Is TOYOGUARD Worth the Cost?

If you’re a Toyota fan and you live in the southeast, you’ve likely heard of TOYOGUARD. It’s an add-on that gets tacked onto most vehicles as a “port-installed option” by Southeast Toyota (SET) before they hit the dealership.

Our Highlander came with TOYOGUARD ELITE, which included:

  • Roadside assistance
  • Emergency towing
  • Rental car assistance
  • Vehicle VIN etch
  • Exterior paint sealant
  • Interior protection
  • Free oil change (two standard or one synthetic)
  • Two tire rotations
  • TOYOGUARD personal assistant
  • TOYOGUARD auto care kit

Oh, and it also added $699 to the sticker price. That begs the question…

Is TOYOGUARD worth the cost?

Well, for starters, the roadside assistance and emergency towing provided by TOYOGUARD actually overlap with coverage that you already have thanks to the free ToyotaCare plan that comes with your car.

As a reminder, ToyotaCare lasts for 2 years/25k miles, so this is really just a short extension to 3 years/60k miles. Given that you might also have coverage via your car insurance policy, AAA, or some other provider, the value of this is quite low in my book.

Rental car assistance lasts 5 years/60k miles and is limited to 1 rental day per warranty repair, with a maximum of 5 rentals over the life of the plan and a $35 cap per rental. Here again, the value of this (even if you use it) is quite low — $175 at the very most.

Vehicle VIN etching is just having the VIN etched into the glass on all windows. This is supposed to be a theft deterrent, though the value in this context is (imho) somewhat dubious. Moreover, you can have your VIN etched after the fact for just a fraction of the cost.

Note: I’m not suggesting that you try this at home, but it’s worth pointing out that diy VIN etching kits are also an option.

The exterior paint sealant is just a polymer sealant (basically a synthetic wax job) and the interior protection is just a fabric protector, probably along the lines of ScotchGuard. And the latter doesn’t apply to leather seats, so those with an XLE and above only benefit fractionally.

The free oil change is something that everyone will ultimately need, but you can routinely get synthetic oil changes for a tiny fraction of the $699 price of TOYOGUARD. The same goes for the two free tire rotations.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that ToyotaCare covers tire rotations every 5k and synthetic oil changes every 10k for the first 25k miles. Thus, if you follow the recommended service schedule, it will likely be (at least) a year or two before you benefit from this.

The TOYOGUARD personal assistant is a call-in service for weather, phone numbers, driving directions, dinner reservations, etc. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see myself ever using this. But if you’re interested, it provides 5 years of coverage with a max of 720 minutes of call time.

And finally, the auto care kit. This kit comes in a handy little case and consists of small bottles of interior and exterior detailer, a small bottle of tire shine, and some cleaning cloths. It’s nice to have, I guess, but not particularly valuable in my book.

The final analysis…

Given the above, my view is that TOYOGUARD isn’t worth anywhere near the price you’re asked to pay. When negotiating our purchase price and comparing across dealers, we thus ignored the existence of such add-ons.

In the end, we bought that vehicle that fit our desired specs from the dealer that offered the best out-the-door price. Period. It just so happened that the “winner” came with TOYOGUARD, but I wouldn’t have paid extra to get it.

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9 comments… add one
  • Milos Jul 9, 2014

    I have a question about tow hitches. I’m trying to understand whether I should have the dealer install an OEM tow hitch or if I should go to after-market with someone like Rack Attack. I went in to see Rack Attack (about the cargo box and bike rack) and they seemed very good and the price for a class 3 tow hitch was less than half the dealer pricing. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • Michael Jul 9, 2014

      Good question. Probably a topic worth for an article unto itself. I haven’t installed a hitch yet, but will likely go aftermarket when I do. When we first started shopping, I asked dealers to price out the OEM hitch (installed) alongside the vehicle pricing. As you know, it’s expensive.

      I recall one salesman in particular giving me the pricing and then telling me that “Toyota sure is proud of their hitches, and they price them accordingly.” He went on to advise having an aftermarket hitch installed.

      With our previous CR-V (a 2005; we now have a 2012 as part of our “fleet”), I had a Curt receiver hitch installed by a local shop and was very happy with it. I will likely go the same route when I get a hitch for the Highlander.

      • Milos Jul 9, 2014

        Interesting. Thanks Michael. I was doing some online research and apparently the OEM option is covered by warranty which might be an important consideration. The other was that the OEM just looks better, or doesn’t result in “spacing” or something along those lines. This is a tough one for me. The cost difference is definitely significant…

  • Brian Aug 6, 2014

    I negotiated the invoice price of the hitch for $530 when purchasing the vehicle.This includes wiring from the fuse box. That is something to consider if you have an after market company such as U-haul install it. I got a quote from Uhaul for about $350 but figured it was worth an extra $180 for the clean appearance and trailer lights on their own circuit.

  • Ed Jan 2, 2015

    I just bought a Toyota camery they talked me into buying Toyota elite care for about 1000$ they said it covers two tune ups for up 50k miles does this car need 2 tune ups by 50k miles?

  • Al D Jan 2, 2015

    Ed, you got taken. There is nothing to tune up on a modern engine. You have to pay to replace two air filters and for the oil and filter change at 30k miles. You don’t have to pay a dime for anything until the 30k service. After that, you pay for oil changes every 10k miles and for tire rotations. I’d rotate tires every 7,500 miles after the freebies stop. If they have to top off any fluids during the services, it costs them pennies to do so. I’m not sure when the gas filter needs to be replaced, but it’s not a big expense.

  • Al D Jan 2, 2015

    The 2015 Camry SE 2.5 I just bought in Naples, FL came with Toyoguard Elite and Clear Paint Protection. Every car that interested me had expensive distributor options on them. We buyers have no choice but to pay a bit extra for these unwanted, expensive options in my area, but not anywhere near sticker price for them!

    It’s probably worth no more than $200 for the extra coverage, the kit, and the paint protection I had to accept. Regardless, I ended up paying $200 over my maximum target price because I wanted the Blizzard Pearl exterior, a $395 color option. This car had both the exterior and interior colors I wanted and it also had the superior Michelin Primacy’s on it, not those inferior Bridgestone tires that were on most SE models on the lot. When I consider all the extras, I ended up with a decent deal. It had been 2 months since I saw a Blizzard Pearl Camry on any dealer lot in my area. That color is in high demand down here. I was in the right place at the right time – December 30, when my dealer wanted to meet a year end quota.

  • Ginny Mar 28, 2016

    I just got quote on a 2016 Camry LE. The salesman told me the $699 Elite Protection Package was not optional — that I had to buy it. I agree that it is not anywhere worth the money and don’t want to pay for this. I’d like to know if it is in fact mandatory to accept it or if it is optional.

  • Freddie Freeman Sep 25, 2016

    Buying a Highlander Toyota . Dealer says I need toyoguard for acid rains in the south. True or False? I think this is just getting more money.

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