The Best (Free!) Scheduled Maintenance Programs

Natalie Josef
October 14, 2010

I remember a couple of years ago when the automobile industry couldn’t give away cars and companies started offering all kinds of incentives to get people to buy their vehicles. Like, if you lost your job, you could return your car, no questions asked. Some companies promised you could return your car in sixty days if you simply weren’t happy with it. Others would buy your gas for a year. Or you could get a $5000 rebate on the spot. How about interest-free financing for sixty months—that’s five years! It was a sweet time to buy a car.

Now that things have calmed down (a bit) and the industry is slowly rebounding, those deals have gone the way of Yugo, but that isn’t to say there aren’t still good incentive programs. Here are some of the top free scheduled maintenance programs, one of the best incentives you can find today.

Introduced recently, Toyota Care is a complimentary, worry-free maintenance plan that comes with the purchase or lease of any new Toyota. The package offers free roadside assistance as well as a 19-point inspection program for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. The roadside assistance component offers lockout protections, flat tire changes, jump starts, fluid delivery, and towing. The inspection component offers tire rotation, oil and filter changes, and numerous other spot checks and fluid changes. Toyota is the only full-line brand to offer such a program and the Scion brand is included.

The company’s Complimentary Factory Scheduled Maintenance is good for five years or 60,000 miles on 2003–2009 models and three years or 36,000 miles on 2010 and higher models. The plan covers services like oil and oil filter, engine coolant, power steering and washer fluid, air filter, wiper inserts, and brake pads and rotors. Volvo also offers the Volvo On Call Roadside Assistance plan, which lasts for four years and is renewable. It covers the basics like towing and lockout services, but also offers trip interruption expense benefits, car rental discounts, and computerized trip routing and map services.

For its 2007– models, BMW offers the Ultimate Service Program, which covers all factory-recommended maintenance, oil and fluid services, and items that may need replacement due to wear and tear, e.g., brake pads, discs, and rotors, and wiper blades. The plan lasts for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, and also includes a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year roadside assistance plan. You also have the option of extending the service program until six years, or 100,000 miles.

Offering a comprehensive vehicle maintenance program for three years or 36,000 miles, again, whichever comes first (WCF), the MINI Maintenance Program is similar to the BMW program in that it offers all factory-recommended maintenance, oil service and inspections, and replacement of parts due to normal wear and tear. The program also covers drive belts and includes the option to purchase a maintenance program upgrade, which extends the coverage to six years, or 100,000 miles. While MINI offers a free roadside assistance package for every car that falls within the new-vehicle warranty period, there are maximum dollar amounts and limitations on some services.

In 2008, Volkswagen introduced a no-charge, Carefree Maintenance Program on its entire line of vehicles. The plan includes free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, WCF, and also includes a courtesy vehicle check, which allows owners to return to their original dealership within ninety days (or 6,000 miles, WCF) for a full review of the vehicle’s benefits and features and have their vehicle checked out at no additional charge. The only drawback is Volkswagen doesn’t cover so-called wear and tear parts, such as brake pads, which the other ones do.

The bottom line
You can’t help but notice that these plans are mostly offered by higher-end vehicle companies. In fact, the only other companies that offer these complimentary scheduled maintenance programs are luxury brands like Lexus, Land Rover, Cadillac, and Jaguar. Obviously, these cars are built better and with better parts, so the likelihood of them breaking down or needing services beyond recommended maintenance is highly unlikely in the first place. You can’t help but wonder if the price of this “free” maintenance is already built into the high sticker price.

The best advice? Don’t get too hung up on the money you might be saving. It’s way more important to look at the actual services that are covered by the maintenance programs. Look for coverage on wear-and-tear items and go for the longest duration of coverage.


Natalie Josef

About the Author

Natalie Josef is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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