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Among the bundle of brochures in your owner's manual package are various full and limited warranties that cover everything from your tires, brakes and transmission to roadside assistance. Most warranties limit free replacement of parts to manufacturer defects or poor workmanship. Power-train warranties are generally for one year and 10,000 miles longer than basic warranties.
Warranty periods of time and mileage have increased over the years but remain static for 2005. Chrysler/Dodge, Ford and Toyota offer a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty. On its powertrains, Toyota warranties are five years/60,000 miles; Chrysler/Dodge are seven years/70,000 miles. Toyota's warranty includes corrosion perforation for 60 months with no mileage limitation. GM and GMC vehicles are covered for three years and 36,000 miles.
If you've neglected scheduled maintenance, such as oil changes, the dealer can refuse warranty repairs unless you foot the bill. Note: You needn't go to a dealer for service to qualify for warranty repairs, as long as you have records of the work performed.
To supplement warranties, you can purchase service programs, which run the gamut in price, depending on the kind of service and length of time. Ford's PremiumCare plan for four years/48,000 miles costs $965 for an E-Series cargo van and $765 for the F-150 pickup. The company's Extended Service Plan and Business Preferred Network provide ways to budget monthly expenses to fit your cash flow by prepaying for maintenance. GM's Goodwrench program covers repairs, or sign up for its Protection Plan and Mechanical Repair Protection. Costs depend on the age of the vehicle and its mileage. If you have a fleet, GM's Fleet Service Card offers help in managing costs. Ford's Qual-ity Fleet Care cards preset spending limits for drivers and track driver activity.
Extended warranties are great if you plan to keep your vehicle longer than the life of the original warranty, but buy the extension early because the older the vehicle and the greater the number of miles on it, the more the warranty will cost. Shop around, and compare at websites that offer warranties for parts, service and roadside assistance: www.accesswarranty.com, www.carwarrantiesdirect.com and www.e-warrantysolutions.com.
Jill Amadio is Entrepreneur's "Wheels" columnist.