The truth behind “Lifetime Warranty” Paint Protection

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OVERVIEW

Is “paint protection” that is offered at a car dealership something that your vehicle needs and is it worth the money? Does lifetime warranty mean that the paint protection will last for the next 10 or 20 years? Does paint protection even exist? Will your car forever be protected? In this article we will be answering all of these questions and more.

In a couple of our other articles we have briefly touched on the topic of paint protection and the lifetime warranty that is usually offered. Most people would have heard the term “paint protection” in the new car sales industry or in the aftermarket detailing industry and nearly always the sales people are quick to point out that they back their product with a lifetime warranty. Now, this whole subject is an extremely long topic so we will try to keep it as short as possible (HA!), while still answering all the questions as to what is actually getting sold to you and what that lifetime warranty actually means, or doesn’t mean….

THE TERM “PAINT PROTECTION”

The car care industry classifies protection for automotive paints into three major categories; waxes, sealants and coatings (please see our other article discussing the difference between these three if you are not familiar with the terms). All three of these types of products can be referred to as a layer of protection that goes onto the paint protecting it from the elements, and they all have different properties, strengths, weaknesses and durability. As of the last few years, professional detailing companies world wide, only really refer to paint protection as the types of products that fall into the coatings category, as this is the newest and most durable form of protection. Before coatings existed, sealants were what was commonly referred to as paint protection. There are two major industries offering paint protection, the car dealerships and professional detailing companies. So let us first cover car dealerships since this is where most people are likely to have it done on their new car.

car care explained

CAR DEALERSHIP PAINT PROTECTION

For years now car dealerships have offered customers buying brand new vehicles a paint protection package with a lifetime warranty for the price of around $1000-$3000 depending on the vehicle. Let’s say you just agreed to purchase a brand new vehicle and the paperwork is signed for the sale, the salesperson would then leave the room and another person comes in to talk about paint protection. Their whole job is to scare you into thinking your huge investment is going to get destroyed and put the fear of God into you, so suddenly the $1000-$3000 is a small price to pay in comparison to what you just spent on the car itself. While we 100% agree that a vehicle’s paintwork needs to be protected, it’s what they are actually offering which is the problem. Let’s continue.

Now that your vehicle is getting the paint protection, what is actually getting put onto your car? Most car dealerships may actually use words such as Nano, Ceramic, QuartzCoating, etc. to describe the product getting put onto your vehicle. Does that mean you are actually getting one of  these coatings? Unfortunately not. Most dealerships use synthetic polymer sealants and barely any prep work is done to properly decontaminate the surface or properly paint correct the vehicle to remove any swirl marks. For them this is nice and easy work with a huge mark up to make money. So why aren’t proper coatings put onto the vehicle from the dealerships? The main factors are; the difficult application, possibility of permanent streaks, time consumption (we spend 2-3 days on a vehicle coating), prep work required and product costs.

Let’s use this brand new 2014 product from one of the largest and most well known car care company in the world, Meguiar’s as an example. This is Meguiar’s new synthetic polymer sealant called Paint Protect which will retail for around $30 and is stated to last up to 12 months. More or less this is what is getting put onto your vehicle. We know what you are thinking, This seriously can not be true, that can’t be what I just paid $2000 for? Unfortunately it is and we haven’t even got to the warranty part yet which is where this all falls apart.

 

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LIFETIME WARRANTY

Now onto the main point of this article, the “Lifetime Warranty” fad that every one has jumped onto. This was mainly started by the car dealerships years ago and unfortunately is now also being used by some manufactures of coatings and by some car detailers who are applying these coatings. The lifetime warranty is a draw card used to raise the image of a product, otherwise if you just got told that the car dealership was going to put a $30 bottle of sealant onto your vehicle, would take them a few hours to complete, would realistically probably last 6 months in North QLD and they wanted you to pay $2000 for it, do you think any one would actually fall for it? Let that sink in for a moment….

DOES A PAINT PROTECTION EXIST THAT LASTS A LIFETIME?

Currently as of 2014, the longest lasting coatings on the market last approximately 2-5 years depending on factors such as how much the vehicle is used, how the vehicle is maintained, what products are used to wash and clean the vehicle and most importantly, how well the coating was applied in the first place. You can have the best coating in the world, but if the detailer didn’t prep the paintwork perfectly or applied the coating incorrectly, it is not going to last, simple as that. There is no coating on the market that lasts longer then this in the real world, PERIOD. Yes if you put 10 layers of a Quartz coating onto a car, vacuumed sealed it in a plastic igloo and locked it up in your garage for 20 years the coating would still probably be on the vehicle.

HOW DO THEY GET AWAY WITH MADE UP LIFETIME WARRANTIES?

Now our laws in Australia are fairly tight, so how do these companies get away with all of this? Good old fine print! Nearly all of these companies will have amazingly written contracts done up to get out of the warranty under any scenario. Let’s have a read of one that we got our hands on for a coating that is being offered in Australia and also in Townsville. Now this is a fairly respected brand and we are not saying that the product is bad, what we want to address is how the lifetime warranty works. In bold are the key areas of concern and we have removed any brand names as what we are trying to concentrate on is the wording of these contracts, not the product it self.

fine print

THE LIFETIME WARRANTY CONTRACT

Type of Cover

******* warrant the vehicles exterior painted surface coated with ****** Paint Protection under the following Terms & Conditions from environmental induced contamination damage such as; bird droppings, tar, tree sap, bug impacts and oxidation. Should this damage occur, and providing that all of the terms and conditions have been met, ****** will rectify the damage under the “Limit of Liability”.

