Auto battery warranties are slowly changing

hey guys

I know this has been going on for some time . . .

A few years ago, I read that certain brands are no longer pro-rating their batteries. Supposedly, this was because it’s easier for everyone. When the free replacement warranty is up, there are no more calculations to perform, you buy a brand new battery outright.

I know Costco no longer pro-rates their batteries, and I believe this also applies to AC Delco. I’m not sure about anybody else, but I’m sure some of you guys will chime in.

A personal example . . . a few days ago, I noticed that my positive post and cable was showing a lot of corrosion. I bought a new bolt-on cable end . . . possible with Toyota and some others . . . and hooked up my 12V memory saver. As I was removing the cables, I realized the positive post was actually turning. At this point, I know I need a fresh battery.

My Kirkland Signature battery had a “06/14” sticker, so it was clearly 4 years old. By reading the label, I determined it was within the 50% pro-rated period.

So I headed to Costco and swapped the battery out for a fresh Interstate . . . Costco no longer has their own brand batteries, as of a few years ago . . . and paid 50% of the cost of a new one. Not bad, I thought.

Then I looked at the label and determined it has 42 month free replacement period, and apparently NO pro-rated period at all.

By the standards of the Interstate battery, I would have been out of luck at 48 months. I would have paid the full price of a new battery.

Sure, the pro-rated warranty may be slightly hard for some people to figure out, calculate, apply, etc. But it saved me a lot of money, about $40 all told

Any thoughts?

I’m just waiting for somebody to say I should buy higher quality batteries

That’s fine. Everybody is entitled to their opinions. Batteries sold at Costco are cheaper than most, with the possible exception of Everstart, sold by Walmart. But I don’t do Walmart, and I’m not getting into that. If somebody else wants to go down that road, have at it . . .

I have not noticed that. Good to know! I have 2 Sam’s Club (Duracel, actually, made by East Penn) batteries in cars that have 3 year 100% replacement warranties.

I recently replaced one as its CCA dropped to 30% of new but cranking was noticeably slow. I now have a brand new battery good for another 3 years but I don’t think its covered for another 36 months.

I’ll make it a habit to have my 36 month batteries checked at 34 months to see if I can get a freebie.

I suspect this policy figures that 3-4 years for a factory battery, 3 years for a replacement and the car is already on to a new owner. No receipt, no battery!

Pro-rating has never helped me, so it’s good either way for me. Pretty much every battery I’ve had lasted just a little longer than the warranty period.

However, I’m a little skeptical of the reasoning that it’s “easier for everyone.” It’s rare that any company does anything strictly for my benefit.

Last fall, I noticed that I was about 30 days away from the 3 year free-replacement time limit on my Autozone battery, so off I went to AZ in order to have it tested. Sure enough, the test resulted in a read-out of “bad battery”. There were no symptoms of a weak battery, but by being proactive with testing, I got a free replacement battery.

That being said, the new battery–for which I paid zero dollars–apparently has no free replacement warranty, but I think that I did okay with the original battery’s warranty coverage.

I really don’t know but I think the Delco battery I bought a couple years ago has a pro rated period. Really though a Walmart battery was the only one I ever got free when it failed in one year. The battery before that was an East Penn from NAPA to replace a 3 year Honda battery-Sunday morning so I paid full price on an 84 month Honda battery. Traded cars so don’t know what the replacement period was on that. Silly me but I tend to judge the quality of the battery by the warranty even though I never collect anything on it.

Pro-rated batteries are still common around here. Pro-rated is just a minor aggravation to me. When a battery fails I don’t mind opening up the wallet to just buy a new one and be done with it.

I used Wal Mart mostly and have had very few issues with their batteries. The one issue I have had several times is when they tell me a battery tests good when I know damned well it’s nowhere near good.
With WM I can grab a battery and be gone in a minute. With AutoZone or O’Reillys one has to be prepared for a wait and my patience doesn’t allow me to stand there 15 minutes while some yo-yo argues DTCs with the clerks.

