Late-model used cars: How does service history affect warranty?

Late-model used cars: How does service history affect warranty?

Hi John,

I spoke to you about this time last year when I was thinking of updating my Toyota Aurion. Not sure how good your memory is but per our discussion and your recommendation to steer clear of a new Aurion I ended up getting the current Nissan X-Trail. Awesome car and I love it to bits. It’s red too, so it goes better :)

We have a 2004 Toyota Corolla, which we are now looking to replace. Looked at the Nissan Pulsar (a used 2013 model with 40,000km on the clock) and kinda liked that one but it had not been serviced by Nissan so not sure what the repercussions with factory warranty / extended warranty would be.

The dealer was adamant with the fact that as long as the car had some servicing irrespective of where the Nissan warranty would hold. He was unable to locate the service log book and he said it was coming from sister dealership (where they had acquired the car).

I wasn’t comfortable with this and the fact that I could not sight the log book so we put the deal on ice until he gets back to us with the documentation. My question is: if it has not been serviced by Nissan, would the Nissan factory warranty actually hold? Also, what if the log book was not complete with every recommended service, which is every six months for a pre-2015 series 2 Pulsar?

I’ve been put off by all this as this is the second Nissan we came across with servicing evidence, or lack thereof, but I was curious to have your thoughts on the same.

Also looking at used Toyota Corolla (2013) and also a Hyundai. Hyundai represents a sexier package but feel more comfortable with the Corolla, having owned three before. Your thoughts on this?

Thanks John and BTW love your radio presence. Dial in as often as I can.




Thanks for listening on Radio 2UE mate - I appreciate it. The X-TRAIL is a nice SUV - plenty of space and good performance there.
Check out my Nissan X-TRAIL review >>

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Service & Warranty

On this issue of servicing and warranty, the two matters are certainly linked.

If the car has been serviced by Nissan, then Nissan will have a record of its service history in its database. All that is usually required to unlock this information is the vehicle’s VIN code (a 17-digit code that uniquely identifies every contemporary car on the road). If the log books are misplaced, I’m almost certain a printed service history would still be available.

If the car hasn’t been serviced by Nissan, that doesn’t mean that the warranty is voided. The ACCC is very clear on this point: carmakers cannot make ‘authorised’ servicing (ie servicing at the dealer) a condition relating to the warranty. Doing that would be anticompetitive and therefore illegal.

The ACC has three very sensible conditions relating to servicing and warranty:

  1. The servicing has to be performed by what the ACCC calls ‘qualified staff’ - in other words, a qualified mechanic.

  2. The servicing has to be done on schedule - this means it must conform to the time/distance specifications (six months or 10,000km - whichever comes first - or whatever the manufacturer specifies). It also means that all the individual jobs specified for any particular service need to get done.

  3. The parts used need to be ‘fit for purpose’. This means the parts (like, for example, filters, gaskets, additives or oil) do not need to be genuine parts (ie they don’t need to be Toyota-branded parts for your Toyota) but they do need to be designed to do that job. In other words, using (for example) a Ryco oil filter won’t void your factory warranty. Using any brand of engine oil is fine, too, as long as it meets the specification laid out by the manufacturer for your engine.

I have a more detailed report on this here >>

If any of the services in a used vehicle have been performed late, it breaches point 2 above and might impact your remaining warranty. I’d be quite touchy about buying a vehicle purportedly still under warranty, but without any service history that can be produced.

I would also as a matter of principle be highly skeptical of anything a car dealer said to me, if it was anything that broadly motivated me to put down a deposit. In this case, you voiced a concern about the servicing, the dealer said it didn’t matter, and that’s when my Skept-O-Scope flashed over into the red zone. If it sounds dodgy, it probably is.

At the very least, make sure these verbal assurances are placed in writing and signed. In relation to the poor service history you detailed above, I’d want a letter from Nissan saying the balance of factory warranty on that particular car would be honoured after due consideration of the car’s service history.

Finally, on the issue of extended warranties: 99 out of every 100 extended warranties is a joke (a highly profitable one for the dealership). These tend to be thinly veiled servicing contracts that the dealer declines at the drop of a hat. They lock you in to comparatively expensive servicing at that dealership. I’d be steering very clear of any servicing contract that locked you in to servicing at a particular dealer.

More on extended warranties >>

On Hyundai: Hyundai’s biggest problem is the perception of the brand lags behind the reality of where Hyundai is today. Most new Hyundai models - especially those released in the past three-to-five years - are objectively in front of the Japanese competitors.

Here are some of the things about Hyundai to note: Five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres, capped-price servicing for the life of the vehicle, 12-month/15,000km servicing interval and a full-sized spare wheel and tyre on most models - this is objectively superior to most Japanese competitors. Also the latest products are built very well, offer great value (features per dollar spent) and at the corporate level, I can tell you firsthand that customer satisfaction is a priority. So I wouldn’t be concerned about buying a Hyundai in the way I am concerned when customers tell me they are considering purchasing a Holden, a Ford or a Volkswagen. Nissan (as well as Honda and Volkswagen) don’t make hideously bad cars, but they have been caught in a time warp of sorts since the GFC - so they’ve been on ice while Hyundai-Kia has surged forward.

I hope this has helped, Eddie. Best Regards,