday.”

7) The bowtie on the grille has finally been installed.  It looks, well, like new again.

Hidden cost of this warranty?  I’ve lost track of the number of visits back to the body shop this has required, especially combined with the visits I’ve had to make for other issues.  Leaving the truck there for a day on a couple of occasions always creates extra hassles in getting to and from work.  But what it comes down to is time.  My time.  My precious time.

I suppose when I was younger and driving junkers, I spent my time making my own repairs.  It’s somewhat ironic, I guess, that spending money on new vehicles hasn’t freed up that time for other things.  Now I spend my time making phone calls, lobbying and figuring out how to get my vehicle in for the fixes that it needs.  It’s probably not that bad, I suppose – I probably spent way more hours under a hood or under a vehicle than I do making calls and the other stuff – but sometimes it sure doesn’t feel like it.



  1. Frustrating! for this reason, i rarely get extended “bumper to bumper” warranties, and generally buy used shitmobiles. i simply care less about the small stuff, and it doesn’t whack me with instantaneous depreciation when a shopping cart (or a daughter in college) leave me with a gigantic divot in the side…

    my current “primary” car is a 2000 sebring convertible (bought used), with a $3000 gash in the side. since the car is perhaps worth $4000 at best (120K miles), i plan to drive it til the wheels fall off. trim flaps from the trunk no longer annoy me, the teasing i get because i drive such a gnarly looking beast has become fun…

  2. The only new new car I ever had was a Toyota, many years ago when they still made them in Japan, and I never had any trouble with it. Except for the fuel filter, which through several Toyotas I learned fails every so often. And then you have to talk the repair person out of replacing the fuel pump. Try being a woman and negotiating auto repairs. They think we’re all car stupid, even engineers like Daisy Fae.

  3. too much angst associated with new cars. the dealer can be nice as anything, but it can’t fix the resentment i feel having to take a car in, warranty or no. my next will be a used clunker.

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