Fidelity Warranty Services, Inc. (FWS) is a provider of vehicle service contracts. Sometimes mistakenly labeled “extended warranties.” Fidelity is a brand under the JM&A Group. This company calls itself “...a results-driven company committed to increasing dealers’ bottom-line profits.” In business for over 40 years, FWS has over 13.4 million contracts in service and says that it has paid out over a half-billion dollars in claims. FWS is the customer-facing brand name that JM&A uses for its vehicle service contracts.
An FWS plan is a vehicle service contract made to cover unexpected repairs. FWS is a full-service vehicle protection company. It offers three levels of coverage for unforeseen repair needs as well as a host of other products. The other products include prepaid maintenance plans, four levels of wheel, tire, and rim protection plans, and even theft deterrent products.
The three tiers of vehicle service contracts FWS offers include:
FWS offers vehicle service contracts that are exclusionary. Only the repairs that are listed in the contract you sign will be covered. It is vital that you read this document carefully and have a full understanding of it before you sign. If you purchase a low-cost plan and your infotainment system stops working, you will have no recourse.
|Common Repair||Avg Cost||Platinum||Gold||Powertrain|
(*) Brake coverage does not include normal wear.
(**) Hybrid components often have very long manufacturers’ warranties.
(***) Catalytic converters are covered under extended emissions warranties provided by every manufacturer. Check your state laws for details.
Powertrain offers coverage for the major components of the engine, transmission, and drive axles. This is the most basic plan. Shoppers take note that the most common types of breakdowns are not included. Here are some examples of what this plan includes coverage for:
Hybrid and EV Related Components
The Gold plan adds a LOT of important systems and components that can fail in your vehicle. Added coverage includes:
Additional Hybrid and EV Components
The Platinum Plan is the top-level plan offered by FWS. It includes everything included in the Powertrain and Gold plans and added systems. FWS excludes a long list of items from your coverage. For example, glass, rubber components exposed to the elements, catalytic converters, standard manual transmission clutches and associated systems, safety restraint systems, and convertible tops. Your contract will have a full list of exclusions.
Car Talk phoned FWS’s customer care line and spoke for about 30 minutes with the very helpful customer care associate. We learned some interesting things. First, JM&A, the parent of FWS, does not quote directly. They have one nationwide retailer called CWS. Their product is called Vanguard Care Plan. They also work directly with thousands of nationwide car dealerships and are the exclusive provider for some Toyota, Kia, and Volvo dealers.
Our associate passed us along to CWS. That agent was also quite helpful. However, he would only provide specific prices based on VINs and miles, not examples. We used one of our personal vehicles to obtain the pricing below for this story. Note that the FWS plan names are not the same as what we were quoted by CWS, but the agent assured us they offer the same three tiers of coverage.
|Vehicle*||Platinum (Sentry Guard Plus)||Gold (Sentry Care)||Powertrain (Power Care)||Plan Duration||Deductible|
FWS told us that the filing process for a needed repair goes as follows:
Our FWS customer service agent said that, in general, the contracts offered are for cars with less than 100,000 miles and under 10 years old. There are some high mileage plans offered by some individual dealers, but not all. Our agent declined to offer a quote for a specific vehicle VIN we had at the ready with 120,000 miles. Here is a quick list of other disqualifications:
There are some common reasons claims are rejected by all companies offering these service contracts. These include:
FWS is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and earns an A rating from this consumer group. That is a very positive sign, but with FWS being a subsidiary of JM&A and the quote coming from CWS, Car Talk lost track of who is really involved with this contract. It seems extremely convoluted.
Fidelity Warranty Services earns a 3.6-star rating (out of 5) on Google reviews. One reviewer wrote, “My 80-year old mom purchased your Platinum level of Extended Warranty protection for her 2014 Kia Sorento SX in 2016. When she needed it, your Customer Service team addressed every need and request. Our family is so pleased and satisfied. Big fans here in Texas!!!”
Another Google Reviewer wrote, “I’d like to thank Fidelity for a hassle-free experience in getting my vehicle repaired. This is coming from someone who would never buy a car warranty and adopted it when the used car I bought had it. This experience has changed my mind.”
At Yelp, FWS earns a 1.5-star rating (out of five). However, a lot of FWS contract holders took time to write long positive reviews. One Yelper wrote, “My warranty has ended and I used Fidelity a total of 4 times. For every repair, I went to Benz dealerships only. Always worried if the failing unit is going to be covered by Fidelity, as they are insanely costly. But every time, Fidelity paid out.”
There are a lot of unhappy Yelpers who worked with FWS. We sorted out the ones we felt were clearly cases of a customer unhappy because an uncovered part was not paid for and found two that seemed reasonable.
One Yelper wrote, “I am a business shop and we work with aftermarket warranties on a daily basis. This company has no ethics or morals when it comes to following through and/or allowing a small business to make the money they need too. I hope that everyone who sees this review understands that I give a lot of 5-star reviews.” Well, we looked at this Yelper’s profile,and sure enough, almost all five-star reviews.
Another unhappy Yelper wrote, “Bought a used vehicle and purchased the extended warranty. After one year after purchase, the car didn't pass emissions. Needed the EGR valve replaced, a crucial part of the emissions system. Both the mechanic and I called FWS to file a claim and they said ‘t's not covered.’ In the sales piece the dealership provided me with their ‘gold package’ under ‘Engine,’ the first item covered is ‘Emissions System.’ The EGR valve is the valve that controls the emissions system. They said it wasn't covered.”
Check our decision tree to decide if a service contract (extended warranty) works for you. There are two good examples of shoppers where a product like this seems to be a good idea. The first is vehicle owners who can have their budgets upset by a large and unplanned repair bill. The second case is a shopper who owns a vehicle they love and wish to hang on to, but which has a poor track record of reliability. Our advice is to be sure you buy a plan that will cover the most common types of costly failures. Those scary failures can include infotainment systems.
Why walk away? Consumer Reports studies these plans and determined through owner interviews that most plan owners pay more for the plan than they recoup in repairs. Some states even restrict their sales, notably California.
Indeed, FWS is one of the longest-running providers of these plans. FWS also is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and earns an A rating.
Many satisfied customers of FWS offer positive reviews. On Google, the company earns a 3.6-star rating.
An FWS contract can be canceled within 30 days with no penalty for a full refund. From 30-60 days, a small administrative fee applies, and the full price otherwise is refunded. After 60 days, the FWS plan will be refunded on a prorated basis.
Using an FWS service plan is easy. You take the vehicle into an approved ASE-certified repair shop, and you pick it up later and pay your deductible (usually $100). We have more details on this above.
There are three levels of FWS service plans. The Powertrain Plan covers just the basic, large expensive engine and drivetrain components. The Gold Plan includes a much longer list of items. The Platinum Plan is similar in many ways to your manufacturer’s bumper to bumper new car warranty.
The best way to get a good price is to compare offers. These are some popular options...