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What Does a Car Warranty Cover?

  • Your car warranty coverage depends on your year, make, and model.
  • If your car needs repairs, knowing what is and isn’t covered by your car warranty can save you time, money, and stress. 
  • When a manufacturer-backed warranty expires, you have the option of renewing coverage with an extended warranty.

Affiliate disclosure: Automoblog and its partners may be compensated when you purchase the products below.

When you purchase a new car, it comes with a warranty – but what does a car warranty cover? A car warranty is a contract between the vehicle manufacturer and new car owner in which the manufacturer promises to repair or replace faulty components and workmanship defects for a specified period of time.

After this warranty expires, you can continue your vehicle’s protection with an extended warranty. There are two main ways to secure extended car warranty coverage: You can either purchase a plan from a manufacturer-backed dealership or a third party.

If you’re considering a third party, you’ll quickly discover there are a lot of options. We’ve already reviewed some of the best car warranty companies to give you a head-start. We’ll explain what to look for in their contracts, so you can understand exactly what your car warranty covers. Compare quotes between several providers to find the best price and coverage.

Top Extended Warranty Companies
We reviewed the best extended auto warranty providers, and here are our top picks. 
Best Direct Coverage Best for Older Vehicles Best Prices
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Endurance CARCHEX CarShield
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(877) 374-1840 (866) 254-0205 (800) 563-2761
     

Car Warranty Coverage Explained

Reading about your car warranty is a worthwhile investment of your time. If you don’t understand the limits of your car warranty coverage, you’ll have no way of knowing your financial exposure to uncovered repairs or service work.

What we call a “car warranty” is actually several warranties. It usually includes a bumper-to-bumper warranty, a powertrain warranty, and several different types of manufacturer-backed secondary warranties.

What Is a Bumper-to-Bumper Car Warranty?

A bumper-to-bumper warranty protects almost every component between your vehicle’s front and rear bumpers, including the:

  • Braking
  • Steering
  • Powertrain
  • Suspension
  • Climate control
  • Electrical system
  • High-tech features

The standard length of coverage for a bumper-to-bumper warranty is three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, a few brands provide longer coverage. For example, a Hyundai bumper-to-bumper warranty lasts five years or 60,000 miles. 

Bumper-to-bumper warranty coverage is so comprehensive it’s sometimes referred to as exclusionary warranty coverage. This is because it’s easier to describe the plan’s exclusions than it is to describe the full list of covered components. Notable exclusions from bumper-to-bumper coverage are generally the tires, interior trim, window glass and chassis paneling.

Like most auto warranties, coverage under a bumper-to-bumper warranty will only be approved if the relevant damage is due to a design flaw, component malfunction, or workmanship defect. 

Make sure to give your contract a good read to fully understand what your bumper-to-bumper car warranty covers.

What Is a Powertrain Warranty?

Powertrain warranties cover the cost of repairing or replacing defective powertrain-related components, such as to the engine, drivetrain, or transmission. 

Manufacturer-backed powertrain warranties are usually the same as or longer than bumper-to-bumper coverage. The standard length is five years or 60,000 miles, but some last as long as 10 years or 100,000 miles.

The powertrain is the most important mechanical system in your vehicle, and the repairs can be some of the most expensive. That’s why powertrain coverage is extremely comprehensive, including everything from the engine mount and transaxle to differential U-joints and camshaft timing belts. 

Secondary Car Warranties

In addition to bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties, it’s likely your car warranty will also feature several smaller coverages. Auto manufacturers often package these secondary warranties into your main warranty to comply with industry regulations or expand coverage for atypical vehicle systems.

What Does An Emission Control Warranty Cover?

In 1995, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced a series of laws regulating car warranty coverage for components in the emission control system. As a result, emissions control coverage is federally mandated for: 

  • Two years or 24,000 miles for performance issues.
  • Three years or 36,000 miles for design issues.
  • Eight years or 80,000 miles for select component defect issues.

If your home state has adopted California’s emissions laws, your vehicle may have slightly different coverage.

What Does a Hybrid Warranty Cover?

In addition to a standard new car warranty, hybrids typically receive a separate set of warranty conditions. Certain hybrid components, including the battery, control module, and inverter, will have stricter coverage conditions and a longer coverage term. The industry standard for hybrid-related component coverage is eight years or 100,000 miles.

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Certain hybrid components will have stricter coverage conditions and a longer coverage term.

What Does a Corrosion Warranty Cover?

A corrosion warranty covers your car against rust damage. The two options for car warranty corrosion coverage are rust perforation coverage and surface corrosion coverage. Rust perforation plans only cover vehicle damage if the relevant component has fully rusted through, whereas surface corrosion coverage kicks in at the first sign of visible rust.

What Does An Accessory Warranty Cover?

