Thinking of buying a United Car Care warranty?
Buyer beware, it’s a total scam.
If you’re buying a used car through a dealership that doesn’t qualify for a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program, chances are the dealership will try to sell you an aftermarket warranty through a company like United Car Care, aka United Auto Care, aka Automotive Warranty Services, aka Consumer Program Administrators, aka The Warranty Group (they change their name a lot, probably to avoid their reputation catching up to them), claiming it’s “just as good” as a factory warranty.
Depending on your dealership, they’ll also make claims like the warranty will “pay for itself” if anything ever goes wrong.
I fell for this logic twice, first on my B7 S4 (also insured through United Car Care) and again on my TTRS.
Even though I didn’t end up using it on my S4, I figured it would be nice to have that added assurance that if I ever had a very costly repair like a blown motor on my TTRS, which costs over $20,000 from Audi if it were to go out.
It was also a company used by Penske Automotive dealerships for quite some time, and given Penske is a publicly-traded company with a multi-billon dollar market cap, I figured it must be decent…but I figured wrong.
Fast forward to 20 months later, with just 34,000 miles on the odometer and doing nothing unusual, my engine blew.
Initially I was relieved I had purchased that warranty, but my relief quickly turned to regret as I learned that United Car Care was not going to cover the repairs.
I had been scammed.
Not only did United Car Care deny the claim, but they went to shameful efforts to find technicalities to get out of their financial responsibility…and when pressed for detail, they were unwilling to give any detail and told me I could write them a letter and they’d reply in 7-10 business days with any additional detail they felt necessary.
United Car Care only cares about their profits and will do anything they can to get out of a claim, and they go through little effort to hide that.
If you have an issue, you’ll spend hours on the phone getting passed from person to person, each less helpful then the last.
You are then in a bad situation where the cost (and time) of hiring a lawyer is probably more than the expected return, so you have little choice but to eat the cost of the repairs and vow to never be scammed like this again.
You’re also without a car, and each day they drag it on you is one more day you either have to rent a car, miss work, or incur other costs to get by.
If you’re thinking of getting a United Car Care aftermarket warranty read on as to my experience and judge for yourself as to whether this is a company you should do business with.
I for one would never recommend United Car Care to anyone, not even my worst enemies.
My United Car Care Story
I was driving to work on the freeway with cruise control on, doing nothing out of the ordinary.
The Check Engine Light (CEL) comes on, but it was not flashing. I finished driving to work and immediately called the dealership to schedule an appointment for later that day.
I drove the car for the dealership to review, assuming it was something minor like spark plugs or coil packs causing a slight misfire. I had also put a fresh tank of gas in the day before, so perhaps it was just some bad gas passing through.
Regardless, I didn’t think much of this trip to the dealership as I baby my car and it spends the majority of its mileage going back and forth to work at low RPMs.
The dealership diagnosed my car as having low compression in Cylinder 1 and dropped the oil pan to find remnants of a piston and/or piston ring in the pan.
I was disappointed and surprised given how carefully I treat this car, and how low mileage it is (just 34,000 miles on a 2012), but this is exactly why I had purchased an aftermarket car warranty through United Car Care so at first I wasn’t concerned.
My service advisor at Audi San Diego promptly called United Car Care to file a claim, and no one was worried as the engine was clearly covered under the Gold Plan.
Here is a picture of what was found in the oil pan, for what it’s worth:
At this point, it’s obviously something went seriously wrong with the engine mechanically and the dealership recommended a new engine.
A few days go by and I’m informed that due to the size of the claim, United Car Care is sending an adjuster to look at the car themselves before approving the work.
I thought that was odd, but my service advisor said the car needed a new motor which was going to be expensive, so we waited another week for United Car Care to visit and give word back.
My service advisor shared that when United Car Care came to inspect the car, the inspector seemed to be fine with everything and that they expected to hear the claim would be approved soon.
Five long days go by between the adjuster visit and my next call from Audi San Diego, which seemed like a long time.
The reason for this day became painfully clear once I heard from them – they needed more time to dig into my personal life and social media to find an excuse not to pay.
Their in-person inspection didn’t yield any legitimate reasons to deny the claim, so they had to go deeper.
Why did they deny my claim?
Here is the actual letter they mailed me a few weeks after denying the claim.
I’ll dissect both reasons below as they’re both completely absurd and false, and quite frankly shameful.
It’s also interesting they’re using yet another business name in this correspondence, the fourth or fifth business name I’ve come across which is clearly concerning.
