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What is a car warranty and What Does It Cover?

What is a car warranty
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Updated February 5, 2024

When you buy a new car, you’ll probably notice that it comes with a warranty. While that knowledge provides assurance, it’s not always clear what a car warranty is and what it covers.

So what is a car warranty, exactly? This type of warranty covers manufacturer defects in a new or pre-owned car. You can also purchase an extended warranty to keep that peace of mind going after the manufacturer’s warranty runs out. Read on to learn about the types of car warranties and what they do and do not cover.

How does a car warranty work?

A car warranty provides protection for the owner against certain mechanical failures they may experience within a specific time frame—or mileage accrual—after buying the car. It’s essentially a service contract that will cover any repair cost caused by a manufacturer defect. Like with any warranty, there are components that are covered and some that are not. There are also exclusions and ways to inadvertently void the warranty.

Types of car warranties

There are two main types of car warranties: a manufacturer’s warranty and an extended warranty. The former is typically included free of charge with a new car purchase, while the latter usually requires an additional payment.

Manufacturer’s warranty

Each car manufacturer will offer some sort of warranty on the major components of its vehicles, such as the engine, fuel system, electrical systems, gearbox and clutch, brakes, air conditioning, and steering mechanisms. If something goes wrong with one of these components during the warranty period, the manufacturer will cover the repair costs.

There are two main types of manufacturer’s warranty:

  • Bumper-to-bumper warranty: Covers the components between the car’s front and rear bumper, such as the car’s body, climate control, and steering.
  • Powertrain warranty: Covers the components that make the car move, including the engine, suspension, and transmission.

The length of a manufacturer’s warranty varies from automaker to automaker. For example, Kia and Hyundai are known for their 10-year or 100,000 mile (whichever comes first) limited powertrain warranty, while General Motors brands such as Chevrolet and GMC offer a bumper-to-bumper warranty of five years or 60,000 miles.

Some manufacturers also offer warranties on certified pre-owned (CPO) cars that meet certain criteria. For example, the carmaker may only certify used vehicles with less than 50,000 miles on the odometer or within a handful of vehicle model years. CPO cars must also usually pass a thorough inspection by a certified dealer and have a clean vehicle history report.

Extended warranty

At the time of purchase, the car dealer may give you the option to purchase an extended warranty. You may also purchase an extended warranty toward the end of your manufacturer’s warranty—there’s truth to the joke about getting incessant phone calls about your car’s extended warranty.

An extended warranty will typically cover similar components as the manufacturer’s warranty. It takes effect after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. If you purchase an extended warranty at the same time as buying the car from a dealership, you can often roll the cost into your car loan and pay for it over time. Alternatively, you can purchase an extended warranty when your factory warranty expires. The vehicle manufacturer may offer you an extended warranty, but you may also be able to purchase one from an online provider that specializes in this type of vehicle warranty.

What does a car warranty cover?

A car warranty covers the major mechanical components that make up a vehicle. The warranty protects against manufacturer defects that cause a malfunction in one of these major systems. Below is what is and is not typically covered by a car warranty.

Covered

The main components that are covered by a car warranty may include the following systems:

  • Air conditioning.
  • Brakes.
  • Electrical systems.
  • Engine.
  • Fuel system.
  • Steering mechanisms.
  • Transmission.

Each automaker’s warranty should cover the above systems, but other components may also be included. It’s important to read the small print in your warranty document to make sure you understand exactly which parts and which scenarios are covered.

Not covered

Car warranties usually don’t cover normal wear and tear. There are also certain parts that are excluded from most warranties—these parts are ones that are regularly used, such as the following:

  • Batteries.
  • Brake pads.
  • Tires.
  • Windshield wipers.

Since these parts tend to wear out faster than other vehicle components, it’s usually up to the owner to cover repair costs.

Where can I get a car warranty?

If you’re buying a brand new car, it will already have a warranty in place courtesy of the manufacturer. That can also be the case for some used cars that pass certain criteria set by the manufacturer. In both cases, the warranty is included and there’s no additional charge.

Extended warranties are different. These come at an additional cost and can be sold by the car dealership or by a third-party warranty company. Most of these companies specialize in extended warranties. Some examples include CarShield, ForeverCar, Olive, Carchex, and Endurance. It’s wise to reach out to several companies and compare quotes to find the extended warranty that best fits your needs and budget.

Car warranty vs. car insurance

What’s the difference between a car warranty and car insurance? The main difference is that car insurance is required by law, whereas a car warranty is optional. A warranty is a service contract that covers certain components of a car against mechanical failure, whereas insurance is designed to cover damages and injuries associated with an accident or other covered event.

Each state has different requirements for the amount of coverage you must carry in order to legally drive on public roads. All states require some sort of liability coverage—this coverage helps pay for damage to third-party property following an accident when the policyholder is determined to be at fault. Liability coverage can also pay for the medical bills of the other driver and passengers if they sustain injuries from the accident.

You can opt for additional coverage from well-known insurers such as Liberty Mutual, including the following:

  • Collision coverage: Covers damage to your vehicle (less a deductible) following an accident, regardless of fault.
  • Comprehensive coverage: Covers damage to your vehicle (less a deductible) caused by an event other than a collision (such as theft, vandalism, fire, collisions with animals, and weather damage).
Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual Auto Insurance

Liberty Mutual Auto Insurance

Monthly fee
$90
Am rating
A

TIME Stamp: Car warranties help protect owners from expensive repairs of covered components

A car warranty provides peace of mind that you won’t be faced with expensive repairs if a major part of your new car breaks or is faulty. Manufacturers provide car warranties for free with new vehicles and certain used vehicles, though the duration of the warranty will vary among carmakers. Once the manufacturer warranty expires, an extended warranty can be purchased to continue to provide that peace of mind.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How can I check the warranty on my car?

If you’re not sure whether your car has a warranty, there are a couple of ways to check:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN): Call a local dealer affiliated with the manufacturer of your car and provide them with the VIN and mileage of your car. You can find your car’s VIN etched into the dashboard, on the driver’s side door jamb, or under the hood.
  • Manufacturer’s website: Some manufacturers will allow you to check warranty information on their websites. If you can’t find it, contact the manufacturer or call a local dealer to ask.
  • Carfax: You can check your vehicle’s warranty information if you have a Carfax subscription. The report will also provide information on previous accidents, recalls, and major repairs.

What voids a car warranty?

The exact terms of a car warranty can vary among manufacturers and extended warranty providers. However, the following are common scenarios that can void a warranty:

  • Using the vehicle for off-roading or racing.
  • Being involved in an accident that results in a total loss.
  • Fire or flood damage resulting from a natural disaster.
  • Tampering with the odometer reading.
  • Opting for aftermarket vehicle modifications.
  • Failure to follow the manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedule.

How long does a car warranty last?

The length of a car warranty will depend on the manufacturer. Warranties generally last at least three years or 30,000 miles—whichever comes first. Some manufacturers offer warranties lasting five, seven, or even 10 years. Check with your car’s manufacturer for details.

Extended warranties also vary in length. For example,it may have a set term when you purchase it, or you may need to renew it from year to year.

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