North of the Border: Extended Service Contracts

by Pat Mestern

E-mail has been arriving fast and furiously. Snail mail is piling up too. I'm wading through the pile slowly. If you don't receive an answer from me right away, don't worry. You will. Sometimes me thinks I need a secretary.

When Hubby read the query about vehicle service contracts he announced, "This is one I can answer." And he certainly can. After 45 years in the automotive repair business as mechanic, then service manager (1954-1999) he has seen, heard and applied his extensive automotive knowledge to hundreds of problems. He began working on 1920's Model T's and retired with a thorough indoctrination in 20th century technology. Here is what Ted has to say about

Vehicle Service Contracts

What does the contract cover? Read the fine print, you might be surprised to find out what it doesn't cover. The cheaper the contract, the less it covers. Buy a cheap contract and you may hear "sorry that part is not covered by the contract" far too often. Check with a mechanic (not a service writer or service manager) who is familiar with your type of vehicle. Ask what the most common types of problems are that one can expect with your make and model of vehicle, and at what mileage/kms they commonly occur. See if the contract covers those problems, within the time frame given by the mechanic.

What voids the contract? Some contracts require that you get your vehicle repaired at the shop where you purchased the agreement. Some require that you have repairs done at specified garages only. Is there a list of these establishments? Contracts may require that you do specific services at certain mileages/kms intervals i.e. oil changes. If you miss a service, your contract may be void. Always keep your receipts as proof of service/repair should any disputes arise.

How much deductible do you have to pay? Usually a deductible is paid per repair visit. This means that every time your vehicle goes into the shop you pay. i.e. If you had a steering problem in the morning and had it repaired that is one visit. If the same day you have an engine problem and go into the shop, you pay again, because that is another repair visit. Are you limited to a certain number of times you can claim on the contract per week, per month, per year? Is there a ceiling on the number of deductibles you pay per year?

It is the responsibility of the repair shop to acquire authorization from the contract seller for repair work. At the time of the call, the seller will inform the repair shop if the repair is covered by the contract - or not. If the repair shop does not get authorization before the work is done, you may have to pay the bill. You cannot authorize a repair shop to do the work and expect reimbursement from the contract service provider.

Check with your vehicle dealer about purchasing an extended warranty for the model and make of vehicle you own. There are many different types of warranties offered by the manufacturer that suit your vehicle and needs. These are not "reseller" service contracts. Who pays for the towing if you break down - close to home, miles away from home? If you are involved in an accident does that void your contract? What happens if your car breaks down on vacation. Can you have it repaired and then personally submit a bill to the contract seller for reimbursement? Do they have a toll free number that you can access? And finally, after working in the business and dealing with contract providers for a number of years, I personally would not purchase a service contract for my vehicle. I might consider a manufacturer's extended warranty.

Autumn Decorations

Here's a suggestion for autumnal decorations. Preserve the colours of autumn by ironing individual maple leaves between sheets of wax paper. Use a hot iron. Remove wax paper as soon as you have finished ironing the leaf. These leaves are quite hardy and can be used in various projects. An example: Make pretty placemats by gently gluing them to sheets of paper, then having the work laminated. If leaves are needed for bouquets, choose small branches of the freshest, prettiest colours. Bruise woody stems with a hammer and place branches in a large jar of pure glycerine (available at drug stores). Leave until "beads" appear on individual leaves, an indication that the glycerine has been fully absorbed - or remove from the jar in approximately three weeks. These stems last forever in bouquets if handled carefully.

A reminder about seasonal overspending: During the coming months, don't blow your budget with impulse shopping during the holiday season. It is easy to be swayed by glitzy or nostalgic advertising. Shopaholism responds well to the tug of "heartstrings." Retailers know this, especially those all-under-one-roof giants of the retail scene - the malls. Remember that 90% of the battle is won when you walk through those mall doors. Guess who the loser is? You and your bank account. Use prudence and common sense my friends!

Now back to preserving pears.

Periodically Pat Mestern provides us with frugal living tips from a Canadian perspective. You'll find some of her other musings at

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