Issue #1: They found pictures of me driving my car!
They told the service advisor they were denying the claim due to “racing.”
When pressed for details, they said they found pictures on my Facebook, Flickr, and Blog of me “racing” the car.
Here is an example of one of those pictures:
Why is this absurd?
Here is what the warranty says about racing and how it voids the coverage:
Is used for racing on or off-road, competition, or speed contest.
The car was not racing, the event in question was not a competition, and there was no speed contest.
Furthermore, the picture in question was from 18 months ago, so they’d need to prove that this event resulted in my engine blowing thousands of miles later, which would be a stretch for even the most clever mechanics.
I of course appealed their decision, a process that was made intentionally difficult by United Car Care.
I tried explaining over the phone to them that they were incorrect in their assumption and that the photo(s) in question were not racing but instead a High Performance Drivers Education (HPDE) event in which there was no official timing, no official start, no official standings, and no measurement of speed or trap times.
I even provided a letter from my driving instructor to confirm that the primary function of the event was to learn how to drive the car more safely, but it all fell on deaf ears as they really didn’t care – they just didn’t want to pay.
Even the pictures themselves clearly admonish me – notice the instructor in the passenger seat (something you’d never do in an actual race), the lack of other cars on the race track (pretty weird to have a competition against no one?), the sharp turns in the road (clearly not a speed contest), the lack of timer on the front of the car (how could they tell my speed if they aren’t timing it?), and so-on.
Instead, they found a picture from 18 months ago and used that as their “smoking gun” to get out of their financial and contractual obligations.
Furthermore, even if I were racing (and I wasn’t), one race nearly a year and half ago wouldn’t cause an engine to fail. The law under them Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes it clear that deny a claim they have to show how the violation clearly contributed to the engine failure and that warranty companies can’t find arbitrary reasons to deny claims.
Under this logic they could find a picture of anyone driving fast and claim it was a race, and anyone who takes their car to any car shows, events, or has their car photographed in any way is at extreme risk of having their claim denied.
The worst part is how violated I felt, knowing they spent 5 days looking for dirt on me online.
I didn’t even think of taking down any blog posts, pictures, social media posts, etc. as I didn’t (and still don’t) think I have anything to hide.
I still believe the one (and only) event I took my car to a closed course did not violate their terms and conditions, and none of the modifications I did to my car (all of which are detailed on this site!) are also within their guidelines.
Issue #2: the engine blew because of Michelin tires?
They also mentioned they took issue with me replacing the OEM wheels and tires with upgraded ones.
To be fair, their warranty does say you cannot use “oversized / undersized tires / wheels” but even when I was able to show them they are the EXACT same size tires and wheels as OEM, they were unwilling to admit responsibility that they made an error.
The car was originally equipped with 19×9 wheels with 255/35/19 tires, and the aftermarket setup I have is the exact same specifications and sizes which is extremely easy to verify as the tire size is printed right on the sidewall.
Instead of admitting they messed up, they tried to pivot and say because the current tires are Michelin Pilot Sport (a DOT-approved street tire) and the OE tires were Continentals, that it was clear I was racing the vehicle or that the new tires somehow were a violation of their agreement.
This is completely absurd, and a clear sign of how desperate they were to not honor the warranty.
Audi uses the Michelin Pilot Sport tire on many of their cars straight from the factory, and the difference between the Continental and Michelin is negligible at best (both are around the same UTQG rating, both are summer performance street tires, etc.).
Interestingly enough they added in new language “not otherwise recommended by the manufacturer” that was not in my service contract with them, which is both illegal and laughable.
As mentioned before, Audi equips Michelin tires on countless of their cars including their top of the line R8.
Audi even lists Michelin as an approved tire on their Audi Tire Center website, which can be viewed here: https://www.auditirecenter.com/
To allege that Audi would not otherwise recommend Michelin tires is a claim so ridiculous that it can only be construed as bad faith, but in my opinion it was completely malicious and a sign of a clearly corrupt company doing anything and everything they can to wiggle out of a claim.
The United Car Care Appeal Process Is a Joke
At this point it was obvious they were scrambling to deny the claim, grasping at straws.
Neither of their reasons for denying the claim made any sense nor would they pass muster to any reasonable jury or third party.
Upon calling them to appeal the decision, they transferred me from one rep to another rep. After 45 minutes of that, I finally got a “manager” who said they were unwilling to speak with me further and I can appeal the decision in writing to their PO box in Chicago, at which point they will reply by mail to me 7-10 business days later.
