No matter where you turn these days, you’re bound to read or hear about extended auto service contracts. If you’re not hearing about them on television or radio ads, you’re coming home to mailers telling you to have your contract activated immediately.

If you’re confused by all of it, you’re not alone. Consumers nationwide continue to contact Better Business Bureau (BBB) with inquiries and complaints about the vehicle service contract industry. Many of these companies call the St. Louis area home. Last year, BBB received more than 500 complaints involving 50 companies based in the region, and more than 518,000 consumers called BBB to check out these area businesses.

Many consumers tell BBB they feel deceived by these misleading advertisements. Consumers also state they have had difficulty canceling their policies and that requested repairs were not covered by policy administrators.

“I started a policy five months ago for $79 a month,” a Springfield, Missouri, woman wrote in a complaint to BBB. “I had trouble with my 2002 Ford Escape and got it to the repair shop. However, your representative said the repair I needed was considered a tuneup and not covered under my policy. I decided if you were not going to cover repairs then the policy is of no benefit and I asked to cancel. I asked for a refund but was told I was not entitled to one.”

Over the past three years, consumers have filed nearly 1,500 complaints against companies in the vehicle service contract industry with BBB in St. Louis. Complaints against businesses in the industry increased 10.8 percent during 2018 over the prior year.

“BBB has been warning consumers about several ‘F’-rated extended auto service contract companies for more than a decade, yet many of the companies in this industry have done little to change how they do business,” said Stephanie Garland, BBB Springfield Regional Director. “Until this industry makes a serious effort to self-regulate to get rid of deceptive marketing practices and is more truthful about what is covered in the policies, consumers will continue to file complaints with BBB.”

What can you do to protect yourself and make a good decision should you decide to purchase an extended service contract for your vehicle?

• Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision. Mailers may tell you an immediate response is required, but that is not usually true. Take a moment to investigate the company offering the service contract. Beware of any sales offer that requires you to buy now in order to get the best rate.

• Make sure you are given a copy of a contract and review it before you make a buying decision. Take a close look at the terms and conditions. Beware of claims that you will receive “bumper to bumper” coverage. This doesn’t mean every problem will be covered. Look for exclusions and disclaimers.

• Read over your manufacturer’s warranty and contact your dealer or manufacturer to make sure you are not purchasing duplicate coverage.

• Do the math. If you have an older vehicle, the cost of a service contract may be more than the value of the vehicle.

• Research the company and its owners carefully. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at or by calling 417-380-5074.