If you’ve been watching TV lately, you’ve likely seen ads for USfidelis auto repair coverage. While we don’t recommend extended service contracts to start with, we advise that you be especially wary about doing business with this company, which has been criticized by the Better Business Bureau and others.
One of the USfidelis ads features NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace, whose NASCAR team is sponsored by the company.
“Believe me, I know the value of good repair service. I know how expensive it can be,” Wallace says in the commercial. He says that a USfidelis plan “can save you thousands of dollars by taking repair bills like these and cutting them down to size.” As he speaks, a counter showing a list of repairs totaling more than $10,000 resets to $0. Wallace adds that the company’s coverage pays for repair bills and provides other benefits, such as roadside assistance.
THE REAL DEAL
USfidelis coverage is available for new cars and used cars under 15 years old with fewer than 200,000 miles. Although it calls its plans extended warranties, the coverage can be most accurately described as a prepaid repair contract. If you have a repair bill, USfidelis will pay it for you, less a deductible. The company sells more than 50 plans provided by independent vendors.
Its Web site provides no pricing information and only general descriptions of four coverage categories, including a new-car bumper-to-bumper plan and stand-alone powertrain protection. The site also gives general information about coverage limits, advising you to refer to a contract for a list of exclusions.
When we called USfidelis to ask for details on the coverage available for a 2002 Toyota Camry with 104,000 miles, we got a high-pressure sales pitch for a five-year, 100,000 mile “Powertrain Plus” plan with a $50 deductible. Initially we were told the coverage would cost $2,775, including an immediate 20-percent discount. The more we hesitated, the lower the price went, eventually dropping to $2,225 after the rep threw in, among other things, her “employee pricing bonus” and $25 off the $150 activation fee.
The sales rep said that she couldn’t send us a contract to read until we ordered the coverage, but that we could cancel under the company’s 30-day money-back guarantee if we were dissatisfied.
She repeatedly warned that if we didn’t sign up right then, the price would be higher, and we’d be required to provide an inspection from a Toyota dealer to prove our Camry had no pre-existing mechanic problems. If we signed up immediately, she said, “we kind of trust you up front.”
The company has received a failing grade from the Better Business Bureau based in part on a pattern of grievances, some of which remain unresolved or took too long to address. Consumers have made 1,077 complaints against USfidelis over the past 36 months, alleging difficulty in canceling policies and obtaining refunds; misleading company advertising; and a failure to pay for vehicle repairs, among other issues.
In March 2008, the Missouri Attorney General filed suit against the company, doing business as National Auto Warranty Services Inc., accusing it of sending consumers misleading letters that their warranties were about to expire and of violating Do Not Call laws. The case is pending. The company’s Web site says it has eliminated telemarketing and that it is “continuing to adjust other marketing efforts to avoid even the possibility of any confusion among prospective customers.”
The bureau says the firm also has done business as US Fidelis Administration Services Inc., Dealer Services, N.A.W., and Dealer Warranty Division.
We called the company for interview. A company spokesman promised that the chief executive would call us back, but we did not hear back.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to extended service contracts, we’ve found that the cost of repairs is generally less than the price of the coverage itself. In addition, companies that sell these plans are not subject to the same close regulation and oversight as insurers.
But if you still want to buy one, we recommend that you avoid USfidelis.–Anthony Giorgianni