Customer For Life?! W.T.*. Does That Really Mean, Anyway?

Is this going on all over the country, or just in my neck of the woods? Dealerships advertising these “Customer For LIFE” programs. Another variant is " For Life. Usually followed by a whole list of benefits. Free lifetime engine warranty, free oil changes for life, free tire rotations for life, free manicures / pedicures while you wait for life, free carwashes for life, etc and so on. So what’s the catch? These people aren’t in business to give me a bunch of free stuff for the rest of my life, they’re in business to make money.

Are they counting on most people only keeping the car for 3 years or so? They’d lose a lot of money on me, with a free lifetime warranty that would be the LAST car I’d ever buy, ha ha ha! :slight_smile: Or are the free oil changes dependent on you agreeing to the $1,200 or so worth of “recommended repairs” they find while they’ve got your car up on the lift? (In another thread, we discussed “free nitrogen tire inflation for life” and one conclusion was that most people aren’t going to drive all the way back to the dealership just to add air to a tire.)

Incidentally, many of these dealerships advertising “Customer For Life” are the same ones that advertise “Bad Credit, No Credit, Bankruptcy, Five different baby mommas and your only source of income is picking up aluminum cans along the road, NO PROBLEM!” Most of us know they make the big money from hosing the people with bad credit, so that makes “Customer For Life” sound even more suspect. Frankly, it sounds like a prison sentence to me. You’d think the marketing department would come up with better terminology. . .

Anyway, I’m for sure not going to go to one of these dealerships to ask THEM to clarify, as if they’re going to tell me what the hustle is,( yeah right). SO - I thought I’d ask the question here. What’s the hustle behind “Customer For Life” anyway?

These “for life” programs vary all over the map. But you can rest assured that none of them are free. Somehow you pay for them.

The “Bad Credit, No Credit, Bankruptcy” places often make their money on the high probability that the buyer will default, they’ll get to repo the car and sell it yet again… and again… and again, and often at very high interest rates… on cars that they’ll sell multiple times… keeping the payment money every time… before it ends up in the hands of someone who actually keeps up the payments. I don’t like this business model, but as long as everything is up front (except, of course, the business model) and in writing, they’re legal in most states. Shady, but legal.

At the other end of the spectrum, I saw a commercial today, "ULTRA-Low Mileage Lease, for, Extra Extraordinarily Exceptionally Well Qualified Lessees. . . " Well if you’re not allowed to actually drive the thing, what’s the point? So the neighbors can see it sitting in your driveway? Someone should come out with inflatable BMW’s Escalades etc (like the British had those inflatable tanks to fool the Luftwaffe during WWII) Hey you never know, something like that might sell (for 4 3 easy payments of only $49.99 plus an unspecified amount of shipping and processing; you’ll see the infomercial at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Ahhhh, look at this. Two posts in and I’m pulling my own thread off-topic. Drat.

That kind of BS has been popping up around here with a lot of regularity lately. As far as I’m concerned it’s just that: BS.

Those dealers have meetings (both brand specific and free for alls…) where they all get liquored up and swap notes. Next thing you know it’s spreading like a prairie fire.

Prediction. In the not too distant future those “…for life” catch phrases will be dead, buried, and replaced by the next round of sales fluff.

Some may remember Chrysler and their lifetime engine warranty from back in the 2000s. That is also long dead and the final nail was the Chrysler bankruptcy which made that lifetime warranty null and void.

Some may remember Chrysler and their lifetime engine warranty from back in the 2000s. That is also long dead and the final nail was the Chrysler bankruptcy which made that lifetime warranty null and void.

Here is a Chrysler question and answer link for Chrysler lifetime powertrain warranties;

Too many hidden hitched and conditions no doubt. I would stay away from them.

On the other hand, years ago I was at a Midas shop to have a muffler installed. In the waiting room was a woman who had a 12 year old car, and said she was in for her 3rd free muffler, the original one being installed in Hawaii with the lifetime Midas warranty.

Midas figured that the owner would trade in 3-4 years and there would be few claims. Except for this customer.

And those who default on a car loan are responsible for the balance even after the car has been reposessed. The finance company involved can see a $5,000 car become a $100,000 gold mine with repeated defaults.

"Midas figured that the owner would trade in 3-4 years and there would be few claims. Except for this customer."

Many years ago, Midas had a TV ad featuring an elderly Titus Moody-type man and his Model T Ford. As the customer left with his free replacement muffler, he said–with a wink–See you next year, boys!

The intended message was that they stood behind their lifetime warranty, but it may have also made people wonder why their mufflers only lasted for one year…

Several auto dealers in Central MD do this. I think they want to keep their shops busy. The manufacturer insists that they have a repair shop, but if no one uses it, they lose a lot of money. Coffee and donuts, nail salons, free oil changes, and tire rotations are cost effective if they get enough traffic into the repair shop to keep it running. The shop will find other repairs, including the ever-present up sells, to make the shop profitable. Since more than one shop around here does it, the practice must be profitable. It may also help with new car sales.

Toyota is now requiring their franchises to have coffee shops (or whatever they call them) in their facilities. New car sales being moribund for a while now, repair facilities also have become the revenue generators for many new car dealerships. The franchise owners have more control over the activities involved and, properly motivated, the techs can generate $3,000 worth of work for an older vehicle that comes in for new wiper blades. Preferably, the work will only cost $12 in parts, too… like valvecover gaskets, oilpan gaskets, and even oil pans.

Ergo, the more work a dealer can draw into their repair facility is the more money the franchisee will make. The current theory is that the coffee shops help. If they’re still around ten years from now, we’ll know they work. If not, we’ll know they don’t. Time will tell.

