Will You Void a Car Warranty by Not Having Your Car Serviced at the Dealership?

    The short answer is no. Here's why.

    Car Mechanic Photo: iStock

    You finally found the car that you love and worked out a great deal with the salesperson. Now they send you over to the finance and insurance (F&I) manager’s office to sign some paperwork. It’s the F&I manager’s job at a car dealership to finalize the transaction, and in doing so, upsell you on extras like an extended warranty. The manager will no doubt espouse the virtues of the dealership, thanking you for your business, while trying to maximize their profit. Somewhere in this discussion the manager, in an effort to shore up future business, says that you have to have the car serviced at the dealership if you don’t want to void the factory warranty. But is that necessary? The short answer is no.

    “The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act was a law that was passed in the 1970s and states that it’s not legal to require the use of a manufacturer part or service in order to maintain a warranty,” says Keith Barry, Consumer Reports’ autos editor. “You can have your car serviced anywhere and still maintain the manufacturer’s warranty. You can bring the car to a place like Jiffy Lube, to an independent shop, or even another dealership that’s not the same car brand as your car.” 

    However, damage resulting from a faulty repair might not be covered. For example, if you decide to change the oil yourself and forget to put the oil filter back on, then drive the car and ruin the engine, that would not be covered under warranty because you damaged the car, Barry says. 

    If an employee of a dealership tells you the car has to be serviced at their dealership, it should be reported and discouraged. Complain to the dealer and the car manufacturer and let them know what the employee is doing. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which sometimes leads to the dealership being warned by the FTC. 

    Ultimately, have your car worked on by a reputable shop, whether at the dealership or elsewhere, that will stand behind their work. And keep the receipts, just in case. 

    Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted from an episode of “Talking Cars With Consumer Reports.”