A vehicle protection plan is one way to safeguard yourself against the often unexpected costs of car ownership. Vehicle protection plans work similarly to new car warranties by promising to pay for vehicle repairs or replacement parts in the event of a mechanical breakdown.
But how do you find the right vehicle protection plan? There are dozens of extended auto warranty providers on the market, including many known for shady business practices and aggressive marketing campaigns. But not every company engages in such practices, and many providers offer valuable contracts.
In this article, we’ll help you understand what a vehicle protection plan is and how to find the right plan for your needs and budget. We’ll also introduce you to the top five best extended car warranty companies on the market.
If you’re interested in seeing what a vehicle protection plan would cost for your car, get free quotes from our top recommended providers by clicking above.
A vehicle protection plan is a way to budget for your vehicle’s repair costs. Customers purchase contracts that list a number of vehicle parts (such as the engine, transfer case, and air conditioning), and when a covered part is damaged or stops working, the contract administrator will pay to have it repaired or replaced.
Powertrain Warranty vs. Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty
Vehicle protection plans are offered at a number of different levels ranging from powertrain warranty coverage for just the engine, transmission, and drive axle to exclusionary coverage (or bumper-to-bumper), which covers nearly all mechanical and electrical components, minus a short list of non-covered parts.
Below is a basic comparison between these two main warranty types. Be aware that some plans cover more components than what’s shown here, and there are plan levels in between these two examples.
Vehicle Protection Plan Exclusions
Even the most comprehensive vehicle service contracts have their limitations. Although specific exclusions will vary from contract to contract, there are a few items that are commonly left out of vehicle protection plans, such as:
Doors and door handles
Emissions system components
Damage caused by improper maintenance
Exterior damage including dents, scratches, and dings
Damaged caused by an accident, collision, or act of nature
Wear-and-tear items like brake pads, wiper blades, and lightbulbs
How Does a Vehicle Protection Plan Work?
Vehicle protection plans can be purchased at most dealerships and through many third-party providers.
When a covered component needs repairs, drivers will need to take their vehicles to an appropriate service location. Typically, providers allow customers to visit any dealership or repair shop certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE®). Either the plan holder or the repair shop will then contact the contract administrator, and if a repair is approved, administrators usually pay the repair facility directly.
Vehicle Protection Plan Deductibles
Most contracts require deductibles, which drivers will be responsible for paying out of pocket for each repair. It is common for vehicle protection plans to include deductibles between $0 and $200.
Vehicle Protection Plan Requirements
Having a vehicle protection plan doesn’t mean you can just neglect your car or make a claim right away. There are a couple of requirements common to nearly all vehicle protection plans: a waiting period and regular maintenance.
Waiting Period Requirement
Vehicle protection plans usually come with a 30-day and 1,000-mile waiting period. That means the company won’t pay for any claims until you’ve driven 1,000 miles and it is 30 days later. This is to protect the company from paying for pre-existing conditions, which are excluded from coverage. In other words, if you know your car has a transmission issue, you can’t just get a warranty and then take the car to the shop the next day. It doesn’t work like that.
Vehicle service contracts require you to maintain your car according to manufacturer specifications. That means keeping up on oil changes, filter changes, and scheduled maintenance at intervals like 60,000 and 90,000 miles. You should also keep your receipts.
If you make a claim, the company can request to see your maintenance receipts to make sure you’re taking care of the car. Your claim can be denied if you haven’t been keeping up on maintenance and that affected the breakdown.
Vehicle Protection Plan Cost
We’ve reached out to get quotes from many vehicle protection plan providers. The average cost of a full-coverage plan on a relatively new vehicle is $824 per year of coverage. This means that a five-year contract costs around $4,000. Of course, these prices can fluctuate greatly by vehicle. The best way to find the lowest-cost vehicle protection plan is to compare quotes from multiple providers yourself.
There are several factors that are usually taken into account to determine the final price of a vehicle protection plan, including:
Location: Contract prices differ by city and state.
Coverage level: Comprehensive coverage costs more than a basic plan.
Vehicle age and mileage: Newer, low-mileage vehicles are cheaper to cover.
Deductible: Most vehicle service plan providers offer several deductible options. A higher deductible means a lower price.
Vehicle model: Cars with more expensive components and those that cost more to service also cost more to protect.
Are Vehicle Protection Plans Worth It?
Vehicle protection plans can be worth it for many customers. To determine whether extended coverage would be right for you, consider these benefits and drawbacks:
Benefits of Vehicle Protection Plans
Drawbacks of Vehicle Protection Plans
You’ll be protected from sudden and costly repairs.
You may end up not needing all of the coverage you pay for.
You can budget for repairs by paying a fixed monthly cost.
Not all components of your vehicle will be covered.
Your plan can increase the resale value of your vehicle.
Repairs may take longer if your provider is slow to approve claims.
With many plans, you’ll get additional benefits like 24/7 roadside assistance.
You’ll enjoy added peace of mind on the road.
Before purchasing a vehicle protection plan, be sure to research your vehicle’s reliability. Try to estimate how much you’ll pay for repairs per year and compare this against the cost of coverage. Also, be sure to shop around to find the best value contract for your needs.
