The Value of Free Maintenance Offers on New Cars

Most maintenance plans for nonluxury brands are more sizzle than steak. New cars don't need much upkeep.

General Motors’ announcement last summer that it would offer two years of free maintenance for its 2014 models expanded the field of brands that add regular maintenance to the factory warranty. The word free carries serious marketing clout. But if you’re cross-shopping models from different brands, how much should a free maintenance program factor into your decision?

That depends on the details of each plan. Most maintenance plans for nonluxury brands are more sizzle than steak: They cover most of your car’s maintenance needs for a while. But in the first couple of years, new cars don’t need much upkeep—generally oil changes and tire rotations. That may be worth only a few hundred dollars. Free maintenance on a luxury brand, however, can add up to serious bucks.

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Jessica L. Anderson
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Anderson has been with Kiplinger since January 2004, when she joined the staff as a reporter. Since then, she's covered the gamut of personal finance issues—from mortgages and credit to spending wisely—and she heads up Kiplinger's annual automotive rankings. She holds a BA in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the 2012 president of the Washington Automotive Press Association and serves on its board of directors. In 2014, she was selected for the North American Car and Truck Of the Year jury. The awards, presented at the Detroit Auto Show, have come to be regarded as the most prestigious of their kind in the U.S. because they involve no commercial tie-ins. The jury is composed of nationally recognized journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, who are selected on the basis of audience reach, experience, expertise, product knowledge, and reputation in the automotive community.