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  • Writer's pictureLaurén Ettinger

Exercise Caution with an Extended Warranty: One Nomad's Story

Today’s story is a bit different from what we normally share. We are reaching out to you to help someone in our community. We met up with James and his girlfriend Amy last winter while hiding from the cold in the Arizona desert. We filmed a tour of James and Amy’s home, a bright blue Dodge ProMaster camper van they call Sky. James contacted us a few weeks ago to ask for our help, his beloved home had broken down and the extended warranty policy he purchased for this exact occasion was denying him coverage because of the van tour video he was featured in.

When James purchased his used van, he was approached at the dealership with paperwork to purchase an extended warranty. At the time, it was presented as part of the normal documentation he needed to sign, and they made it sound like it was a deal he couldn’t pass up. It would just be a couple of grand more on top of the money he was already investing in his van. Plus, the coverage sounded excellent, complete peace of mind from bumper to bumper for anything that might happen on the road for another 70,000 miles. James had an excellent experience with the dealership, so assumed that this warranty company would be worthwhile. Of course, this wasn’t actually the case as James found out two years later when his engine quit, and he was denied coverage.

Unfortunately, horror stories like James’ are pretty common. We’ve heard of people denied their extended warranty claims for small things like changing out the color of their rims to a “non-stock option.”

Finally, the warranty company agreed to send an inspector out and let the mechanic shop begin a diagnostic. The inspector confirmed that the engine break was due to a manufacturing fault and said that it should be covered by the warranty. The shop put together an estimate and sent it over to the warranty company. Nine days later, James still had not heard anything back. They had some strange questions for James- Why was the vehicle painted? What is the sticker on the side of the vehicle? Has the vehicle ever been used for commercial use? James answered the questions and waited a week. Nothing. He called to follow up and was told that his claim was denied because the vehicle had been used for commercial purposes. He explained that it was a personal vehicle and had never been used commercially, they refused to give him any more information. Eventually, James and Amy found out that even though they did not make any money from it, having the van in a YouTube video was considered a commercial use. Increasingly, shady warranty companies like this are voiding coverage from owners publishing or staring in YouTube videos, conducting product reviews, doing podcast interviews, and more.

James contacted the dealership where the vehicle was purchased and spoke at length with their legal department. He provided them with detailed proof that the vehicle was not a commercial vehicle, including passenger vehicle registration and personalized plates (which aren’t legal for commercial vehicles) from both New York and South Dakota. The legal team fought on James’ behalf and even spoke with the CEO of the warranty company. The CEO did not budge and told them to take it to court. James doesn’t have the time or the resources to peruse legal action since his van is his home. He hopes to recoup the money spent on the policy from the dealership.

James recommends that instead of putting money into an extended warranty package, people should create a rainy day fund for vehicle repairs.

If you have the ability to help James and Amy repair their engine and get back on the road, please consider contributing anything you can to their GoFund Me.

Mechanic Shop: HHH Performance in Spearfish, SD

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