‘Free oil change for life’ = not free anymore

Car dealership contracts no good anymore. What are your legal rights?

When we purchase a new car, we know car dealerships offer all sorts of add-ons for more money. We are talking about extras like window tinting, VIN etching, and extended warranties. But what if you paid extra for a service that the dealership later refused to honor? It’s happening to dozens of customers at two big Houston area car dealerships. Many of those consumers reached out to KPRC 2 Investigates for help.

Customers thought they would get free oil changes for life of vehicle

Customers who contacted KPRC 2 say they paid extra for lifetime oil change packages, meaning they would never have to pay for an oil change. Others say they were told all new car purchases came with free oil changes for the first 60,000 miles. But what the dealerships said and what they did are very different.

Viewers contact KPRC 2 Investigates after they were told their 'oil change for life' deal was no good. What does the law say? What about the dealership? Investigator Amy Davis gets answers for consumers. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Daniel Jurgena paid cash for a new 2020 Honda Ridgeline truck just before he retired. He was jazzed about the 60,000-mile oil change package John Eagle Honda of Clear Lake told him came with his new truck.

Viewers contact KPRC 2 Investigates after they were told their 'oil change for life' deal was no good. What does the law say? What about the dealership? Investigator Amy Davis gets answers for consumers. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“So, when I go into retirement on a fixed income I wouldn’t have to worry about those things. One less thing to budget for,” explains Jurgena.

Viewers contact KPRC 2 Investigates after they were told their 'oil change for life' deal was no good. What does the law say? What about the dealership? Investigator Amy Davis gets answers for consumers. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

His first two oil changes at Honda of Clear Lake were free. But the next time, he went to the dealer for the service, employees gave him the run-around.

“The third time I took it in, all of a sudden I’m told, ‘You have to pay for this.’”

Jurgena protested; and so did dozens of others.

Dozens of complaints from customers who feel tricked

The Houston Better Business Bureau has received 34 complaints about this issue. The Texas Attorney General also had complaints.

  • 23 complaints about Honda Cars of Katy not honoring the oil change packages
  • 11 complaints from Honda of Clear Lake customers

Both dealerships were purchased by Lithia Motors in 2020. The BBB noted online: “The company has not responded to any of the consumer’s complaints or reviews regarding this issue.”

“The dealership won’t help me. Lithia won’t help me. Honda won’t help me. I can’t get any help from the state of Texas,” said Jurgena. “You’re kind of my last hope.”

Viewers contact KPRC 2 Investigates after they were told their 'oil change for life' deal was no good. What does the law say? What about the dealership? Investigator Amy Davis gets answers for consumers. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

When no one returned our calls or emails we dropped by Honda Cars of Katy.

“The previous ownership owned that. Now it’s a whole new ownership and it’s been that way for almost 3 years,” said General Manager Teno Fontenot.

Fontenot followed up with this statement by email that reads in part:

“Oil changes for life was not a contract, but instead an offering to their new car buyers. The program was terminated by the former owner before we acquired the dealership.”

Viewers contact KPRC 2 Investigates after they were told their 'oil change for life' deal was no good. What does the law say? What about the dealership? Investigator Amy Davis gets answers for consumers. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Customers paid for ‘free oil change for life’ membership

But some customers did pay. Customer Ruth Borrosco still has her invoice that proves she paid $249.99 for an “oil change lifetime membership.”

Lithia Motors posted a flyer at Honda of Clear Lake that reads “Effective July 28, 2022, any and all prepaid oil changes administered by John Eagle will expire.”

“Screwed by big business again and no one seems to care,” said Borrosco.

“That is a contract. Somebody’s gonna have to pay for it. It’s not gonna be the consumer,” said consumer attorney Medhi Cherkaoui.

Viewers contact KPRC 2 Investigates after they were told their 'oil change for life' deal was no good. What does the law say? What about the dealership? Investigator Amy Davis gets answers for consumers. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Customers who paid for the canceled membership can sue

Attorney Medhi Cherkaoui said the slip of paper Jurgena kept from Honda of Clear Lake that says he is a “60,000 mile Gold VIP member” would hold up in a court of law or even small claims court. If John Eagle and Lithia want to point fingers at who is responsible for honoring the deal, Cherkaoui said customers should sue them both and let them hash it out in court.

And if customers all get together to do that even better.

“What these corporations are counting on is that each plaintiff is going to look at this contract, and you’re gonna say, ‘Well, this is probably worth $500 to $600. Is it worth it for me to go pursue this company in a court of law?’”

They’re not counting on these individuals getting together, perhaps on a Facebook group or maybe watching your program and realizing there are multiple people entitled to what they’ve been promised by the dealership.

Jurgena did create this Facebook group where other customers who are owed money or oil changes from the dealships can get together.

Lithia Motors decides to honor the oil change deals

The day before our story was broadcast, two months after our first email to Lithia Motors, an attorney for the company sent us this response:

“The previous owner of the John Eagle group had a lifetime oil program at select dealerships which they chose to terminate prior to Lithia Motors, Inc. purchasing the group in August of 2020. During this transaction, as it was a program terminated by the prior owner, there was no record of these customer contracts given to Lithia Motors, Inc. Although the program no longer exists, nor did it when the group was purchased if a customer possesses their original contract for this program, we have chosen (and continue to choose) to honor them to maintain customer goodwill. Our stores are dedicated to living our core value of Earning Customers for Life and building long-lasting relationships within our communities.”

- Michelle Watson

We did send Watson a picture of Jurgena’s slip of paper from Honda of Clear Lake that recognizes him as a “60,000 Mile Gold VIP” to ask if dealerships would recognize it as a “contract.” She said yes; and that customers with those or any sort of proof of purchase of the deal should take those to the dealerships for the oil changes they were promised.



About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.