Dear Driving for Dollars,

I bought a new car and it will be under warranty for quite a while. I just took it in for its first oil change at the dealer and it was way more expensive than I had been paying for my previous car when I brought it to an oil change shop. Do I have to bring the car to the dealer for service while it’s under warranty?

— Gene

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Dear Gene,

It’s a common misperception that cars must be serviced at the franchise dealer to ensure that the warranty isn’t voided. Indeed, you can service your car anywhere you choose, including doing it yourself, but you should be prepared to provide documentation that the car was serviced per the recommendations in the owner’s manual should you have a warranty claim.

While the Federal Trade Commission prohibits a car manufacturer from voiding a warranty because service was not performed at the dealership, it can deny warranty coverage in a case where a customer has been neglectful.

For example, if you never changed the oil in your car and then your engine seized or had a serious problem, the automaker could deny your claim because you were not following the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance. Keeping a paper trail of all the work done on your car regardless of where it was performed will help if there is a question about a warranty claim. But, it’s also useful later if you sell your car privately as a way to reassure the buyer that they are buying a quality used car.

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