Vehicle Protection Plan Vs. Extended Warranty
Most manufacturers offer extended car warranties at the dealership. These function similarly to vehicle service contracts – they are promises to pay repair costs for covered components – but there are several important differences between a manufacturer extended warranty and a third-party vehicle protection plan.
While a manufacturer extended warranty typically provides more extensive and reliable coverage, third-party vehicle protection plans tend to be less expensive. Here are some other benefits to third-party providers:
They offer longer coverage terms and higher mileage limits.
Vehicles can be repaired at a number of facilities rather than exclusively at dealerships.
They can be purchased at any time, whereas extended factory coverage usually must be purchased when you buy your car.
Best Vehicle Protection Plan
Our review team examined every major extended vehicle protection plan provider in the industry, taking a look at protection plan cost, coverage, customer reviews, and more. Based on our research, we’ve determined the following warranty companies to be the best choices for vehicle protection plans:
Prices can be difficult to compare between providers, because different providers will offer you plans with different term lengths. The easiest way to compare costs is to look at the cost per year of coverage. We do this by dividing the total plan cost by the number of years you would be covered for, but keep in mind that coverage term lengths come in both years and miles. If you hit your maximum mileage before a certain number of year’s passes, your warranty will expire.
Bumper-to-Bumper Plan Cost
Here is the cost per year of coverage for a bumper-to-bumper plan for a 2018 Toyota Camry with 28,000 miles for each of the providers listed above. Keep in mind that your own prices will vary depending on your vehicle make, model, age, mileage, and more. These prices are only representative of what we were quoted for the Toyota.
Protect My Car
Price Per Year of Coverage
You’ll notice that Protect My Car’s vehicle protection plan price is significantly higher than other providers. Protect My Car actually offers one of the lowest monthly costs, but because of its long financing terms, plans can end up being more expensive in the long run. If you’re looking for a low monthly payment though, the provider can be a good bet. It also offers excellent maintenance contracts, which aren’t priced here.
More on Our Top Recommended Provider: Endurance
Endurance offers some of the most comprehensive coverage of any extended warranty provider. The six levels of Endurance coverage are broken down as follows:
Supreme: An exclusionary, bumper-to-bumper warranty with coverage for most mechanical and electrical parts, minus a short list of non-covered parts
Superior: A named-component plan for hundreds of listed parts, including the cooling system, suspension, and fuel system
Secure Plus: A mid-level plan that has slightly more coverage than the lower-tier Secure plan, including coverage for the air conditioning, brake components, gaskets, and steering
Secure: A basic powertrain plan that covers the engine, transmission, and drivetrain
Select Premier: A plan specially designed for high-mileage vehicles, offering coverage mostly for powertrain components
EnduranceAdvantageTM: A combination plan that offers maintenance and warranty coverage
Although Endurance and CARCHEX both received perfect 5.0-star ratings from our review team, Endurance came out on top because it offers much more extensive benefits, including:
Identity theft protection
Repair financing loans
24/7 roadside assistance
Trip interruption coverage
Rental car reimbursement
Tire repairs and replacements
Key fob repairs and replacements
Access to a personal concierge service
$250 in vouchers for shopping, dining, and hotels
Get a free, personalized quote from Endurance to see how much you would pay for coverage.
If you’re looking to get coverage for mechanical breakdowns, we recommend comparing multiple options for benefits and cost. Your dealer may offer one plan, but you have many options on the market with third-party providers. The best vehicle protection plan for you depends on your budget and what you want to have covered.
Vehicle Protection Plan: FAQ
Below are some frequently asked questions about vehicle protection plans:
Is the vehicle protection package worth it?
A vehicle protection plan or package can cover a variety of mechanical breakdowns depending on the contract. It can be worth it if you don’t have cash set aside to cover expensive repairs as your car gets older.
What does a protection plan cover?
A protection plan can cover a range of mechanical breakdowns (not accident damage or normal wear and tear). Common plans include bumper-to-bumper contracts, which cover hundreds of components on all major systems, to powertrain contracts, which cover the engine, transmission, and drivetrain.
What is the difference between protection plan and warranty?
Technically, the only entity that can offer a warranty (or extended warranty) is the vehicle manufacturer. A protection plan can cover virtually the same components except the administrator is a third-party company. The quality of the protection plan depends on the administrator’s reputation for service.
How do protection plans work?
Protection plans are contracts that cover specific breakdowns for a set time and mileage. Exclusionary plans cover any breakdown except for a list of exclusions, while stated-component plans only cover the exact parts listed on the contract.
Our expert review team takes satisfaction in providing accurate and unbiased information. We identified the following rating categories based on consumer survey data and conducted extensive research to formulate rankings of the best extended auto warranty providers.
Affordability: A variety of factors influence cost, so it can be difficult to compare quotes between providers. Our team performs ongoing secret shopper analyses for different vehicles, mileages, warranty plans, and locations to give this rating.
Coverage: Because each consumer has unique needs, it’s essential that a car warranty company offers an array of coverage options. We take into account the number of plans offered by each provider, term limits, exclusions, and additional benefits.
Industry Standing: Our team considers Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings, availability, and years in business when giving this score.
Customer Service: Reputable extended car warranty companies operate with a certain degree of care for consumers. We take into account customer reviews, BBB complaints, and the responsiveness of the customer service team.