Accessory warranties provide coverage for a wide range of auxiliary vehicle systems and cabin components. They are primarily used to boost coverage on cabin safety systems, such as airbag deployment units, seat belt restraints, and exterior contact detection sensors. More comprehensive accessory warranties may include coverage for sound and video equipment, cabin fabrics, and interior paneling.

What Does An Extended Car Warranty Cover?

Extended warranties give you the option of prolonging your vehicle’s warranty coverage. Your level of coverage under an extended warranty will depend on what type of plan you choose. Extended warranty plans are usually organized by tiers: an entry-level powertrain plan, a mid-level mixed coverage plan, and a comprehensive bumper-to-bumper plan.

These tiered options sound a lot like standard new car warranty features. We’ve listed three key differences to help distinguish between car warranty and extended car warranty coverage:

  1. By definition, extended car warranties aren’t actually “warranties” at all since they’re separate purchases. They are technically vehicle service contracts or protection plans.
  1. The average length of coverage for an extended car warranty is longer than the average length of coverage for a standard car warranty. While you may be able to buy just a few years of coverage, most plans last between six years or 100,000 miles and 10 years or 125,000 miles.
  1. A standard new vehicle limited warranty typically starts on the car’s in-service date. Until this warranty expires, your car’s coverage is restricted and guaranteed by the manufacturer. Some extended warranties, such as those from third parties, start on the day you purchase the contract. If buying an extended warranty from a manufacturer, make sure to note the start date, as the terms are often years or miles from the original service date.

What Are The Benefits of Third-Party Extended Warranty Coverage?

If you want an extended warranty, your first instinct may be to purchase the manufacturer’s version when you buy your new car. While many of these programs and contracts are solid options, we’ve found that third-party extended warranty contracts can be just as or more appealing. They often provide more comprehensive coverage tiers, more customization options, and more reasonably priced plan structures.

For example, CARCHEX has five coverage tiers with multiple plans under each level. That amounts to more than 15 contracts, each with additional customizations.

Affordability is another key factor. Because third-party providers aren’t exclusively affiliated with specific car manufacturers, they work in a much larger, more competitive market, especially in comparison with the average dealership service contract department. The uptick in competition has driven third-party providers to offer more flexible and more cost-effective plans.

When shopping for an extended warranty, it’s definitely worth looking into third-party providers as well as the manufacturer. We recommend getting at least three quotes, starting with these three top-ranked companies.

Top Extended Warranty Companies
We reviewed the best extended auto warranty providers, and here are our top picks. 
Best Direct Coverage Best for Older Vehicles Best Prices
logo endurance logo logo carshield
Endurance CARCHEX CarShield
black starblack starblack starblack starblack star black starblack starblack starblack starblack star black starblack starblack starblack starblack half star 5 1
Get Quote Get Quote Get Quote
(877) 374-1840 (866) 254-0205 (800) 563-2761
     

FAQ: What Does a Car Warranty Cover?

Does a car warranty cover paint damage?

In some cases, paint damage will be covered by your car warranty. If your car’s paintwork is peeling or rusting due to a manufacturer defect, it will be covered by your car’s warranty. On the other hand, your car warranty will not cover paint damage if it is verifiably caused by environmental effects or general wear and tear.

If my car is under warranty, do I have to pay for a service?

In general, you are responsible for paying for routine maintenance and scheduled service appointments. However, some manufacturers do include a few years of scheduled maintenance in their new car warranties.

What is the difference between a car warranty and car insurance?

Car warranties and car insurance plans are entirely different agreements. A car warranty guarantees your vehicle against manufacturing defects, while a car insurance plan protects you against external damages. Different types of car insurance typically include coverage for the following events:

  • Post-accident car repairs.
  • Personal or passenger medical bills.
  • Liability payments for medical bills or property damage.
  • Repairs due to fires, storms, flooding, falling objects, vandalism, and theft.

Does a car warranty cover accidental damage?

No, car warranties are not designed to cover vehicle damage from single-car accidents or multi-car collisions. The intention behind a car warranty is protection against poor workmanship, malfunctioning components, or defective systems. If you are looking for accident coverage, you’ll need to take out a car insurance plan.

Is it worth buying an extended warranty on a used car?

If you buy a used car, you should definitely invest in a high-quality extended warranty plan. Without extended warranty coverage, you’ll be wholly responsible for the vehicle’s repair and service bills. When you factor in the increased risk of a used car breaking down, it’s easy to understand how the cost of a used car warranty can pay for itself. 

See our list of the best used car warranty companies.

Does an extended warranty cover air conditioning?

Yes, most mid-level and high-level extended warranty plans provide coverage for interior climate control systems, such as cabin heating and air conditioning. 

What isn’t covered by a bumper-to-bumper warranty?

Even though bumper-to-bumper warranties offer comprehensive coverage, you’ll still encounter some minor component exclusions. The most common bumper-to-bumper exclusions are the chassis frame, interior trim, exterior paneling, cabin fabrics, seat upholstery, window glass, and tires.

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