Free oil changes for life is a promise made by two local car dealerships — a promise less permanent than it sounds, according to several disgruntled car owners.
Kingston Nissan and CarOne dealerships are owned by the same man, Trevor Cotton. Both dealerships started offering this promotion four years ago: buy a car from them and you’ll get free oil changes for life.
Customers say the dealerships have been holding up their end of the bargain until recently, when some were given a bill for their previously free oil changes. Over 70 people gathered on Facebook in a group to talk about being denied their free oil changes. Global News has not confirmed that everyone in the group is upset with the changes, but has independently spoken with several people from the group.
“I was aware, from talking to other people, that they were starting to decline the free oil change. So I wasn’t totally surprised,” said Don Miller, one of the people who was the inspiration behind the Facebook group.
He said he’s had six free oil changes over the course of two years, until his last one when he received a bill.
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Miller says he declined to pay and asked to have the manager contact him. “Which never happened,” Miller said.
When Global News asked Cotton if management had responded to Miller, Cotton said they weren’t aware of his issues.
Miller says he paid $500 for the unlimited free oil changes. Global Kingston has heard the price for the “free” service range from nothing to $1,000.
Troy Whalen says he got his free oil changes for life on special offer, only paying $150 for service when he bought his Mazda 3 from CarOne four years ago. In August 2018, he said he brought his car in for an oil change and was told that he no longer could.
“I was very upset,” Whelan said. One part of the guidelines for the free oil changes, according to Whelan, was that he get regular maintenance done on his car. Whelan said he had been doing so, but not at the dealership, because it was too expensive.
He says he was told that since he wasn’t getting the maintenance done with CarOne or Kingston Nissan, the dealership no longer had to offer him free oil changes. Whelan claims he was told that he did not have to go into the dealership to have the maintenance done.
But Cotton says that it was the regular maintenance that the dealerships were after when they started the program.
“The program was designed to encourage the regular maintenance at our facilities, the bonus was the oil change in return,” Cotton said.
Cotton also said the dealerships have not cancelled the free oil changes for life offer, but they have simply started enforcing the rules.
“For several years we did not fully enforce the prescribed guidelines,” Cotton said. “For many months now, we have notified our clients of the change and we look forward to continuing to serve them for years to come.”
Nissan Canada also weighed in on the promotion. Jennifer McCarthy, Product Communications Manager with Nissan Canada says “The campaign is not a company-wide promotion supported by the corporation. The dealers are independently owned and operated.”
The problem is, that many of these customers say they were never shown any guidelines in the first place.
Shawna Milner, who says she was one of the first to sign on for the program, emailed in a copy of an unsigned contract she was given by Kingston Nissan after she was denied a free oil change this year. She says she never saw the contract with the guidelines before. When she complained to Kingston Nissan, she claims she was told since she did not have a signed contract, they did not have to respect her free oil change agreement.
Shane Johnston also bought his SUV at CarOne. He claims when he signed the contract, his CarOne salesman told him “not to worry” about the conditions.
“Nothing was said about the maintenance on the vehicle. It was just oil change for life.”
Many people Global Kingston spoke to said that when they signed on for the free oil changes, it was simply an add-on to buying a car. They claim they did not sign extra paperwork agreeing to any conditions and say they were not made aware of any conditions.
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Cotton says the guidelines have always been there.
“Since inception, the full terms of the program have been on display in our service facility, as well as more recently a friendly reminder that “in order to continue to take advantage of this excellent program, regular maintenance is required.”
Cotton did not respond when asked if the customers were shown the terms of the program, or where in the facility the terms were posted, but simply reiterated that the conditions have been posted in the service facility.
He did say that his dealerships have always reserved “the right to cancel and modify the program at any time without notice or refuse the program participant that is determined to have not respected the program.”