In my younger days (much younger) I worked for a man who ran a “Buy Here…Pay Here” car lot. He claimed that he made at least 10 times the worth on all used cars on his lot. I’ll bet he did. His secret…he required a large down payment and large “weekly” payments. He repossessed about 90% of all his sales. He said it was like having a license to print money.

It’s more cost effective to lure existing customers back through the door for potential wallet lightening than to spend billions on advertising directed at new customers.

So far you all are confirming my suspicions, this is popping up all over the country. I think @ok4450 hit the nail on the head, ". . . dealers have meetings. . . where they get all liquored up and swap notes. . " No doubt at executive retreats at high dollar resorts which they deduct as business expenses, heh heh!

In the link @Nevada_545 provides, it states “In order to maintain the Chrysler Lifetime Powertrain Warranty, you must have a powertrain inspection performed by an authorized Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge dealer once every 5 years. This inspection, performed at no charge, must be made within 60 days of each 5-year anniversary of the warranty start date of the vehicle.” How many people are going to forget to do that, especially after 5 years has passed?

I figure there must be similar conditions, for example, free lifetime oil changes must all be performed at the dealer - break the chain by doing one oil change yourself or getting one oil change at Iffy Lube - and you break the chain and void the warranty. I mean, I don’t KNOW this, I’m speculating. . . .

Regarding engine warranty, I’m guessing that only covers the engine internals (pistons, valves, crankshaft, etc) In my experience, that stuff doesn’t fail. Its everything CONNECTED to the engine (CV axles, rack & pinion, radiator, starter, power steering pump, alternator, and on and on) that makes it cost prohibitive to keep a car on the road.

from @VDCdriver 's post: “. . . but it may have also made people wonder why their mufflers only lasted for one year…” They should have used one of the '88-'93 Ford Festivas :smiley: I got so tired of replacing mufflers I’d just drive it around with the hole until it was time to take it to emissions. My understanding was the problem was that the engine didn’t run hot enough to dry out the moisture in the exhaust system.

I have HEARD - that the condition behind those lifetime muffler and brake pad warranties was that the part was warrantied but you had to pay the labor charge to install them (which was appropriately priced to cover the cost of the part as well).

In other words, there’s no such thing as something for nothing, except maybe for PowerBall, and that’s not even something for nothing, that’s taking up a collection from millions of idiots and giving half of the money to the government and the other half to a few really lucky idiots. :smiley:

Edit to Add: By the way, all good comments, guys. Don’t feel slighted if I didn’t click “Agree” or “Like”. If I click agree or like to everything than it kinda loses its meaning doesn’t it?

I once bought a vehicle at a “Buy Here Pay Here” lot. It was before I started reading these boards. I thought it was like the cookies “Open Here”. Of course you’re going to open them here, you’re going to eat them here, what do they expect me to do, move to Toledo to open their cookies?

So anyway, we hammer out a deal and I pull a wad out of my coat pocket and start peeling off hundreds, and the salesman starts stammering, something about not being comfortable with holding that much cash, would have preferred a certified check. . . I replied, "Yeah, but the bank wanted to charge me $12.00 for a certified check, so I got the ca$h instead. . . " I think he was just poormouthing because he didn’t want me to realize they have ca$h around, just in case I might come back later to rob the place. . . (Hey, a “buy here pay here” lot probably deals with a lot of sketchy people. . . )

P.S.- With regards to @missileman 's post, if I were really a “wheeler-dealer” I suppose I’d open up my own buy-here-pay-here lot. But I don’t think I could live with myself screwing hard-working poor people out of their money. On the other hand, one could tell oneself, “If I didn’t do this, these people are just going to get screwed somewhere else ANYWAY.” Isn’t that what all the sociopaths say, “If I didn’t do it, somebody else will.”

PLUS, I’m just not a people person. I bet they have a lot of angry confrontations at those kinds of places, kind of like on that pawn shop show. . . dealing with that on a daily basis has to take at least a few years off your life, health-wise (increased blood pressure, stress) from daily confrontations with people, many of whom are probably under the influence of alcohol, drugs, meth, etc.

Like I said before, a friend was ready to buy an SUV at the G’m dealer down the road that advertised lifetime warranty. He asked what the $4000 charge was for and they said for the warranty. Gotta be careful. Nothing is free.

I think missileman described the way they make their money perfectly… and confirmed my suspicions.

Bing, this new extended warranty scam is another money-printing scheme IMHO.
Gotta be careful with your wallets folks, there’s a whole lot of very innovative crooks out there.

Car salesmen are told to be uncomfortable when someone pays in cash. They think you might be a drug dealer. If you insist on paying with cas, they are required to report you to the police, IIRC. An auto salesperson told me that about 20 years ago.

"If you insist on paying with cas, they are required to report you to the police, IIRC."

I think that, nowadays, they have to report transactions of $10k or more to Homeland Security, but it might be a different federal agency. I have heard some people claim that they had to fill out a nightmare of governmental paperwork if they paid with cash or check, but I did not experience that when I bought my present car in 2010.

Businesses are required to file IRS form 8300 for cash transactions of $10,000 or more. The IRS form isn’t necessary if a personal check is used as the source of the funds can be traced.

@Nevada_545 is right. In 2006 I bought a Chevrolet Uplander that was a program vehicle. I brought a cashier’s check and had to give my social security number. I questioned this and was given a copy of the procedure for cash transactions involving currency or a cashier’s check. In May of 2010 I bought a 2011 Sienna which cost much more. I wrote a personal check and no questions were asked.
On the other hand, I had a left over travelers check for $20 from a vacation and the grocery checkout person wouldn’t. accept it and I had traded at this store for years.