Is Toyota prepaid maintenance worth it?

The Toyota auto care prepaid maintenance program known as “Toyota Care” sounds like a really good deal and is a major selling point for some people. The basic ToyotaCare is a “free” maintenance package that comes with all new Toyota cars. It includes 25,000 miles of free maintenance (sort of), and 24-hour roadside assistance (sort of).

There’s no reason not to get the free Toyota Care. In fact, there’s no way not to get Toyota Care. However, if you’re considering ToyotaCare+, then I’d advise against it.

What’s Wrong With Toyota’s prepaid maintenance?

Let’s start with the free maintenance package. It includes a 5K service, 10K service, 15K service, 20K service, and a 25K service. That’s sounds good, but it only covers “normal factory scheduled service”, which is a little misleading. What it probably should say is that it covers maintenance listed on the “normal” service schedule.

You see, Toyota has two versions of the service schedule: “normal”, and “severe”. While “severe” sounds, well, severe, it doesn’t take much to meet the requirements for the severe schedule. Short trips, stop and go driving, extended idling will all push the car into the severe category.

It’s pretty hard to drive in the East Bay without needing to follow the severe schedule, so most cars should be following the severe schedule, not the normal schedule.

So what do you get with ToyotaCare? Two oil changes, that’s it. OK, I oversimplified it a bit. You also get your tires rotated five times.

Here’s the thing, the “normal” schedule has us replacing the oil and filter every 10,000 miles, so you only get two oil changes — one at 10K, and then another at 20K.

Should I take my car to a Toyota dealer for the prepaid mainteance services?

There’s no reason not to use the Toyota prepaid maintenance package that came “free” with your car. However, I’d recommend going in for the 10K and 20K services only. Have the other services done elsewhere and get the oil and filter changed at 5K, 15K, and 25K.

Should I buy the Toyota prepaid maintenance plan?

Buying the Toyota Care prepaid maintenance plan might seem like a good idea when the salesman presents the numbers. He’ll say, “Here’s the cost of the maintenance if you buy it a la carte without the prepaid maintenance”. And then point to the cost of the prepaid service plan and say, “See, prepaying for the maintenance package will be less money!”

If you plan to go to the dealership for your service, then that may be true. However, if you go to a shop that bills reasonably for service, the prepaid maintenance plan will likely be way more expensive than paying for the services yourself.

Toyota Care towing

The only problem with ToyotaCare towing is that they’ll only tow to a Toyota dealership. If the car has less that 25K or 2 years on it, it’ll be under warranty, so towing to the dealer doesn’t seem too bad.

However, as you know, Toyota makes a very reliable car. Might it break down under warranty? Sure, maybe, but it’s not very likely. It’s way more likely that you’ll get a nail in a tire, or a friend will put diesel in the gas tank, or you’ll run out of gas.

There are a lot of other shops that can deal with these sorts of problems for a lot less money than a dealership.


So apparently I’m not the only person that thinks buying ToyotaCare+ is a bad choice. One Toyota owner decided to sue Toyota claiming six legal violations including fraud. Here’s an article about the Toyota pre-paid maintenance lawsuit on Jalopnik.

Other reading

Are you interested in what maintenance your Toyota needs?

Or maybe you’re wondering about Toyota mechanical repairs?

We also have an article about automotive service in general.