As a rule, I generally decline those pesky requests for product warranties, supplementary insurance, or other consumer add-ons during a purchase. They rarely present as a tangible advantage to the consumer, and tend to be a high-profit margin item for the seller. My rationale has always been the cost versus the benefit, and rarely do scenarios favor the latter. The most annoying offers are the ones where the salesperson attempts to hold the deal hostage in an effort to convince you of its necessity. These are often associated with the purchase of a new car—my current focus.

There is a wide variety of such products that range from plausible to ridiculous. I think that we can ignore outlandish offers, like $200 a corner for nitrogen-filled tires, any kind of rust-proofing, fabric shield, and paint protection applied from a can. Most are completely unnecessary or ineffective, and some are covered under the manufacturer warranty anyway.

Another collection of add-ons I would avoid are those conveniently delivered with your car, often added to (more likely buried into) the sales agreement. These include floor mats, cargo liners, roof racks, and even services such as pinstriping and prepaid maintenance. Some are perhaps legitimate, but these are usually marked up, and you pay the difference.

Fortunately, most BMW dealers—at least the ones I’ve encountered—recognize that discerning customers are not easily duped into driving off with trinkets and ornaments fixed to an otherwise impeccably configured luxury car. But there is one option that I suggest you consider, and it’s definitely not covered by the BMW warranty or maintenance program.

Before I disclose to you the best dealer add-on money can buy, I will readily acknowledge that product value does not often present itself on the day you leave the showroom, but that really when the clock starts ticking. And when you need it (because you will), it is waiting there, ready for deployment.

Without further suspense, I’m speaking of Wheel-and-Tire Protection plan.

[Photo courtesy of BMW.]

My justification for wholeheartedly endorsing this rather expensive dealer add-on (often called insurance) refers specifically to why I don’t buy most other automotive appendages. Much like car insurance itself, there is a good reason to purchase this option other than a legal requirement: the enormous out-of-pocket surprise.

I live in the Northeast, where weather wreaks havoc on roadways and parking lots. I have seen cars fall into a sinkhole—needing to be towed out. But no matter where you live, there are other dangers that might not be as obvious. Road debris is the most prevalent, but you can also include obstructions, curbs, and low shoulders.

What convinced me that this product was worth the cost? I purchased a new car a few years ago and received an exceptional trade-in value for the vehicle I relinquished—a position that is at once good and bad. When you expect to receive a certain amount for your trade, and instead you’re quoted ten grand more, you feel suddenly flush. So in a moment of weakness, I bought the wheel-and-tire package for $24 a month spread over the five-year loan, because I knew that it could have been twice that cost if purchased later.

I was initially annoyed with myself as I drove home, but not enough to kill the sale. Besides, it was still a net reduction—at least, that’s how I rationalized it.

At the time, I had just moved into a brand-new complex. We were the first units into the second phase, so construction was ongoing. The parking lot was completed, but there were work trucks everywhere, hauling workers, materials, and supplies. Our building was in the sheetrock stage, and there were two-inch drywall screws sprinkled about seemingly everywhere.

Now, a typical tire rolling at low speeds is unlikely to be affected by strewn fragments of construction debris. But soft-compound performance tires are not typical, they are tacky—and they pick up these shards of metal like flypaper. Two screws and a pair of pliers led to three separate claims in the same season.

[Photo by David Newton.]

By the way, there’s a reason they call it wheel-and-tire protection; it also covers the wheels. Much more than the cost of a tire is the price of its mount—especially on premium cars where they can run thousands of dollars. I included a cracked wheel from a pothole in Year Two, and more than broke even. Way more.

You might also consider wheel appearance protection. Depending on the wheel and the type of damage, a repair can be technically sound but look dreadful. It’s an additional cost, of course, but it might be worth the extra coin. Read the fine print, because some misfortunes are not always covered.

Since that initial purchase, I have added wheel-and-tire maintenance to every car except one—a Honda HRV with shoes that could be replaced at a reasonable cost. Here, we considered the charge for replacements against the probability of an unforeseen event. Our gamble paid off on this car—accepting the risk ourselves in this case was worthwhile. But on the four cars since the one I mentioned earlier (including two that we now own), this coverage has proved to be well worth the expense. And with four incidents already on my BMW M440i, I am well on my way to breaking even. If there is a limit on fate, I haven’t found it yet.

My other half is more cautious when driving—perhaps lucky, but she has less than 10,000 miles on her 330e, so give her time to catch up. Even though she has a clean record thus far, it’s still comforting to know that no matter what happens, all we’ll be paying is a fifty-dollar deductible.

Oh, wait: Apparently I spoke too soon, because while I was penning this article, my wife had a disagreement with an obscured curb. Since this was the first blemish on an otherwise impeccable car, she was understandably upset. One phone call to our BMW service manager confirmed that the appearance package covered the repair. Wheel fixed. Crisis avoided.

[Photo by David Newton.]

I remain skeptical of other add-on products. Some unscrupulous online merchants will try to sneak in an add-on, forcing you to remove it in the virtual shopping cart. I am particularly incensed by this type of deceitful practice of an intentionally hidden charge. It puts the burden on the buyer to catch the addition and then accept or delete the offer—infuriating.

So I’ll politely decline your lifetime warranty on a plastic cutting board, or your three-year maintenance package on a tape dispenser. I’ll even decline the extended warranty on my iPhone—I prefer to accept that risk myself. But I’ll gladly roll the dice on Wheel-and-Tire Protection, no matter how it’s presented. Because so far, I’m beating the house.—David Newton

[Photos as credited.]



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