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Extended Service Contracts
From time to time, the question of Extended Warranties/Contract always comes up - "Should I purchase an extended warranty for my Tiffin?". I will give you some pointers and items to think about, and then you can decide. First, let's get something straight. In almost all cases, you are not buying an "extended warranty". What you are buying is almost always an "Extended Service Contract (ESC)". There are some MAJOR differences between a warranty and a service contract. Of course, the reasons and legalities for this are heavily weighted in favor of the service contract company. I will not go into all the legal issues regarding a warranty vs. a service contract, but there is one very important distinction that you should be aware of. Almost all ESC's have a clause that states the contract is void if you do ANY modifications to the engine, transmission, and sometimes, even change tire sizes. SO - those of you contemplating a Banks, Dr Diesel or similar engine performance upgrade - or just thinking about upsizing to a 255 size tire for increased load capacity - had better check your ESC as this may void your contract. Or at least they may try to get out of payment as a result of after market add-ons. I personally have had two occasions on another RV to enact the ESC and both times it was a fight, threatened with a lawsuit before they would finally pay the bill. Meanwhile, I had to wait for reimbursement several months, even though I followed the instructions to the letter. One time it was over a Banks System, the other over a maintenance issue. I finally won in both cases but what a hassle and struggle. For me, it was a matter of principal, for them it was a way of life, in my humble opinion. I would suggest you read the Topic – Law, to further build your understanding before challenging them.
Do I really need a Extended Service Contract?
That is a hard question to answer. Certainly, your Tiffin Product (or any RV) is a complicated machine, with MANY things that can and may go wrong. However, let's look at two scenarios:
You have a Tiffin Motorhome that is either out of warranty or almost out of warranty, and the "components" - such as the refrigerator, furnace, etc - are or will be out of warranty. (NOTE - if you want an ESC, you will save big money if you purchase your ESC while you are still in warranty, with most companies). Most likely, the engine is still under warranty, but everything else is out of warranty, or will be soon. In this case, an ESC "may" be a good idea - at least it will give you peace of mind. But, it is important that you purchase the right kind of ESC, as will be discussed later.
Your Tiffin RV is virtually new. The engines and transmissions on your new RV are warranted for five years and the Freightliner chassis is warranted for three years. Most of the other components - such as the refrigerator, stove, awning, etc - are warranted by their manufacturer for three years. Tiffin's basic warranty is one year on the coach (bumper to bumper), 5 yrs. on delamination and 10 years on the coach structure. Unless you plan to keep your Tiffin RV well beyond three years, an ESC probably may not make sense.
Choosing an ESC Provider
The key items here are COVERAGE and PRICE. Almost all ESC contracts exclude damage done by WATER. This means that you may not be covered for any consequential damage if your roof leaks, and you certainly will not be covered for any delamination, which is really expensive to fix! Most ESC contracts only cover items specifically mentioned in their contract. This is called an "inclusionary" policy, and it should usually be AVOIDED. Obviously, there are many items in an RV, and you can bet that some of the expensive ones are left out of this type of policy. Besides, you really don't want to be in an argument about what is or isn't covered. This is why EXCLUSIONARY ESC policies are usually more favorable for the consumer. In this ESC, everything is covered EXCEPT those items specifically mentioned as being excluded from the coverage. In either contract, you will find language that excludes their liability for a "covered part" due to the failure of an "uncovered part". As I said before, the purpose of these Extended Service Contracts is to make money for the underwriter! So, if your hose clamp fails (uncovered part), resulting in the failure of your engine (covered part), the ESC company is off the hook!
Also, almost all ESC's state that you must obtain their approval for the repair BEFORE ANY repair work is started. This is a very important point that has "caught" many an RV owner. Be advised, if you follow the terms of your contract PRECISELY, your ESC company may not pay - and it is right there in the contract that you signed. You will likely find out that your ESC company will try every trick possible to avoid paying a claim. Recently, a plastic hinge failed on a refrigerator, so the owner called DFS, his ESC provider. This is one of the exclusionary contracts, which usually is the kind to buy. However, DFS came up with a clause in the contract that stated that "doors" are not covered under warranty. It seems not to matter that his refrigerator is covered, but they claimed that ANY door is NOT covered. Needless to say, I would not purchase anything from or recommend that anyone else purchase an ESC from DFS.
Also, you will have to provide documentation that you followed ALL preventative service procedures AND that you can document the service. This means saving all your receipts. It is unclear how this would be handled if you do your own maintenance work.
Last, if you decide on purchasing an ESC, be sure that you purchase one that is underwritten by a reputable, financially stable, NATIONAL company. In most states, you will have specific legal rights depending on the state in which the policy is written. In some states, the selling dealer is responsible for continuing the terms of the ESC if the underwriting company declares bankruptcy. So, after reading this you probably think that I don't have an ESC. Wrong - with my luck, I will probably "lose" financially either way, but at least I know what the ESC cost. My policy is an exclusionary policy and covers all items but the engine, transmission and chassis. Why would I purchase such a contract? The answers are really very simple. The Cat engine, Freightliner Chassis, all have their specific warranties and most are 5yrs. I purchased an ESC similar to those for a 5th wheel, that covers everything but specifically the motor, chassis, and transmission. A lot less expensive and the deductible is $100 annually. The second reason is that I was able to get the dealer I purchased our Bus from to throw it in during the Bartering Process. Finally, the third reason, I have piece of mind that we have coverage if we need it.
Submitted by Mike Sundberg - 3/24/06
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