Friday, January 21, 2011


The cars--not the cats. 

The Jaguar's factory warranty is expiring next month, so I took advantage of a coupon for a free vehicle inspection.  I know that their goal is to find things that need doing, and charge you dealer prices, but I figured it was a good way to find out if anything was wrong with the car.  The dealer gets more money for stuff that you pay for, but they still get paid for doing warranty work, so they have an incentive to look it over pretty carefully.

I was not disappointed.  They found a leak at the transfer case, and fixed that under warranty.  (I shudder to think what this would have cost me.)  They also found a recall on the engine control computer, which would have been covered, I'm pretty sure, even out of warranty.

They also found the air filter and cabin filter were both in need of replacement.  This does not surprise me; we live off a dirt road, and air filters don't last very long up here.  The price to replace these two items came to $89--which is a bit much, but I think of it as an incentive for them to make sure that everything that could be done under warranty is done under warranty.  Buying the filters at CarQuest would probably have come to $25 easily, and I don't even know where the cabin filter goes.  My time is now scarce and therefore valuable.

I have been looking at buying an extended warranty for the X-type--but the cost is breathtaking.  I have read that a number of the extended warranty companies really don't like writing contracts for Jaguars or Mercedes now because past experience has been so bad.  The old joke, "The man who wants a Jaguar needs two--one to drive, one to have in the shop" was apparently true.

Yet they are reputed to have dramatically improved in quality after Ford bought Jaguar some years ago.  (That alone should tell you something about Jaguar reputation in the bad old days when you dare not operate two power windows at the same time, without verifying that you had spare fuses--Ford buys you, and your quality goes dramatically up.)  Certainly, this car has been exemplary.  I have had one problem with a seat belt that got stuck, and a keyless remote that failed in roughly 30,000 miles.  That's really not bad.

When I asked for a quote from my credit union's preferred extended warranty vendor, for 36,000 miles, 36 months, with $100 deductible--it was more than $4000.  Jaguar, who presumably knows how reliable their cars are, quoted me $3800.  (That was the cheaper choice; the other one, which I presume would include a chauffeur, was $11,000.)  That's a pile of money, especially when you consider that the Kelly Blue Book on this car is about $11,000.  If I recall correctly, the GM extended warranty we purchased for my wife's TrailBlazer (and which was for more time and miles) was about $1400. 

I am hoping that the absurd price of the extended warranty reflects the fact that most people who buy Jaguars have more money than sense, or have been terrified by the repair bills already.  I confess that there are aspects to the X-type that make me scratch my head.  I have about 20% of the front brake linings left--and the service advisor tells me that I will need to replace the rotors as well.  Apparently, the rotors only last two or three brake linings before they need to be replaced.  Also, unlike GM, there are no wear sensors on the disc brake linings--so you get no warning before they start to gouge the rotors.  (Maybe that's why rotors have to be replaced so often.)  The dealer wants $600 to do front brakes.  Even the Corvette's front brakes were only $350--but then again, I didn't need new rotors.  GM actually does seem to know something about making cars, it appears, at least compared to Jaguar.

It gives me momentary pause, wondering if I should be looking at trading the Jaguar and the Corvette in on something more practical for where I live, such as a Subaru WRX.


  1. The hardest thing about a car one is fond of is figuring out the time its repair cost curve shoots up.

  2. When it comes to reliability, English cars have no peers with the except of the Yugo.

    Years ago a friend's father caught me eying his old MGB sitting the corner of his barn. Despite his warnings I bought the car and fixed it up. It was sweet, fun, and turned a lot of heads in British Racing Green. When it ran, that is. It made even my Porsche look cheap and reliable. But it was excellent for training me in car repairs.

    Subarus are well regarded in most northern climates for their AWD. We had them all over the place in Vermont and Minnesota. My son has one and loves it, and I have to say it's been reliable even though his is ancient. It even cost a lot less than your extended warranty quote. But I have to say a $100 deductible is pretty low -- that's barely more than an oil and air filter change these days.

  3. I would dump the Jaguar the second the warranty is up. I wouldn't buy a Subaru since from what I've seen of my friends' purchasing experience they are a lot of money for the car you get.

    I like Toyota and don't think you'd go wrong with a new or even used 4Runner or Tacoma. I'd suggest the Tundra but the post 2006 ones are huge and I don't know that they are worth the money.

    Several manufacturers, including Toyota, have taken to making their rotor thinner to save weight and improve fuel mileage. As a result, you generally get one break job and "turning" of the rotors before they have to be replaced. The unofficial means of measuring Toyota rotors is to use a 19mm open end wrench. If that fits over the rotor the rotor can not be turned and remain within specifications.

  4. When I was in high school I worked at a service station (remember those?) and I learned a fair amount about cars and repairs.

    In those days (and for American cars) brake rotors were rarely replaced, and turned only when they were noticeably warped. Rotors could be turned more than once without being replaced.

    My current car is a 2004 Mazda 3. I was stunned to hear that I needed new rotors (on the REAR wheels) at ~60,000 miles.

    It turns out that rotors are made thinner and of much softer material than before. They can be turned only once and only if they are barely warped.