The essential extended warranty

by Mark Lee

One of the reasons I bought a new truck and then a nearly new truck was the manufacturer’s extended warranty.

Even though the warranties run up to many thousands of dollars, I was happy to make a one-off payment, as I didn’t want to get hit with any big bills in the future.

My first truck developed an oil leak that required nearly $6,000 of labour alone, so the warranty almost paid for itself and any future issues it has will mean that purchasing the manufacturer’s extended warranty will have been a sound investment.

The second truck, which is the same age as the other one, also came with the balance of the extended warranty, so it also has the safety cushion that is so necessary with the cost of repairs to the complicated technology on a modern truck. This point was highlighted by the recent experience of a friend.

He had taken the truck to the dealer for a major service, including a change of all the lubes, transmission and rear ends included. They also changed a few filters and things in the aftertreatment system and this was unsurprisingly the source of the problem he faced; the dreaded “Go to the dealer and watch them scratch their heads in bewilderment” light came up on the dash, followed by a notification that the truck would de-rate in 240 minutes. Fortunately he was within an hour or so of a dealer. Unfortunately, it was Saturday and he wouldn’t make it until they had shut up shop for the weekend. So just four hours after leaving the yard and starting the trip, he was parked for at least 48 hours.

Luckily he wasn’t under a hot load and it wouldn’t cause too many problems, but 48 hours lost is still two full shifts or two days with your loved ones – and don’t forget that 48 hours was a best case scenario.

If parts are not in stock or it’s a big job, it could run much longer and that’s only once you manage to get into the shop in the first place – that could take a few days, too.

In the end, it didn’t turn out to be anything serious, at least not in terms of time to fix. The cost, however, was definitely on the serious side, especially with the current exchange rate.

The bill came out at roughly $3,000 and the only part needing to be replaced was the DEF pump. Now this part had been removed as part of the service the truck had just undergone and that just goes to show how fragile these expensive systems are. I’m not suggesting that it was negligence by the technician that removed and replaced the pump, not at all; these parts are so sophisticated that they can go bad if you look at them the wrong way.

My friend had also opted to take out the extended warranty and this repair and a couple of other minor, zero downtime part replacements mean that he has also made a good investment in the extended warranty. He has a couple of years, depending on how hard he runs, before the warranty expires so, like me, he’s in good shape for any future part failures.

Mechanically these new trucks with their core components made of high-quality materials with very fine tolerances that are lubricated by high-quality oils have the ability to easily run for a million trouble-free miles.

It’s the stuff that is bolted on to them that is another matter entirely and that creates a huge dilemma.

What do you do when your truck hits that half a million miles and the warranty expires?

Do you trade it for a new one? Or do you take the chance that luck will be on your side? It isn’t like running a worn out engine, where oil consumption or blow-by will give you a good idea of any impending big buck repairs.

These extremely expensive emissions systems can go wrong at any time and you only get a 240-minute warning, which barely gives you enough time to write out all the zeroes on the check you will soon be handing over.

A couple of those kinds of breakdowns have the potential to cost as much as a year’s payments on a new truck, so the logical choice appears to be to trade up to a new truck.

However, with a 40% penalty on the dollar at the moment, that isn’t a no-brainer.

Take my first truck as an example; to order an exact replacement today would cost me nearly $60,000 more than I paid less than two years ago. That’s a grand a month, plus interest for five years and that would pay for 20 $3,000 breakdowns.

So there is no right or wrong answer. I’m hoping that the dollars align to within a few cents of each other, which would make the decision a lot easier. If not, it looks as though I will be in for a lot of sleepless nights in the not too distant future.


A fourth generation trucker and trucking journalist, Mark Lee uses his 25 years of transcontinental trucking in Europe, Asia, North Africa and now North America to provide an alternative view of life on the road.

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