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How Do Car Warranties Work?

A car in an auto warranty dealership with a contract behind the car

When you purchase a new car, it generally comes with a warranty. This is a commitment from the car manufacturer to cover the cost of certain repairs or problems, specifically those resulting from defects or poor workmanship. Understanding how car warranties work can help you make informed decisions about your vehicle's maintenance and potential repairs.

Understanding Car Warranties

Car warranties are designed to cover a range of issues that might arise with your vehicle. This can include problems with major components like the engine and transmission, as well as various systems like the air conditioner, backup camera, steering, and more. These warranties are active for a specified length of time or number of miles driven, whichever comes first.

Key Distinctions

  • Warranty vs. Insurance: Unlike car insurance, which covers damage from collisions or external factors, a car warranty is specific to the car’s components and systems.

  • Coverage Limitations: Routine maintenance tasks, such as oil changes or brake pad replacements, are not covered under a car warranty.

What Does a Car Warranty Cover?

A new car typically comes with an original manufacturer warranty covering the cost of repairing or replacing broken or defective parts. This warranty often remains with the car, meaning if you buy a used or certified pre-owned car, the warranty might still be valid, though it doesn't reset.

Covered issues may include:

  • Engine and transmission parts

  • Seatbelts and airbags

  • Audio and entertainment systems

  • Air conditioning and other electronic systems

Graphic of the inside components of a car

Types of Warranties

  1. Powertrain Warranty: Covers components like the engine, transmission, driveshaft, and wheels.

  2. Drivetrain Warranty: Similar to the powertrain but usually excludes the engine.

  3. Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: Encompasses most parts not covered by powertrain or drivetrain warranties, including airbags, air conditioning, and electronics.

  4. Emissions Warranty: Mandated by law to cover parts meeting emission standards.

  5. Corrosion Warranty: Covers rust or corrosion damage.

Extended Warranties

Once the original warranty expires, you might consider purchasing an extended warranty for continued coverage. These can be useful, especially for older or used vehicles, but they often come at a significant cost.

Car Warranty vs. Car Insurance

  • Car Warranty: Covers mechanical issues or replacements due to defects or

poor workmanship.

  • Car Insurance: Protects against damage from accidents, weather, theft, and covers liabilities in case of damage to others.

Extended Warranty Considerations

  • Cost vs. Benefit: Assess if the cost of the warranty outweighs potential repair savings.

  • Vehicle Reliability: Consider the reliability of your car model; some might benefit more from extended warranties.

  • Third-Party Options: You can purchase extended warranties from dealerships or third-party providers, but always read the fine print.

Should You Get an Extended Auto Warranty?

Evaluating the Need for Extended Warranty

  1. Vehicle Reliability: Research the reliability of your car model. If your car is known for its durability and has a low likelihood of needing expensive repairs, an extended warranty might not be necessary.

  2. Cost Analysis: Compare the cost of the extended warranty with the average repair costs for your vehicle. Extended warranties can be expensive, and for some, the cost may outweigh the potential benefits.

  3. Length of Ownership: Consider how long you plan to keep the car. If you frequently change cars or lease, an extended warranty might not be a good investment. However, Total Auto Protect can transfer coverage to another vehicle if need be. If you plan to keep your car for many years beyond the original warranty, an auto warranty should be considered.

  4. Peace of Mind: For some, the peace of mind that comes with an extended warranty is worth the cost, especially if you rely heavily on your vehicle and want to avoid unexpected repair costs.

  5. Third-Party Providers: If considering an extended warranty from a third-party provider, research the company's reputation and read the contract carefully for coverage details, deductibles, and exclusions.


  1. What does a 5-year/100,000-mile warranty mean?

  • This means the warranty covers your car for either 5 years or 100,000 miles driven, whichever comes first.

  1. What's not covered under a car warranty?

  • Routine maintenance, wear and tear, and damage from accidents or external forces are typically not covered.

  1. What does a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty mean?

  • The warranty is valid for 3 years or until the car has driven 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first.

  1. What are two items typically not covered in a car warranty?

  • Regular maintenance tasks like oil changes and damage from external factors like accidents.

  1. What is usually covered in a car warranty?

  • Repairs or replacements due to defects in the car's parts or workmanship, such as engine or transmission issues.

  1. Is a dead battery covered under warranty?

  • It depends on the warranty terms. Some may cover a dead battery if it's due to a manufacturing defect.

  1. Who pays for warranty work on a car?

  • The manufacturer or the warranty provider covers the costs of repairs under warranty.

  1. Are warranties transferable?

  • Many car warranties are transferable when a car is sold, but it's important to check the specific terms of the warranty.

Understanding car warranties is crucial for vehicle owners. They provide valuable coverage for various defects and issues, but it's important to be aware of their limitations and costs. Whether considering a new purchase or managing an existing vehicle, being informed about your car's warranty can save time, money, and stress in the long run.

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