When buying a used car, not getting the full service history could lead to warranty problems later on.

When buying a used car, not getting the full service history could lead to warranty problems later on.

A 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI was towed in this week for a professional opinion as the owner was contemplating possible litigation. He purchased the car from a private independent dealer as a used vehicle a couple years ago with approximately 80,000 kilometers.

The engine recently had a catastrophic failure at the 105,000-kilometer mark leaving the owner with a car that needs an engine and a transmission. Why also a transmission? Because the engine failure occurred at highway speeds, sending spinning, out-of-control internal engine parts in all directions. On this occasion, one of those spinning out-of-control parts travelled so far that it broke through the engine block housing beside a transmission mounting bolt. Kinetic energy from the bolt placed into motion cracked and damaged the transmission housing beyond repair. Ouch! This vehicle was initially towed to a local dealer for assessment and would normally have been out of any warranty, but because it is one of the recalled diesel-gate vehicles, it has an extended warranty because of the Volkswagen settlement. The owner had some hope.

The problem arises because VW is seeking the service history for the car. The new owner supplied the dealer with the two oil change receipts since his ownership, but this was not good enough. This specific vehicle, had no previous maintenance history recorded in the VW dealer database, therefore leaving the customer in a precarious position. All manufacturers will typically delay or deny warrantable repairs until all maintenance records since new, are supplied when dealing with engine failure. The owner is now trying to locate the previous owners in hopes of piecing together some sort of history.

The brand of vehicle, nor the mileage is important, but this issue of warranty refusal due to missing maintenance history is something I’m seeing on an escalating basis.

I have even witnessed this dispute occur when a used car has been sourced and purchased from a factory authorized dealer’s used car department. A used-car buyer should not have to worry about this when they are buying a pre-certified, premium used car from a new car dealer, but they still do. If this dealer cannot provide you with a full-service history, then get it in writing, on your sales contract that they will accept responsibility for any warranty claim issues that might arise due to this lack of history.

When buying a used car from a private seller or private dealer you must add another layer of complexity to an already tedious, soul-sucking task. If the vehicle you are looking at is new enough to still have a factory, extended, or transferable third-party warranty, then you must be diligent in satisfying the requirements necessary of the warranty holder. In all cases, this means being able to provide history from a time period prior to your ownership. If the selling dealer can’t provide it and it can’t be sourced through a manufacturer dealer query, then one must consider that warranty to have limited value to you, the new owner.