Toyota Care: Peace Of Mind Or Sales Hype?

June 4, 2011

What is Toyota Care and what can it do for you?

Since December the car company has been offering "Peace of Mind," a maintenance and roadside assistance plan that's complimentary with the purchase of every new Toyota. The throw-in is represented in their ads by an idyllic couple who are stowed away in the trunk while one plays a harp-like instrument and the other sniffs flower pedals.

Meanwhile the actor playing one of the prospective buyers of the car comments "They look so happy and worry free."

But does the free package really offer an escape from car concern? You can decide once you know what it covers. The time and mileage parameters are 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. The maintenance items covered are oil changes, tire rotations and multi-point inspections that are called for during that time. The number of free oil changes you will be getting may differ depending on whether the new car you choose uses synthetic or conventional motor oil.

As far as the multi-point check is concerned, it's probably a good thing to have done, and even better that you are not paying for it. Usually these checks are done to promote additional sales, but the timing of these within the new car bumper-to-bumper warranty period would ensure that if any problem were disclosed, it would be repaired free of charge.

With the service items comes the retention of your service history within Toyota's database in case there is a warranty question in the future. The car maker will also make sure that you are reminded of required maintenance items as they become due. Neither of these features amount to much and are not anything you can't accomplished without Toyota's help.

The 24-hour Roadside Assistance provision within Toyota Care will unlock your car, jump your battery, change a flat tire, deliver fuel or other fluids and tow your car if the "unexpected" happens.

Establishing the value of Toyota Care is hard to do because how do you put a dollar value on "peace of mind" and feeling "happy and worry free," but we can try. Conventional oil changes at a dealership probably run anywhere from $40 to $80 while those using synthetic oil would be in the $80 to $120 range. Tire rotations usually cost about $35 depending on the market area.

What is not clear is whether the vehicle's oil life indicator is used to determine when the service is needed, which would make it impossible to forecast how many changes you would be getting under the program. In addition synthetic oils call for much longer service intervals as well.

Four of the roadside assistance benefits of Toyota Care really should not make a difference, since they are not likely to happen to a car less than two years old. It is telling that Toyota uses the word "unexpected" when describing the towing benefit. Assistance for a flat tire, however, is something that anyone may need and is impossible to predict.

Maybe that is what peace of mind is all about.

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