Do You Need to Service Your Car at the Dealership to Keep Your Warranty Valid?

November 10th, 2020 by

If you buy a new car, you might be wondering if you need to service it at a dealership in order to keep your warranty valid. This is especially a concern if the dealership isn’t convenient — or if you’re on a tight budget and can get a better deal servicing your vehicle elsewhere. So, do you need to have regular maintenance performed at the dealership in order to keep your warranty active? Here’s the answer.

Short Answer: No
By law, automakers and dealerships are not allowed to make you perform regular maintenance at a dealership for a new-car warranty to remain valid. In other words, you’re free by law to get oil changes, tire rotations and other regular maintenance performed by just about any mechanic, and the automaker and dealership will still have to honor the new-car warranty.

Not That Simple
Of course, it would be easy if things were exactly that simple, but they’re not. Even though a dealership or automaker is supposed to honor a warranty regardless of who performed the maintenance, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will — especially because a dealership or automaker can easily claim maintenance wasn’t performed if they have no record of it. As a result, we suggest you document everything.

For example, if you get an oil change performed at an independent shop while your car is still under warranty, be sure to save the receipts. Same goes for a tire rotation, a fluid flush or any other regular maintenance you have done outside the dealer. That way, if there’s ever a question or a problem, no dealership or automaker can ever assert that you didn’t perform the maintenance required to keep your warranty valid.

With that said, there’s still one situation where an automaker could legally void a warranty: if you have regular maintenance performed at an independent shop and an error made by that shop causes damage to a component. Say, for example, you get an oil change at an independent shop, and the shop forgets to replace the oil, which destroys the engine. In this case, the automaker warranty will probably not cover any replacement parts, and your claim would be with the shop that performed the work.

In general, however, you should feel fine taking your car to a shop of your choosing for maintenance and service, even if it’s still under warranty.