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Car Warranty Coverage

A car warranty covers repairs and replacements for specified parts when a vehicle breaks down, but coverage only lasts for a set term and mileage.

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02/20/2024 10:04 PM

The Gist:

  • Car warranties come with all new vehicles and cover breakdowns associated with defects in vehicle parts and faulty workmanship.
  • Car warranty coverage can include bumper-to-bumper, powertrain, drivetrain, emissions, and corrosion protection depending on your manufacturer’s terms.
  • An extended car warranty can provide protection from mechanical breakdowns once your vehicle’s factory warranty expires.

Every new car comes with a car warranty, but what does this coverage provide? In this article, we’ll break down what a car warranty covers including factory, extended, bumper-to-bumper, and powertrain protection plans. We’ll also outline common exclusions from coverage and additional benefits that can come with warranties. Finally, we’ll provide our recommendations for the best extended car warranty companies.

Reputation: 4.5/5.0
Coverage: 5.0/5.0
Price: 4.5/5.0
Customer Experience: 4.5/5.0
idée Endurance is our first choice for extended warranties
  • Best Plan Offerings
  • Mileage Covered: 200,000 miles on the odometer
  • Free Cancellation: Full refund within 30 days
  • Plan Options: 6 different plans to choose from
  • Longest Plan Term: Up to 8 years
  • Discounts: $300 same-day signup discount, $250 shopping voucher, and others
Plan coverage includes Endurance Elite perks™
Exclusionary plan One-year membership for free
Powertrain plan Tire repair and replacement
Maintenance coverage with Endurance Advantage Key fob replacement
Roadside assistance Total loss protection
Towing Collision discount
Rental car $250 rewards voucher
Trip interruption coverage Endurance Protect app

What Does A Car Warranty Cover?

A car warranty covers the cost to repair or replace parts that fail due to defects in vehicle production. A warranty on a car typically only covers components that fail during routine vehicle use and not wear and tear damages. For example, systems like the powertrain would be covered under warranty, but routine maintenance like oil changes would not.

Your repair or replacement bill, including labor costs, will be fully paid for covered items included in your car warranty terms. However, unless you purchase a lifetime protection plan, coverage is only active for a set mileage and time period. Every vehicle warranty is different, so it’s best to check the terms of your contract to ensure you know what’s covered and for how long.

What Isn’t Covered By A Car Warranty?

Car warranties typically don’t cover things like:

  • Normal Wear and Tear: Vehicle parts that wear out regularly–such as brake pads, batteries, windows, and tires–will not be covered. You typically need to purchase a separate component-specific warranty to get coverage for these items. However, if a part fails sooner than expected, you may be entitled to a covered repair.
  • Routine Maintenance: Services like tune-ups, belt and hose replacements, and tire rotations are not usually covered. However, most automaker dealerships offer separate packages to include these types of services under warranty.
  • Abnormal Use: Damage caused by aftermarket parts or towing past the vehicle’s limits will not be covered. In addition, damages resulting from off-road driving or racing will not be covered. Any non-standard use of your vehicle may void your warranty.
  • Accidents, Theft, and Acts of Nature: A car warranty is not an insurance policy, so damages related to a collision, theft, or weather will not be covered. 
  • Cosmetic Damage: Interior wear and tear, such as chipped plastic and tears in your seats, are not covered under warranty.
  • Exterior Damage: Items such as paint marks or scratches on your bumper are not normally covered, but a corrosion warranty may give you some exterior protection.

However, an extended car warranty may not have these exclusions and may include coverage beyond major vehicle systems. Other specialty warranties may cover corrosion issues and emissions system damages.

Types Of Car Warranty Coverage

It’s important to understand the types of car warranty coverage available for both new and used cars, as exclusions and benefits vary. We’ll break down car warranty types and terms below so you can compare coverage.

Bumper-to-Bumper Car Warranty

A bumper-to-bumper car warranty provides the most comprehensive coverage for your car. This coverage includes protection for major parts essential to driving, as well as additional items like air conditioning and power steering. This type of warranty is exclusionary meaning any part not listed as excluded in your contract is covered. 

