September is one of the busiest months for new car sales. For the tens of thousands of drivers upgrading their car, one thing’s certain: they won’t escape the dealership without being offered a host of new car add-ons which will come with the promise of protecting their investment. But do drivers really need them?
For sales executives, extras such as GAP insurance, wheel and tyre protection, an extended warranty and pre-paid servicing are ways of getting extra money out of customers. Just as extended warranties are a tried and trusted means of electrical goods retailers getting customers to pay more for their purchases, so are new car add-ons. We look at the most popular and assess whether they’re worth ticking on the list or flicking and ignoring.
New car add-ons: servicing packages
Having a manufacturer service history on a new or nearly new car is a sound way of maximising its value. Whether you need to pay for a servicing package is debatable. With some manufacturers, it can be a no-brainer, working out cheaper per service to lock into a package for a number of years. With others you won’t save anything, especially if you are comfortable haggling over the typically high labour rates charged at franchised dealerships. And frequently consumables such as tyres cost extra.
For: If you pay for your servicing up front, you’ll beat price rises and inflation. Some let you pay for your servicing monthly so you know exactly how much your motoring will cost you.
Against: If it’s not going to save you anything, why give your money to the car dealership before you have to? You could simply open a savings account. You might even be able to earn some interest on it.
Verdict: Tick (as long as it saves you money)
Bodywork and interior protection plans
These can add £200-£300 to your bill and say they’ll keep the paintwork and interior of the car looking shiny and new. They offer protection against road grime outside, spillages inside.
For: Your car may look showroom fresh for a little longer.
Against: There’s nothing magic about these products. Realistically they won’t stop young kids damaging a car’s interior. And the paintwork protection is really just a glorified wax. It’s the kind of thing you could spend an afternoon doing yourself with a quality product.
Every new car comes with a warranty. For the majority, these last for three years. An extended warranty will increase that standard guarantee for one or more years. But they come at a cost, usually £200-300 per year depending on the car. Warranties don’t pay for consumables: a replacement battery or new tyres won’t be covered.
For: These give you the peace of mind that if any major mechanical malady happens to your car after the warranty runs out you won’t be stung with a massive bill.
Against: You could haggle to have this included as part of the deal when buying your car. You don’t have to buy these until your existing warranty is about to expire. If you’re confident in your car’s reliability, you might be better off putting the money into a ‘just in case’ savings plan. There are non-manufacturer warranties that can offer like-for-like cover at a lower price.
Verdict: Flick (unless you can haggle to have it for no extra charge)
The pay out from an insurer won’t enable you to replace your car with something like for like if it’s written off in a crash. And if you’ve bought the car on finance, you may end up having to pay money for a car you can no longer drive. GAP insurance is designed cover the shortfall between what an insurer pays out and how much it’ll cost to replace your car with something similar.
For: Peace of mind knowing that your asset is protected… if you pay for the right product. And it’s not as expensive as you might think.
Against: There are many different kinds of GAP insurance. Many companies offering cheap headline prices don’t follow it up with worthwhile cover. And just because a car dealer is selling GAP insurance doesn’t make it any good. See what the dealership offers, then look around on the internet for similar or better cover for less money.
Tyre and wheel protection
This is insurance for your tyres and wheels. As wheels get bigger and tyres lower profile, they’re more susceptible to damage from kerbs and potholes. This promises to pay for or towards replacements.
For: Can save you from an unexpected bill and gives you the confidence that you’re covered for all eventualities.
Against: Some of these policies have an excess that you pay up front before the insurance kicks in. Realistically, when did you last damage a wheel or tyre so badly that it had to be replaced? And you can get alloy wheels repaired or refurbished at affordable prices.