WHY IS IT that a car's biggest repair seems to come just after the vehicle's manufacturer warranty expires? Even if you have an extended warranty, will it actually cover the problem? And if it does cover the problem, will the company behind the plan be financially solvent enough to deliver?

These are factors Costco considered when it decided to make the Century Warranty Services (CWS) Vehicle Repair Protection Plan available to members. Today's vehicles are complex, digital machines; even car keys are mini computers. This technology can result in very expensive repairs. Here's how this plan can help you.

What kind of coverage is offered?

CWS's Vehicle Repair Protection Plan covers virtually all mechanical and electronic components, and is available for vehicles up to 10 years old with 10,000 to 75,000 miles. The plan pays for covered repairs entirely — including parts and labor — except for the deductible, but a wide range of deductibles is available. Of course, basic maintenance, such as oil changes, brakes and belts, is not covered. Some exotic vehicles may not be eligible.

What other benefits are included?

You also receive:

  • 24-hour roadside assistance
  • Rental car coverage
  • Travel coverage
  • Wear-and-tear coverage
  • Vehicles can be repaired by a new car dealer or any licensed shop in the U.S. or Canada

Who is Century Warranty Services?

With nearly 30 years of combined experience, and more than 8 million plans in force, CWS and its affiliates have a Better Business Bureau rating of A+. Thanks to parent company JM Family Enterprises Inc., ranked by Forbes magazine as the 22nd-largest privately held company in the U.S., plans are solidly backed.

"Costco went through a very rigorous approach to determine who they would want to endorse," says Rick Bale, managing director of CWS. "There are a lot of fly-by-night companies out there, and even the ones that have good products are not necessarily going to be there later on if they haven't structured their company and their finances correctly."

"A company is making a promise to pay for repair claims way down the road, and Costco wouldn't want to be aligned with somebody who's not going to be there," assures Jon Zweig, Costco's senior director of business, automotive and financial services. "We fully believe we have created something very special for our members."

What do others say?

Like many people, Dallas Costco member Hugues J. De La Vergne was leery of vehicle repair plans. "I had a bad taste in my mouth from comments about other vehicle protection plans," he tells The Connection in a telephone interview.

"What I found from the beginning is it really was something different," he says. "The people I spoke with were very knowledgeable. They weren't cheesy salespeople and it wasn't a hard sell. It was just an informative process and, after speaking with them, I was sold on the product."

De La Vergne, a principal research analyst for Gartner, a technology research and advisory company, had considered buying a new car to replace his 2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet.

"We looked at the cost of a new vehicle versus keeping a car that we liked, and this mitigates some of the downside risk associated with keeping a car when it reaches a certain age," he explains. "When you look at depreciation on a new car and then you take into account keeping an existing car, along with a [CWS protection plan], it makes a lot of economic sense."

Costco members can save up to $500.*

To learn more, call 1-877-852-1940.

The Vehicle Protection Plan (VPP) is a vehicle service contract issued by Century Warranty Services (CWS), 8019 Bayberry Road, Jacksonville, FL 32206, License #60114, except in CA, KY and MD, where VPP is mechanical-breakdown insurance issued by Courtesy Insurance Company, NAIC #26492. Certain eligibility restrictions and exclusions apply. Program availability varies by state. VPP is sold by Costco Auto Program except in CA, KY and MD, where VPP is sold by Affinity Auto Insurance Agency in conjunction with Costco Auto Program.

* Based on an October, 2012 comparison of Costco members' actual savings compared to rates offered by a national provider of vehicle service plans. Rates vary by make, model, model year, mileage, deductible and length of plan.