Not sure if you’ve noticed, but grey market cars have been increasing in numbers lately. It used to be just the Harriers, Muranos, Caldinas, Estimas and Alphards, but grey importers are now using a big chunk of their APs on European premium makes. Audis, Porsches and BMWs from UK now line up alongside the still popular Toyota MPVs in car lots.

As can be seen on our sister site oto.my, some of these recond cars are very attractively priced. Nearly new and with a low mileage, they seem like perfect deals waiting for us to empty our bank accounts.

Take this Audi A5 2.0 TFSI for instance. It’s a UK spec 2009 model advertised for RM197,888. Official Audi importer Euromobil sells the A5 2.0 for RM400k. So there’s no new car smell, but one can buy two recond A5s for the price of a new one!

Attractive as they may be, there are concerns. The car may look good, but what if something goes wrong? Since it is not an official import, where do I go if the car has issues? No warranty, right?

These are not small money purchases and it’s only normal to be apprehensive, so we asked around and found some enlightening info. How does one take care of their grey import car?

International Warranty – sometimes applicable

Did you know that like electronic products, some cars have international warranties? According to an industry source, recond cars from certain marques that fall within the warranty period can be eligible for factory warranty in another country, a UK spec car in Malaysia, for instance.

Customers must of course register their vehicle with an authorised dealer first. From then on, should there be a problem, the replacement of parts are subject to the principal’s approval. The warranty claim may be fully absorbed by the principal, but there are cases where cost of parts (can be full or partial) are absorbed, but labour charges apply.

Principals that honour the international warranty are BMW and Mercedes-Benz, we are told. Depending on the authorised dealer, a one-time registration fee may apply.

Warranty Adoption Packages – pay to play

Warranty Adoption Packages are more common. For example, there have been ads from the local Porsche dealer welcoming grey cars back into the fold. By and large, they work like this. The customer brings the car in for inspection, and the principal will determine the extent of repair work required to meet the adoption requirements. If the customer agrees, the “rehabilitation” work will be carried out.

Once done, the “reborn” car will be given a warranty from the principal, with parts and labour charges varying between brands. Depending on adoption requirements, such packages can start from RM40k. Brands such as Porsche and Ferrari and are known to have such schemes.

“A stand alone warranty is also available for vehicles currently not covered by warranty. On application, all vehicles must undergo a thorough technical inspection by Sime Darby Auto Performance Sdn Bhd and faults must be rectified prior to approval,” says Porsche dealer SDAP on its website.

Porsche’s is called the Porsche Welcome Package, which is competitively priced at RM15,000. It includes a background check, a system update, warranty activation, a scheduled maintenance, and car detailing to top it off. It’s a 2 day job on average. Porsche stresses the importance of the Porsche Welcome Package for acclimatisation in Malaysia because of differences of the environment in our country compared to the country of origin.

For example, the fuel quality in the UK differs from Malaysia. The Engine Management System in a UK spec vehicle has software designed for higher grade fuels. In Porsche terminology, this is known as the “A market”. Malaysian vehicles contain “B market” software which adjusts the engine management system to compensate for fuel quality. According to Porsche, driving with the incorrect software on your Engine Management system may cause long term damage to the engine.

Insurance warranty – outsource the maintenance gamble?

There’s another option for peace of mind, and it’s warranty provided by private companies such as Autoguard, Wheel Guard Auto and Opal Auto Mart – the latter’s tagline is “warranty for cars without warranty”. Think of it as insurance for mechanical breakdown. Some dealers sell recond cars with a such schemes thrown in, making the deal more reassuring.

The premise is simple. The car owner pays the company a pre-determined sum of money in exchange for warranty, and should something fail within the period, the company will take care of the bill. Various packages covering different areas are available. Opal has packages ranging from powertrain-only (engine and gearbox) to a comprehensive package covering everything from electrical components to cooling systems.

As a guide, Wheel Guard charges RM2,262.72 for a one-year/30,000 km warranty for an E90/92 BMW 3-Series. Want to insure your Lamborghini Aventador? That will be RM22,150.37 for a year, sir. Sounds hefty, but you never know when a major disaster will strike.

These companies don’t just serve the grey car market – some of these companies also provide the extended warranty that are offered by new car manufacturers. When we bought our company Peugeot 508, it came with the normal warranty length but we were offered by Peugeot Malaysia an extension to the current 5 year deal for new Peugeot cars through Autoguard.

So there you go, some warranty options for recond cars and grey imports. Nothing beats a brand new official import for peace of mind and hassle-free ownership, but reassurance can be had to some degree with grey imports too, with some effort and ringgit, of course.

Our sister site oto.my is having their inaugural otofest 2012 this weekend (December 8-9 2012) at Cheras Auto City. Lots of great deals and innovative step up financing packages to be found at the sales fair, so click here to find out more.