Today, I write to you as a happy man. I say this because I made it 4,000 miles between repair visits to the Land Rover dealer. And then I almost backed into a tree.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: my CarMax warranty saga is back. You’d already know about this if you followed me on Twitter, because I announced last week that I had another new update for you. And now, here it is, in all its glory: yet another electrical failure in my 2006 Range Rover, once again paid for by the CarMax corporation (Motto: “More than just used rental cars!”).
Allow me to take you through what happened. A few weeks ago, I was backing into this parking space that, for some reason, had a tree at the end of it. So I’m backing up, and I’m inching closer to this tree, and I’m backing up, and I’m inching closer, and then I realized something: there was no noise. Normally, when I’m backing up, my car makes these loud beeping sounds like a European emergency vehicle has somehow gotten into my headliner, and it’s trying to pull over the dome light.
It was at this moment that I realized my parking sensors were not sensing. I was sensorless. This is a problem, when you drive a vehicle the size of a Range Rover and you live in a big, crowded city with lots of parallel parking. You need parking sensors. You also need a backup camera. It would be nice if you had a little British man who lived in the cargo area and jumped out to provide you with parking space guidance, but he’s only available on the Autobiography model.
Now, when you drive a used Range Rover and something like the parking sensors fails, you typically have two potential courses of action. Number one, you curse the entire United Kingdom for making a vehicle with the same long-lasting durability as a Happy Meal wristwatch. Then you do nothing. Or number two, your curse the entire United Kingdom for making a vehicle with the same long-lasting durability as a day-old banana. And then you pay the dealership hundreds of dollars to fix it, knowing full well that there’s a chance it will break again during your ownership period.
But I don’t do either of those things. I mean, yeah, sure, I curse the United Kingdom, spewing an expletive-laced tirade almost entirely directed at the Queen. But then I start laughing, knowing full well that my latest Land Rover failure will be entirely covered by CarMax.
For those of you who haven’t been following along since the beginning, allow me to explain my CarMax warranty situation. In December 2012, I purchased a 2006 Range Rover from CarMax, a nationwide used car retailer who primarily sells used Dodge Calibers in colors nobody wants. But they also sell bumper-to-bumper warranties on every single vehicle in their inventory, from those Dodge Calibers to nine-year-old Audi S8s with more electrical issues than the post-Katrina New Orleans power grid.
So I paid $3,899 for a bumper-to-bumper warranty that lasts 6 years or 67,000 miles, which I thought was a pretty good deal for a brand that ranks so low on the J.D. Power surveys that you sometimes wonder if the chief executive of Land Rover slept with J.D. Power’s wife. And it turned out that I was right. I say this because in the ensuing two and a half years, CarMax has covered the following warranty claims:
- February 2013: Replaced radiator and lower control arm bushings ($1,383.24)
- October 2013: Replaced interior memory module ($337.32)
- March 2014: Replaced tilt steering column motor ($785.19)
- May 2014: Replaced leaking transmission sleeve, transmission pan gasket, and passenger-side air spring ($2,063.78)
- August 2014: Replaced horn set ($179.74)
- January 2015: Replaced driver side air spring ($1,399.36)
Now, the last time I brought my car in for a CarMax warranty repair, you might remember I had a little incident with the Land Rover dealer. Essentially, they promised me they’d work on my car right away, they’d give me an upscale brand loaner car, and they’d get the problem resolved without issue. Instead, they were slow to work on my car, they gave me a Chevy Cruze, and they told me CarMax denied my warranty claim — something I had to resolve by calling up CarMax on my own. This is the kind of top notch customer service I’ve come to associate with Land Rover dealerships, who typically score between “Comcast” and “the entry gates to eternal damnation” when it comes to customer satisfaction ratings.
So this time I decided to go to a different dealer; one where they don’t know anything about me, or my car, or my CarMax warranty Internet saga, or the fact that I make Internet videos with a wireless microphone the size of an office stapler.
I knew I made the right decision when I walked into the service area and I was greeted by a fluffy Australian Shepherd who was sniffing everything in sight, including an LR4. So I dropped off my car, and I tweeted a picture of the dog, and I went along my merry way in a Range Rover Evoque service loaner.
When I returned that afternoon to pick up my car, the service advisor was very helpful. He went over everything in detail. He explained my repairs, and informed me when I’d have to return for my next scheduled service. He told me what everything cost. And then he said: “I was told to ask about your other toys.”
“Did your Land Rover rep come by today?” I asked.
“No,” he laughed. “As soon as you tweeted that picture of the dog, we got a call from another dealer in the area who told us about you.”
Apparently, I have now reached celebrity status where it really counts: among the Jaguar-Land Rover dealerships in metropolitan Philadelphia.
So I can’t really go incognito at the Land Rover dealer anymore. But the good news is my car was repaired quickly and perfectly: the issue was traced to a faulty rear parking sensor wire, which came to a grand total of $389.40 – or $339.40 for CarMax, after my $50 deductible.
Here are a few interesting facts about my latest repair. Number one, CarMax has now paid out $6,488.03 in warranty claims against my $3,899 warranty, meaning they’re about $2,600 in the hole. Number two, I average 4,334 miles and 129 days between warranty repairs. Number three, my warranty is only 45.4 percent used up, as I still have 36,439 miles remaining before it expires.
And number four, if Land Rover wants to improve its customer satisfaction scores, every dealership service department should have a dog. His name should be Defender.
is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.
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