I don’t think there are any COSTCOS in OK but I have heard a few rumblings that COSTCO may enter several major metro areas. Tulsa and OK City are pretty much it.

For what it’s worth . . .

As far as brands and scores go in the Consumer Reports battery ratings, they’re all over the map

Sometimes everstart (Walmart) batteries are top-rated, highly rated, or best buy

Other times they’re middle of the pack or even lower

For some reason, they don’t rate the exact Interstate batteries sold at Costo, only the ones sold elsewhere

I’ll go slightly off-topic now . . .

A few years ago, I needed a group 49 battery . . . also known as H8

Costco didn’t have that group, so I got one at Autozone

When I got my battery pro-rated at Costco a few days ago, I noticed they now carry group 49

I may be mistaken, but I thought I even saw marine batteries at Costco . . .

That’s one thing I’ve noticed about napa . . . I’ve never seen any of the employees pulling codes for a customer. In fact, I suspect they don’t even have a code reader to lend out. Might be company policy? I also don’t see a lot of work being performed in the parking lot, unlike Autozone. Sure, I see guys topping off fluids, changing bulbs and wiper blades, but that’s about it. I’ve never seen a guy changing out his brakes or a radiator at napa

That might be because of the clientele at NAPA. Around here at least it seems to be where the pros tend to go. At least they make regular deliveries to the shops around town. The staff also has been more the type that used to be at the old professional parts stores that everyone used. Of course they have their lower quality items too now but whenever I’ve been at Autozone or O’Reilley, the clientele is Um, how can I say it, of a lower scale. So that might be why they don’t do code reading-there is no need to. The trouble codes and diagnosis has already been done.

I wonder if they still have full coverage on a “new” battery. It’s somewhat understandable if the original battery is replaced under warranty that the replacement only has basic warranty. So you get one replacement and then have to pay full price for next one. Eliminates the possibility of free (or nearly free) batteries for life. They can have an enticing warranty to get you to bite but bury the details like this so most people either don’t bother to read the details or don’t care. Some products don’t even warranty the replacement.

The chain parts stores around me don’t lend code readers anymore. They pull the codes, then you can write them down or take a photo of the screens with your phone.

Costco has been in a major expansion mode in my area over the past 2-3 years, and in many areas of the state (even in rural areas) they are located every 20 miles or so. And, all of the newer stores have a gas station, selling Top Tier gas for less than anyone else.

This isn’t new. Best that I can recall Delco started this program about 5 years ago. Their batteries are now “rated” for 6 years with free replacement if it fails before 42 months, 5 years with 30 month replacement, etc. The problem with prorating a warranty is that as you approach the end of the warranty period, the pro-rated charge for replacement is often more than the cost of simply buying one outright. You’re better off just buying a new one than using warranty to replace it.

The pro rate charge is simply the retail price divided by the months in service. For example, if an AC Delco battery has a published retail price of $124.00 with a 6 year warranty, you pay $1.72 for every month of use. So if that battery fails at 62 months you get a new one for 62X1.72=$106.64. The problem is I never sold Delco batteries at their published retail. I would have sold that same battery new for $99.95. A warranty replacement battery would cost you more than simply buying a new one.

Way back when, when I was the manager of the shop I eventually took over, we carried both Interstate and Delco batteries. Interstate finally took their stock out because I wouldn’t sell their batteries, but even then Interstate had a simple pro-rata warranty when Delco had a free replacement period AND a pro-rata warranty. The free replacement period was just one selling point that made the Delco battery a better choice.

The shop I ran, and also the one where I work now, offer an extended warranty coverage on Delco batteries. This is administered through the local Delco wholesaler, but it offers free replacement for battery failure anytime during the rating period. For an additional 6 dollars, we fill out a warranty card that entitles you to a free new battery if your Delco battery fails within 5 years for Professional Silver batteries or 6 or 7 years for Professional Gold batteries (depending on model). The downside is that the warranty is only good at the location that sold you the battery.

In the grand scheme of things, batteries are cheap and pretty reliable. I rarely see a failure within the warranty (or rating) period that isn’t caused by abuse or external mechanical malfunction.