I also recorded all of the calls so you can hear how condescending and unhelpful they were that I’m happy to share with any media contacts that would be interested.
Regardless, they knew that in the meantime I had no running car to get back and forth to work, and a rental would cost $20/day while I played a game of snail mail with them that was likely to last the better part of the month.
They also knew that if I were to call a lawyer, the retainer just to get a basic settlement would be $2,000 or more, and if it went to court the lawyer would work on a contingency basis and take 40% of the proceeds. They also knew that even for a $20,000 claim to replace an engine, most lawyers wouldn’t take this on because of how much work it’d be.
Nonetheless, I did find a lawyer who said I had a 99% chance of winning it.
The lawyer I spoke to deals with insurance and warranty claims all of the time, and informed me this was incredibly common in the industry. He said that many unscrupulous companies (like United Car Care) will always try to deny it first as they have nothing to lose, knowing 90% or more of buyers will just eat the cost and move on rather than spend the time and money to hire a lawyer and try to fight it in court.
Companies like United Car Care know the system is rigged in their favor, and they exploit people like you and me to make amazing profits.
Want further proof they knew they were in the wrong?
As I continued to fight them, they agreed to refund the warranty purchase price in full.
Not a pro-rated amount based on how much time was left in the contract (as they’d be legally required to do) but the FULL AMOUNT.
It was a clear admission they knew they were in the wrong, and knew it would effectively cancel the contract and eliminate any legal risks for me to pursue them in court.
They knew they needed to cover their butt since I had proven their denial was flimsy at best, and even then they tried to find the cheapest way out which was to refund the purchase price of the warranty, a mere 10% of the actual cost it would take to do the repairs.
Here is the check they cut, if there is any doubt:
I was only able to get this to them by appealing through the Penske dealership I bought the car from, and thankfully since Penske sells so many of these warranties they have negotiating power that I don’t.
Without my dealership helping out, I would have gotten nothing from them.
While I think Penske should seriously reconsider their relationship with United Car Care, I don’t hold any ill-will towards Penske or the specific dealership that sold me their warranty at the moment.
I asked United Car Care what their official relationship was with Penske, as I noticed they had been named on multiple lawsuits together, but United Car Care and Penske both claimed they there is no official relationship (i.e. Penske does not own United Car Care), and instead Penske uses United Car Care as a vendor/partner.
Penske, if you’re reading this, I urge you to end sending United Car Care any business.
At the very least, you should seriously consider alternative vendors, or better yet create your own warranty program that can only be used at other Penske dealerships which is probably a good business model to consider. This is what CarMax does and it seems to be pretty successful.
In summary, my motor blew with just 34,000 miles on it. United Car Care denied the claim because they found some pictures of me driving the car on a closed course. They also apparently have a thing against Michelin tires.
Their appeal process was beyond ridiculous, and even when they were proven wrong they refused to admit any fault or change their decision. If you have any issues with them whatsoever, the best outcome you can hope for is to get a refund on your warranty.
If the entire point of a warranty is protect against the worst case scenario, then this warranty is completely worthless. You’re better off not buying the warranty, putting the purchase price in a high yield savings account, and then paying for any repairs out of pocket when the time comes – you’ll save countless hours of dealing with their inept & corrupt customer service representations, and you’ll have earned some interest so you’ll actually have more money to cover the repairs than otherwise.
Personally, I’m out a considerable amount of money and time from this purchase.
I’m not asking for anyone’s money or pity, instead I’m only asking one thing:
Do not, under any circumstances, buy a United Car Care warranty for your car!
If you are buying a car soon, or know anyone who is, please send them this link and warn them against United Car Care (or whatever name they’re doing business with at the time).
If you know anyone at Penske or have ever bought a car from one of their dealerships before, please send them this link.
Due to how poorly UCC treated me throughout this entire ordeal, I want to do everything in my power to stop them from scamming other car owners. As long as Penske (and other dealerships) are selling their contracts, United Car Care will continue to get away with this.
You see, people like you and me aren’t even United Car Care’s customers, the dealerships are, so United Car Care doesn’t even care that I’m unhappy – they just need to keep Penske (and other dealerships happy) so they continue to resell their products.
I’m fortunate that I can cover the repairs out of pocket (and found a shop that could actually rebuild the motor for far less), but I can’t imagine how many others out there could not afford this and could lose their income, job, home, or health over this.
Please share this post on social media, email it to your friends, or leave me a comment below.
Every little bit helps spread the word on how awful United Car Care really is.