Do Free Scheduled Maintenance Programs Save You Money?

2010 Jaguar XJ

Jaguar has a beautiful, refreshed, and redesigned lineup consisting of the new XJ, XF, and XK. Unfortunately, it also still has a lingering reputation for costly maintenance and questionable reliability.

Old impressions of a car brand can stick in a buyer’s mind for much longer than the reputation is valid, which can severely decrease sales and limit a buyer’s exposure to some seriously great products. Jaguar hopes its new lineup begins to replace that dated reputation.

And what better way to jump-start a new reputation than by offering five years of free maintenance on every new Jag? Starting with the 2011 XJ, that is exactly the automaker’s plan. In fact, the program extends to free replacement of oil, oil filters, brake pads, brake discs, brake fluid, and wiper blade inserts.

Pretty compelling reason to buy a new Jag, no? Well, that depends.

BMW offers a similar program on all its new vehicles, which at first glance appears to be a pretty decent money-saver. In fact, now that Jag is jumping on the free maintenance train, it probably won’t be long before that perk is standard fare among all luxury automakers. But how much does it really save?

I wanted to find out, so I visited my local BMW dealer and asked some questions about the free scheduled maintenance program and what exactly is covered. Turns out there’s more going on than meets the eye.

The key words here are “scheduled maintenance.” BMW isn’t offering free preventative maintenance… just free scheduled maintenance of the items it deems necessary to change in those 50,000 miles.

2010 BMW 3 SeriesOver the 50,000-mile coverage period, a BMW 3 Series requires a synthetic oil change every 15,000 miles, but not much else (you can bet you’ll be on the hook to pay for more frequent oil changes).

Transmission fluid and rear differential fluid now are called “lifetime fill” and never scheduled for replacement. (I didn’t know there was such a thing!) Even fuel filters are classified now as “lifetime.” In truth, we all know any fuel filter could potentially last a lifetime, or three blocks, if it gets clogged with dirty fuel.

Brake fluid and coolant intervals are every 4 years, so may not even be covered under the 4-year plan. Depending on how aggressively the car is driven, though, a set of brake pads and discs isn’t out of the question for replacement under the coverage.

According to my unscientific research, the free scheduled maintenance program is a nice little perk, but not a reason to consider a BMW (or, presumably, a Jaguar) over another make. Considering the cost of purchasing a BMW or Jag can range from $40K to $100K (or more), a more practical cost savings might be buying a top-end Honda, Toyota, Chevy, or Ford and following its recommended service schedule at a trusted independent shop.

Free scheduled maintenance programs appear to be a worthwhile benefit when cross-shopping luxury brands, but even then represent a minimal savings when compared to the purchase price of the vehicle.

On the other hand, if an automaker such as Chevy started a similar program, we might be talking some serious incentive… but until then, don’t be sucked into the hyped-up marketing without some serious research.

Would a free scheduled maintenance plan convince you to buy a BMW or Jaguar? What about a Chevrolet or Ford?


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Used Jaguar XJ
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  1. The “free” scheduled maintenance programs might indeed save you money if they are paid for by the manufacturer. This would be an area where the dealer can’t simply charge whatever they want to and pocket the money, but are required to accept a much lower amount for scheduled maintenance— kind of like your doctor accepting less from insurance companies than they would charge you out-of-pocket.

  2. Do Free Scheduled Maintenance Programs Save You Money?

    Of course not. The maintenance cost is absorbed into the initial purchase price.

    What it does mean though is a range of vehicles that are more likely to be up to date in their service schedules. A better maintained car should mean better resale values (also helped by the higher new car buy price), and also a good selling point if your car is still covered by the arrangement at sale time. The offer does transfer with ownership of the car, doesn’t it?

    Would a free scheduled maintenance plan convince you to buy a BMW or Jaguar? What about a Chevrolet or Ford?

    It would certainly make me view a used one more favourably.

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