Can you lose your new car warranty if you don't go back to the dealer for servicing?

young woman in black leather jacket hugging new car

When you bought your new car recently, you may have heard the dealer say that the vehicle’s warranty will be voided if you don’t have it serviced at a dealership. Well,  in the vast majority of cases this is not the whole truth.  In fact, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), a warranty is -

“...a voluntary promise offered by the person or business who sold the product or service to you. Once you buy the product or service, the promise becomes a right that can be enforced under the Australian Consumer Law”

Some warranties may not expressly require the vehicle to be exclusively serviced with the dealer to maintain the warranty. If a warranty does include such an express term, then the warranty may be voided if this term is breached.  The only way to be certain if this is the case is to read the warranty document and other related terms and conditions. However, regardless of the warranty, consumers have rights under Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to a remedy if there is a breach of a consumer guarantee.

It is common for car dealerships to focus on the warranty to the exclusion of the consumer guarantees which has the result of misleading consumers about their rights. For example, a consumer may be able to claim a remedy for a fault with their vehicle under the ACL even if the warranty has been voided.

In practice, this allows you to have the vehicle serviced at an aftermarket workshop of your choosing, such as a Preferred Provider, but to help you understand the implications and benefits of going the aftermarket route, we have compiled this short FAQ to answer any questions you might have about preserving your new car’s warranty-

Are there conditions attached to preserving a new car's warranty?

There are some conditions, but they are not particularly difficult to observe. However, if you want to have your new vehicle serviced at an aftermarket workshop instead of at the dealer, do keep the following points in mind to avoid possible warranty issues should you require major repairs under warranty conditions at some point in the future-

  • Make sure that all scheduled/prescribed routine services are performed at the specified or prescribed times, mileages, and/or intervals recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Do not abuse the vehicle, i.e., do not use the vehicle for the purposes it was not designed to fulfil.
  • Do not modify the vehicle in ways that are expressly forbidden by the manufacturer’s warranty, but note that what is allowed and what is not allowed in terms of modifications vary between manufacturers, so be sure to consult your warranty documents to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • Note that in some cases, the manufacturer’s warranty might specify that only suitably qualified mechanics must install or fit even authorised accessories.
  • In conjunction with these conditions, there are some other considerations that should be observed, so be sure to read on-

Can any aftermarket mechanic service my new vehicle?

In theory ‘Yes’, but bear in mind that the warranty is likely to require that aftermarket mechanics that service vehicles that are within their warranty periods are suitably qualified and certified in States and Territories where certifications are required. Rest assured that all Preferred Providers have taken a pledge assuring compliance with this and other important requirements for new car servicing.

Do aftermarket workshops have to use only “genuine” parts? 

Despite claims made to the contrary by many dealers, there is no such thing as a ‘genuine’ part, since all high-quality replacement parts are manufactured for car manufacturers by licensed third parties that supply both the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and aftermarkets with the same parts. Therefore, the only thing that can make a particular part “genuine”, and then only in a somewhat roundabout way, is when the part comes in packaging that bears the car manufacturer’s name or logo.  For this reason, a better way of referring to “genuine” parts may be manufacturer-branded parts, and as noted, these same parts may be available for purchase in the aftermarket.

More to the point though, the warranty may require that parts of a particular type are used (refer to your warranty terms and conditions for details), for example, that only parts of an “acceptable quality” are installed/used during service at a non-dealer workshop, the term “acceptable quality” is not strictly defined. Nonetheless, the term is generally taken by the aftermarket car repair industry in general, and by members of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) in particular, to refer to parts that are fit for their purpose, and meet and/or exceed OEM specifications in all respects. 

As a practical matter, using parts that meet and/or exceed OEM specifications, rather than manufacturer-branded parts, can result in a substantial saving for the consumer (depending on the part).

Can aftermarket workshops stamp or sign my logbook?

Yes, they can. However, we recommend that the following requirements are met-

  • The mechanic that performed the service should be suitably qualified and certified in States and Territories that require certification.
  • Parts of an acceptable quality should be used.
  • The service should be performed strictly per the vehicles' prescribed service schedule, which typically includes items like resetting oil life monitors, adjusting wheel bearings where required, etc.

It may assist to preserve both the vehicle’s resale value and service history/records for scheduled services to be performed by the same aftermarket workshop.

Can aftermarket workshops perform software updates?

This question is often used by dealerships to persuade clients not to have their new vehicles serviced outside of the dealer network. However, the truth is that new vehicles typically do not require software updates/upgrades at almost every service- as many dealers seem to claim.

Nonetheless, in cases where software updates/upgrades might be required within a vehicles’ warranty period, aftermarket workshops can usually obtain the required update/upgrade online from official OEM resources.

Can aftermarket workshops perform services under purchased extended warranties?

Typically, no. Purchased extended warranties are offered by dealerships, and they only come into force after the expiration of the original manufacturers’ warranty and generally are able to dictate the terms and conditions (subject to any laws to the contrary) that apply to the extended warranty. These terms and conditions typically do not allow aftermarket workshops to perform any kind of work on vehicles that are covered by extended warranties.

Can aftermarket workshops perform major repairs under warranty conditions?

While the legalities around routine servicing of new vehicles by aftermarket workshops under warranty conditions are reasonably clear, we strongly recommend that you visit the website of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) for specific guidance on the repair of defects for vehicle under warranty and in relation to repairs relating to the consumer guarantee. Note that this is particularly important in cases where failures and or defects could affect a vehicles’ fitness for its purpose, or where failures and defects arise that might compromise the safe operation of the vehicle.
We also recommend that you discuss with the dealer whether a particular defect, fault, or issue is automatically covered by the manufacturer’s warranty or the consumer guarantees and, if you are not satisfied with the dealer’s response, consider seeking further assistance.

Are aftermarket workshops really cheaper than dealers?

Dealers typically do not make meaningful profits from the sale of new vehicles, so they depend on the sales of parts and accessories, as well as services or repair work to generate the bulk of their revenue to finance or offset their very high overhead costs.
Aftermarket workshops typically do not have the same overhead costs, meaning that they can charge significantly lower labour charges and mark-ups on parts, which could potentially save you thousands of dollars over the vehicles’ warranty period.

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