Standard bumper-to-bumper warranties typically last around 3 years/36,000 miles. However, some companies offer plans for up to 5 years/60,000 miles.

A bumper-to-bumper warranty typically covers the following:

  • Powertrain
  • Electronic systems
  • Suspension
  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Specified emissions parts
  • Safety equipment
  • Steering

Powertrain Car Warranty

Under this warranty coverage, only the vehicle’s powertrain is protected. Parts included in your vehicle’s powertrain warranty are as follows:

  • Engine and its internal components
  • Transmission
  • Axels
  • Driveshafts
  • Transfer case
  • Differentials

A powertrain warranty is the longest-lasting plan offered by manufacturers and can commonly last anywhere from 5 years/60,000 miles to 10 years/100,000 miles. However, there are longer coverage terms available through third-party providers.

Bumper-to-Bumper Vs. Powertrain Coverage

See the infographic below for a direct comparison between bumper-to-bumper protection and powertrain warranty coverage.

Tables showcasing the differences between powertrain warranties and bumper-to-bumper warranties, and what makes them different.

There are “powertrain-plus” plans that combine the critical components of powertrain coverage with a few extra protections typically found only in bumper-to-bumper warranties. You’ll get more protection than what’s provided in a powertrain plan but at a cheaper price than exclusionary coverage.

Factory Car Warranty

There are two main types of manufacturer warranty coverage: a new vehicle limited warranty that’s included with every new car and a factory extended warranty that provides coverage after the original warranty expires. Each tends to include both powertrain and bumper-to-bumper coverage for your vehicle.

On average, coverage on a new car is 3 years/36,000 miles for the bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5 years/60,000 miles for the powertrain warranty. If you’re interested in avoiding hefty repair costs once these warranty periods run out, it’s worth considering a factory or third-party extended warranty.

Factory extended warranty coverage from automakers like Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Honda, Toyota, or Nissan is best for car owners who:

  • Own high-tech, luxury vehicles with intricate systems
  • Don’t mind taking their vehicles to car dealerships for repairs
  • Can afford relatively pricey coverage plans
  • Want factory-trained technicians who use genuine automaker replacement parts

Manufacturer warranty plans often offer less coverage than at higher rates than third-party options, but they do offer service under a solid brand name. If you’d prefer cheaper and potentially more expansive coverage, compare free quotes from several reputable extended car warranty companies.

Drivetrain Car Warranty

Rarely, you’ll run into options for drivetrain warranties. These plans are the most basic available, only protecting your transmission, axles, and other drivetrain components. Since drivetrain coverage excludes a car’s engine, we don’t recommend it except possibly as an extended warranty for cars over 100,000 miles.

Emissions Car Warranty

Emissions warranties cover repairs for major vehicle equipment most likely to cause your car to fail state emission testing. 

Most plans last 2 years/24,000 miles for parts such as exhaust pipes, but some parts like the catalytic converter may be covered longer. Terms are also longer in California, as the state has stricter requirements than federal minimums.

Corrosion Car Warranty

With this warranty, you are covered for corrosion or rust damages caused by moisture and salt in the air. This type of coverage usually is provided under a new car manufacturer warranty but can also be purchased as a separate plan for used vehicles.

How Does An Extended Auto Warranty Work?

An extended warranty lengthens factory warranty coverage to cover major systems if your car has a mechanical breakdown due to faulty workmanship or defective parts. Premium extended vehicle protection plans can also pay for other items such as towing, and can include some wear-and-tear items. Both automakers and third-party providers offer extended warranty coverage but plans differ in some key ways.

Third-Party Extended Warranties Vs. Manufacturer Extended Warranties

Both factory and third-party warranty options exclude normal wear and tear, environmental damages, and vandalism. Seat belts are generally included in a separate factory warranty plan, as are emissions and corrosion warranties. 