Period of Cover

New & Used Vehicles are covered for the life of vehicle ownership if annual service requirements are met. (See: Annual Inspection). Failure to undertake an annual service within the required period will change the period of cover to “5 Years” from the date of the last service which cannot be reversed. Once the 5 years has transpired the warranty will be terminated.

General conditions

1. Warranty cover is only valid if the Approved Applicator has issued a Warranty Card and it has been registered within 30 days of application.

2. The vehicle must remain at all times registered for road use within Australia.

3. Only vehicles registered as Passanger Vehicles will be warranted. Commercial vehicles of any kind will not be covered.

4. Vehicles over 3 months old must require a machine polish to be carried out by an approved applicator prior to application, newer vehicles may also require a machine polish if advised by the approved applicator.

5. In the event of damage / repair to the surface (ie, accident repair) the vehicle must be taken to an approved applicator for retreatment to the repaired area at the owner’s expense within 45 days.

6. Warranty is in the name of the vehicle owner and cannot be transferred.

7.  Should a product reapplication be required (eg. vehicle accident) you or your insurer are liable for a reapplication fee, determined by the approved applicator.

8. The vehicle exterior paint work must be maintained and washed regularly to ****** recommendations to prevent contamination build up (ie, fortnightly/monthly).

 Exclusions

1. Where the owner has deemed to have been careless, negligent or fails to maintain the exterior painted surface in the correct manner.

2. Pre-existing damage to the painted surface.

3. Damage to the coated surface by incorrect manual wash techniques, automatic car washes, brushes or contaminated wash tools that may cause abrasion, or damage caused by a third party not authorised by ******.

4. Swirl marks, marring, scratches, scuffs, scrapes, chips to the painted surface.

5. Damage caused by collision, accidental damage, vandalism, malicious damage, fire, hail, flood, stones, collision, surface rust, rail dust, physical damage, paint overspray, water etch or vehicle manufacturer’ defects, or defects which may be covered under a manufacturers or dealerships protection plan.

6. Area’s that have not been retreated after a paint repair.

7. Any loss of time or use of the vehicle while it undergoes inspections or treatments.

 Annual Inspection (Lifetime Warranty)

1. Annual Inspections must be carried out by an approved applicator, within 30 days before or after the anniversary date of the last service to maintain the lifetime warranty.

2. Failure to undertake an annual inspection within the required period will change the period of cover to 5 Years from the date of the last service with annual inspections no longer required.

3. A fee determined by the approved applicator will be charged for the Annual Inspection which includes – Exterior Wash, Decontamination and Inspection.

 Limit of Liability (Claims) –

1. Damage that may be covered under this warranty must be made aware to an approved applicator within 30 days, failure to comply will result in this warranty being terminated.

2. A Claim “Inspection Fee” of $88.00 is payable, this is refunded if the warranty claim is approved for repair by *******.

3. Claim determination is at the sole discretion of ******, either approving the repair / retreatment by an approved applicator or refunding the application cost to the vehicle owner at a maximum of $1000 and terminating the warranty, whichever is less.

4. Any dispute arising under these terms and conditions shall be governed by the law of  ********, Australia, the involved parties agree to submit to the jurisdiction of that State.

End of contract

 

As you can see, they really have covered everything and can get out of the contract in any way they want. You could take away from this that this coating lasts under 5 years, which is completely accurate, most coatings are 2-5 years.

How many people do you think even read or see this contract from the company? What if the detailer didn’t even show the customer this contract? What if you didn’t send away the warranty card because you were not told about it? Why should you have to pay an inspection fee every year? If the coating did actually last longer then 5 years what are they inspecting every 12 months? Paying that fee, every year for 5 years would in most instances cost just as much as you paying to have the coating reapplied after 5 years so in essence you have paid for it again. Perhaps on the fifth inspection they just reapply the coating and you would never know. A lot of people sell their car before 5 years any way so once again the contract is void since it can’t be passed on.

As you can see, the lifetime warranty does not actually mean the product lasts that long and we hardly would call 5 years a lifetime. With the car dealerships they have a nearly identical contract but they instead reapply the sealant every year during the inspection.

Just to add a bit of fuel to the fire we rang one of the detailers, as a customer,  offering this particular coating system wanting to know about the lifetime warranty and whether there were any catches. There was no mention of annual inspections or even this contract and we were told that the product would out live the vehicle.

SUMMARY

Most paint protection packages that are offered at car dealerships are sealants that last 6-12 months (or less depending on what they actually use and how well it is applied!) and aftermarket coatings offered by professional detailers last around 2-5 years. Any paint protection that is offered with a “Lifetime Warranty” has a contract filled with that many clauses and loopholes that it is not worth the paper it is written on.

Hopefully this article has answered most of the questions about the horribly confusing and downright misleading industry paint protection has unfortunately become. If sealants/coatings did last forever, multi billion dollar vehicle manufacturers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin etc. would be putting them on all of their vehicles….