In April 2003, I bought a new Nissan Pathfinder from the local dealer, Staten Island Nissan. I also purchased a seven-year extended service plan. Since I typically keep my cars for 7+ years, I figured it’s a worthy investment (as I got a very good price on the car and 1.9% financing).
Fast-forward to July 2007. The car is just over four years old, and has just over 30,000 miles, when I hear a rattling sound. A quick look underneath shows that the muffler and tailpipe have separated from the catalytic converter; the rattling sound is the sound of the metal muffler and tailpipe swaying underneath my car.
Recognizing that an exhaust system which decides to separate itself from the rest of the car is not normal behavior for a four-year-old car, I take it to the service center at the dealer I purchased it from for diagnostics and the annual New York State-required vehicle inspection.
A few hours after dropping off the car, I get a call from the dealer, where I am told that I need a whole new exhaust system (cost: $1,200) and nothing is covered under the warranty or the extended service contract. After a fruitless debate about the reasoning for this (I’ve owned five cars for 4+ years and this is the first one that’s needed a whole exhaust system after four years), I gave up, and decided to call Nissan Consumer Affairs.
Before calling, I did my homework. Reading the details of the extended service plan, I found that numerous exhaust parts are covered. During the conversation with Nissan Consumer Affairs, I enjoyed stimulating dialog such as this:
Nissan: “Sir, I see you have the Service Gold extended plan – that’s the best plan we offer.”
Me: “Then why will you not service what’s clearly broken on my car?”
Nissan: “Sorry, sir, the dealer makes these decisions.”
Me: “What recourse do I have if the dealer is just trying to rip me off?”
Nissan: “Sir, our dealers are all Nissan certified and [bla bla bla]…”
After 30 minutes, I convinced the chap I was speaking with to escalate my case to a “Regional Case Manager” (or something like that). I was told I’d get a call back in 24 hours.
After waiting 24 hours plus three days without getting a return phone call, I called Nissan Consumer Affairs again. Upon providing my information, I was told the case manager already looked into my case. I asked why he didn’t call me with details; they said they’ll send an “internal message” to him requesting he calls me. They also gave me his phone number, which I called; of course, voice mail responded, and I left a message.
Another three days passed without hearing from anyone at Nissan, so I called again, leaving a blistering message for the case manager. Incredibly, I heard back from him in about two hours. The conversation went something like this:
Nissan: “Sorry, the dealer made the determination that the work needed is not covered under the warranty.”
Me: “So you’re telling me that it’s perfectly acceptable to Nissan for their vehicles to require the customer to purchase a $1,200 exhaust system after just four years of ownership?”
Nissan: “Sir, I’m sorry but it’s not covered under the warranty or the extended service plan.”
Realizing I’m getting nowhere, I decide to speak with the Service Manager at the the service center where I brought my car originally. I left a message for him, and … he never called me back.
I decide to take an alternate approach: I take my car to the local mechanic (who I know and trust) and explain the situation. He looks under my car and gives me an estimate… for $193.00, parts and labor. When I tell him the dealer quoted me $1,200, he said, “They’re trying to sell you a whole exhaust system that you don’t need.”
Am I surprised? Not in the least. Now that I have all this information, here’s my next steps:
- Have my local mechanic fix my car for over $1,000 less than quoted by the dealer.
- Cancel my extended service plan and get a refund.
- File a complaint with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. You see, the dealer performed a safety and emissions inspection on my car at the same time they recognized that I need an entire exhaust system. My vehicle passed their inspection. I can’t imagine how a car with a disconnected exhaust system and a dangling tailpipe can pass a safety and emissions inspection.
The lessons I learned from this are:
- Never buy an extended warranty. You lose all your consumer rights, as you are required to use a dealer-authorized service center for all repairs — whether or not they are under warranty. For example, if you have your brakes serviced at an independent repair shop, then take your car to the dealer for brake work, they will not cover any brake work that would otherwise be covered under the extended warranty because you previously had your brakes serviced by an unauthorized service center. How do I know this? They told me.
- Before buying a new car, talk to the service manager. All new cars come with a manufacturer’s warranty, so you will most likely be dealing with the manufacturer’s service people at some point. You can buy a car in one day in the sales office, but for the next three years, your relationship is with the service center, so be sure you are comfortable with them.
When I have an update, I’ll be sure to let you know. Thanks for listening to my rant!