There are two reasons why today is a momentous day in the history of my used Range Rover. Number one, because its famous CarMax warranty is now officially half over. And number two, because it is currently broken and sitting at the dealer awaiting repair work.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: I have now covered 33,000 miles in my CarMax Range Rover, which means that its six-year, 66,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is officially halfway complete. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: it has broken again. In fact, it broke while I was filming today’s video about how unreliable it has been. Chalk that up to cosmic coincidence, or maybe manifest destiny, or maybe a typical day in the life of used Range Rover ownership.
You’d know all about my latest breakdown if you followed me on Twitter, because I posted a picture of the issue a few days ago. But we’ll get to the repair next week, once we find out a) exactly what’s wrong, and b) exactly how much CarMax will be paying for it. Instead, today is a day of celebration; a day of joy; a day of cheerful commemoration. A day where the Land Rover public relations department can throw their fists halfway in the air and let out half-deep sighs of relief.
To celebrate this milestone event, I’ve decided to devote today’s column to taking a little look back at all the wonderful moments – and by this I mean “annoying breakdowns” – I’ve had with my Range Rover over the past three years.
But first, a little backstory for those of you who haven’t been following along with my CarMax saga from the beginning.
I bought my used Range Rover on December 8, 2012, from a CarMax salesperson who was also an archaeologist. I swear this is true. He kept telling me about dig sites in South America throughout my purchasing process, but all I could really think was: Is the warranty really that cheap?
Yes, as it turns out, the warranty really was that cheap. I spent $3,900 for a six-year, 66,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, which sounds like a tremendous amount of money until you consider the fact that my vehicle was manufactured in a place where “Let’s sod off and go to the pub” is a common phrase to utter halfway through the painting process.
And so, it broke. And it broke, and it broke, and it broke.
The first time it broke was February 20, 2013, before I ever started writing about cars, when I took it to the dealer for an oil change and they discovered the radiator was leaking and my lower control arms were worn. This was my first-ever visit to this dealer, and they delivered the news like a doctor telling a cancer patient that he was sorry, but they would also have to surgically remove his ears.
“Don’t worry,” I replied. “I have a warranty.” And, indeed, I did: after a mere 90 days of Range Rover ownership, CarMax paid out $1,383.24 for those repairs.
Interestingly, that year was a rather uneventful one for the Range Rover, by which I mean it only had two unscheduled visits to the Land Rover service department. The next came in October, when my tilt steering column motor failed in the down position. This is incredibly annoying if you want to, say, drive an automobile, because a) you only have about four inches between the steering wheel and the seat when you’re climbing inside, and b) if the airbag goes off, it’ll punch you in the groin like a Three Stooges skit. So CarMax paid out $337.32 to get this fixed.
Just six months later, the tilt steering column motor failed again, proving that the more electronic stuff you have in a car, the more electronic stuff you have to break. In a normal car, there’s no tilt steering column motor to fail. The tilt steering column motor is your hand, after you pull the little lever to adjust the steering column. In this car, the second tilt steering column failure cost CarMax $785.19, which means they had spent over $1,100 addressing this issue alone – and over $2,500 in warranty repairs after just 14 months of ownership.
And it was only going to get worse.
The next repair came a mere two months later, when I walked outside to discover that my Range Rover was listing to one side like a Russian fishing vessel after an illegal trip to international waters. That was the air suspension failing on the passenger side – and while it was in for repairs, the dealer noticed that something called the “transmission sleeve” was also leaking. I have no idea what this is. I didn’t ask questions. Actually, I asked one: How much is this costing CarMax? The answer, this time, was $2,063.78, which means my six-year warranty had officially paid for itself after 18 months.
And 2014 wasn’t over yet. In August, I went to honk at some idiot who had stopped for a green light, and I discovered I had completely lost the use of my horn. This is a big deal. When you live in a large city, a horn is more important than, say, breathable air. CarMax bought me a new one for $179.14.
This year started off relatively trouble-free: my only repair in the first half of 2015 came in January, when my driver’s side air suspension failed at a cost of $1,399.36. But then in June, my parking sensors failed ($339.40), and now, here we are again, back to the dealer, with further proof that aging Land Rover products are approximately as durable as gas station sunglasses.
For those of you eager for some statistics, here they are: I’ve been in the shop for a warranty repair eight times in just under three years. My average CarMax repair cost is $926.86. My average time between repairs is 128 days, or just over four months. And as of right now, at this moment, half way through the warranty period, CarMax has paid out a total of $6,488.03 in warranty claims.
Now, theoretically, my aging Range Rover will only get less reliable as time goes on. This is hard to imagine, because it’s currently in the shop more frequently than Floyd Mayweather is in the boxing ring.
But if it merely maintains its current standard of unreliability, CarMax will pay out almost $13,000 in claims over the life of my six-year warranty. This is an enormous amount of money, and I’m very happy to have saved it. Thirty-three thousand miles from now, it’ll make a nice down payment on a Toyota.
@DougDeMuro 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.