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Car Talk’s Secret Shopper Uncovers Which Extended Warranty Companies You Should Avoid

Car Talk employed a secret shopper for a month to call every notable vehicle extended warranty company for a price. Here are the ones the group found will annoy you most if you call them.


“We’ve been trying to reach you about your vehicle’s warranty…” So goes the pitch. Some vehicle warranty companies are trusted and helpful ways to extend your car’s coverage beyond that provided by your manufacturer. Others seem to be nothing worse than outright scams that will hound you to the grave if they get ahold of your name, email, and phone number. But which are the good ones and which are the bad ones? Car Talk decided to find out.

Car Talk’s Secret Shopper and the Burner Phone
The problem with working on vehicle warranty projects as a journalist (autowriter) trying to get information is that once you call these warranty companies, they never - ever- stop calling you back. And emailing, and paper mailing you, and running after you in the street. These companies are relentless. They know you are going to call a few places for quotes, so they want to make sure they rope you into a contract before the next company does.

To keep its staff from fleeing the industry, Car Talk came up with the idea of getting a burner phone and secret shopper identity for one of its New England-based writers. Not the author of this story you are now reading just for the record. This brave soul made all of the needed calls. We see this idea as a novel combination of Walter White from Breaking Bad’s second cell phone and The Stig from that old British car show.

What Did The Secret Shopper Uncover?

Torque News met with Car Talk’s secret shopper one on one behind an old factory (we actually did). The shopper told us that the biggest surprise was the aggressiveness of some of the customer service agents he spoke with. “One of them would not even give me the price, “ he told us. “They insisted that I listen to a 15-minute rant of the dangers of not buying enough coverage. Despite the fact that I only asked for the full coverage package.”

Another surprise was the tenacity of the follow-up. “The phone kept ringing, receiving texts, and getting emails from the companies for a month before we shut it off. This was an eye-opener since we explicitly told everyone we spoke with never to contact us by phone, email, or text.” The more aggressive the follow-up, the lower the company ranked on part of Car Talk’s proprietary rating algorithm.

Car Talk List Of Auto Warranty Companies To Avoid
The results of the secret shopper at Car Talk were merged with data gained from the Better Business Bureau, reviews by policyholders on Google, and other independent places reviews are posted. Then the hard data were input, such as prices of example vehicles. Car Talk’s secret shopper gave Torque News a quick peek at its proprietary algorithm. It consisted of 11 columns and 97 rows of data points for each brand evaluated. This was no small undertaking. Once its algorithm finished its calculations, Car Talk created a list of companies it suggests are the ones giving the extended warranty industry a bad name. These include US Automotive Protection Services, Department of Warranty Services, and Carshield.

Car Talk Golden Wrench image courtesy of Car TalkCar Talk List of Companies To Consider
By contrast, Car Talk’s unusually intensive research on the topic of auto warranties yielded a list of companies that buyers should feel good about considering. First, your brand’s own extended warranty if it is still available to you for purchase. Car Talk found that these warranties tended to have good overall reviews and ratings. Second, there are a few third-party companies that Car Talk found to be both respectful of your privacy wishes and had good reviews. These included CARCHEX, autopom!, and Liberty Bell.

For a full overview of the best warranty companies that Car Talk discovered, check out its comprehensive list here. The group also has a story that explains how you can do your own search for an extended car warranty based on what the Car Talk team learned over a year of work on this project.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


Mark Day (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 6:21AM

"...your brand’s own extended warranty if it is still available to you for purchase. Car Talk found that these warranties tended to have good overall reviews and ratings."

When buying new vehicles I've never been offered the car companies' own extended warranty. What was offered was trash - but, of course, a high-profit item. It's a jungle out there, and customers are prey.