Many tire dealers offer some kind of optional road hazard warranty when you purchase replacement tires for your passenger vehicle, CUV, SUV, or light truck. These extra warranties are typically not available for heavier truck tires and tires used in commercial or racing applications. They are also not included for tires that come with new vehicles, although some car dealers will offer you their own optional coverage packages, along with fabric protection, paint sealant, theft protection and other choices, to protect your new vehicle.
Are all road hazard warranty plans the same?
No, they definitely are not the same. The cost differs, the convenience differs, and, most importantly, the coverage differs. Read on.
With a road hazard protection plan, the devil is in the details.
It's up to you to get the details before you say "yes." The best plans have uncomplicated, clear-cut explanations of what is covered and for how long. A road hazard protection plan that includes pro-rating based on tread wear is not as desirable as plans that will replace the tire based on time.
For example, "Free replacement if the tire is not repairable for the first year, and half-priced replacement in the second year" is much better than a pro-rated replacement because, in the latter instance, you may have to pay a portion of the cost as soon as a month or two down the road. By the time year three rolls around, you might as well be buying a new tire. Ask if the cost of installation (mounting and balancing) is part of the "free" replacement.
More details about a road hazard warranty!
Some tire dealers may offer to "throw in" a road hazard warranty to close the sale, but this free offer may have limited benefits. For example, a road hazard protection plan may cover tire repairs (typically a $20 cost) but, if the tire is not repairable, you are on your own. Again, ask questions until you are clear on what is or is not covered. Make sure you get a copy of the plan in writing, or that coverage is documented on your invoice.
With a road hazard protection plan, where can you go for service?
Be sure to determine if you have to return to the original place of purchase or to any of the dealer's other locations, or what to do in the event you are traveling and not close to any participating dealer. Also ask these questions:
- Is there a requirement to return the damaged tire to get your money back?
- What is the dollar limit on the replacement tire?
- Are you responsible for amounts over the original cost of the tire?
- Can you later get road hazard coverage on the replacement tire again from your original dealer?
- Is there an 800 number to call to ask about reimbursement?
If you are considering buying a plan from a mail-order warehouse, be aware that most require you to pay for the replacement tire up front, and then you may need to ship the old tire to them for verification of coverage. Typically they will not cover the cost of shipping. Ask, ask, and ask.
Are any other benefits included in your road hazard protection plan?
Some plans cover only flat repairs; others cover tire repairs and provide coverage for replacement if a repair is not appropriate. The best may also include services such as free lifetime tire balancing (typically $10 per tire by itself), free wheel alignment inspections, and free tire rotations, if these services are not already included with the original tire purchase.
How much do road hazard warranties cost?
Many plans charge a percentage of the selling price of the tire, such as 12% or 15%. This means a $175 tire may cost you $21 to $26.25 to be covered. The best plans offer a set price, for example, $10, that covers tires regardless of cost.
Can you decide later to buy road hazard warranty coverage?
Some dealers will not force you to decide at the time of purchase or risk losing all opportunity to get coverage. That means you can ask your significant other, or your uncle who knows everything about cars and tires, for their advice. Of course, this means the inconvenience of a return trip to the tire dealer. It also means hoping that nothing happens. If it does, buying the coverage later is like calling State Farm for fire insurance after you've had a house fire. It will not cover pre-existing damages. If you can return to purchase the coverage after the sale, find out what the time or mileage limits are.
And the Final Answer Is...
Normally road hazard protection (plus any other benefits, such as free balancing down the road) means you are controlling/limiting future expenditures for tire repairs, maintenance, or replacement. It also offers relaxing peace-of-mind. If you have asked all the questions and are satisfied with the answers, go ahead and get the coverage. Even (with your luck) if that means you never have a tire problem, just the extras, such as free balancing, mean you'll get your money's worth.