OK, so you’re at the car dealer and there are two different warranties that may apply to a pre-owned BMW.  The first is a Certified Pre-Owned Warranty which is only available through an actual BMW Dealer.  This warranty comes ‘free’ when you buy a Certified Pre-Owned BMW.  The second is an Extended Warranty which is available from what I call ‘B-Dealers’ and it is issued by a private company not owned by BMW.  These warranties can be a good thing and you can make them work for you.  But here are some basic things you need to know before getting all excited about the fact that you are ‘covered.’

BMW Warranty info

The Certified Pre-Owned BMW comes with the Certified Pre-Owned Warranty, which in most cases will cover you up to 8 years or 100k miles and is a pretty decent warranty.  It better be, because you paid a lot for it.  Compare the purchase price of your CPO car with that of a non-CPO car with the same year and mileage.  You’ll notice that you probably spent over $2000 more to get a CPO car.  What exactly is so great about a CPO car??  Nothing.  It is most likely a lease return that they detail and do an oil change on and then re-introduce it as a CPO car.  It probably goes through some sort of ‘146 point check’ which again means nothing.  So in essence a CPO car is just a BMW with a warranty built into the purchase price.  It’s a pretty decent warranty, but it will only fix things when they break.  You also must take the car to a BMW Service Center to have it repaired, which means that in San Diego you’ll be able to bring it in in about 3 weeks from the time you call.  For our customers that have a CPO Warranty, we try to find as much items in need of repair as we can and give this list to them.  That way they can plan ahead to bring their car to BMW and have those items fixed under warranty.  I think the most important thing you can do with a CPO warranty is to have someone look at the car frequently in order to maximize what you have already paid for.

extended warranty

The Extended Warranty is probably the better option.  It allows you to go to any service center to have the work performed as long as the service center accepts extended warranties.  In San Diego, we do a fair amount of extended warranty work on BMWs.  This warranty program is issued through a private company and you may or may not want to sign on the dotted line when you buy that used BMW.  Unlike extended warranties for electronics and appliances, these warranties can be great, but you need to buy correctly.  If you decide to purchase the warranty, make sure that you understand the terms and that there is not an extreme amount of fine print.  More importantly, buythe most expensive package that the warranty company offers.  Time after time I see customers with BMWs in San Diego hand me their warranty info only to find out that ‘that item isn’t covered’ because they opted for the ‘gold’ package instead of the ‘platinum.’  So buy the most coverage that you can as it is usually those extra little items that fail and not the engine or transmission.

Making your money back on the warranty is probably the most satisfying thing you can achieve.  How can this be done??  First, don’t buy it if you don’t need it.  Many BMWs will not benefit from an extended warranty.  As a general rule we say that an extended warranty is good for the following cars – X5, X3, 740i, 740il, 745i, 745li, 750i, 760li, 540i, 545i, etc, etc.  Any BMW with a V8 engine or any of the X-series cars are good candidates for an extended warranty.  These cars need a lot of maintenance and the warranty will cover a lot of it.  Most 3-series cars and 5-series cars with the in-line 6 cylinder engine are pretty damn reliable, and they never seem to recoup the money that was spent on the warranty.  So I generally don’t recommend that you buy one for those cars unless you are really paranoid about a failing transmission.

In the world of auto warranties, my best advice is to get the best coverage you can, and have a clear understanding as to what is covered and what isn’t.  Find a BMW service center that can make the warranty work for you and help you maximize your purchase.  Another way to maximize your warranty coverage is to ask your BMW mechanic if there are additional items that could be replaced that aren’t covered, but are items that would have over-lapping labor.  For instance, if your water pump fails and the warranty covers it, pay for a thermostat or new belts out of pocket as the labor is pretty much paid for by your warranty. I wouldn’t get too excited about having a CPO warranty, nor would I pay extra for the car because it’s a CPO.  Instead, I would opt for the cheaper price at a ‘B-dealer’ and add on the extended warranty — but only if it’s appropriate for the BMW your are purchasing.

Chris Keefer

Independent Motorcars

5836 Autoport Mall

San Diego CA 92121