A third-party warranty holds many benefits over a factory warranty, such as:

  • Cheaper and more negotiable pricing
  • Usually more comprehensive coverage
  • Wider array of coverage options 
  • Flexibility on where car repairs are done
  • Your choice of deductible

However, if you’re most concerned about repairs being made with original equipment manufacturer parts instead of aftermarket parts, you may prefer a manufacturer-backed extended warranty.

What Extra Benefits Does A Car Warranty Cover?

Factory and third-party warranty plans often include perks that can add peace of mind on the road. The following are some relatively common types of benefits:

  • Roadside assistance: Towing, winching, lockout services, and battery jump-starts are all usually included in warranty roadside assistance plans.
  • Trip interruption benefits: If your car breaks down more than a certain distance from home, trip interruption benefits cover meals and lodging up to a certain amount of money and number of days.
  • Rental car reimbursement: When your car is in the repair shop for a covered repair, your warranty may cover some of your rental car or public transportation costs.

While both factory and third-party plans usually come with these benefits, coverage is often more comprehensive and long-lasting through a third-party provider. Some other benefits you may find include concierge services, key fob repair and replacement, and total loss protection (which helps pay for a new car after an accident).  

Auto Warranty Coverage: Our Take

There are a variety of car warranty plans available and each differs in the coverage offered. Full coverage extended warranty plans come at premium prices and often last a shorter time, while powertrain warranties are cheaper and last longer. The best choice for your vehicle depends on your personal financial situation, so we recommend comparing multiple options before deciding.

Our Recommendations For An Extended Car Warranty

After exploring what a car warranty covers, you’re likely looking for the provider with the best coverage. After extensive research, we’ve determined that you’ll find exceptional service and affordable premiums through Endurance, Carchex, and CarShield.

Endurance: Best Plan Offerings

In our review of the top third-party warranty providers, we selected Endurance for Best Plan Offerings. With positive reviews from industry experts and customers alike–along with six coverage levels–this provider sits at the top of the list. 

Endurance is unique because it both sells and administers its warranty plans instead of using a third-party administrator. It also offers one year of free Endurance Elite benefits that provide 24/7 roadside assistance, key fob replacement, tire repairs, a collision discount, and total loss protection.

Here’s a breakdown of how Endurance scored in our provider ratings:

Review CategoryRatings Score
Customer Experience4.0
Overall Rating4.5

Carchex: High Mileage Limits 

Carchex earned the superlative of having the best High Mileage Limits in our industry-wide review thanks to its five protection plans that cover vehicles up to 20 years old. This provider also has an excellent industry reputation thanks to its partnerships with Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and Carfax.

You’ll find standard perks with Carchex that include roadside assistance and rental car reimbursement. In addition, it offers extended warranty coverage in California, which not all providers in our review currently offer.

See how Carchex performed in our comprehensive review below:

Review CategoryRatings Score
Customer Experience3.5
Overall Rating4.4

CarShield: Month-To-Month Contracts

CarShield was the most popular provider in our 2022 warranty survey, with 56 percent of participants who purchased an extended warranty buying it from this provider. You’ll find six plans from CarShield, including with one that’s intended for motorcycles and ATVs. It also offers perks such as roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement, and trip interruption benefits.

We appreciate how CarShield plans offer a wide range of deductibles and month-to-month contracts that keep you from being locked into a long-term plan. For this reason, we gave this provider the superlative of best Month-to-Month Contracts in our review.

Below is an overview of how CarShield performed in our provider scoring:

Review CategoryRatings Score
Customer Experience4.0
Overall Rating4.3

Car Warranty Coverage: FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about car warranties: 

How does a warranty work on a car?

A new car warranty comes with your vehicle and covers defects in materials or workmanship. An extended warranty keeps your car systems protected after your original factory warranty expires.

What does a warranty cover?

What a car warranty covers depends on the level of coverage you purchase. Bumper-to-bumper warranty plans typically cover almost every component in your car, while powertrain plans cover only your vehicle’s most essential parts.

What does a bumper-to-bumper warranty cover?

A bumper-to-bumper warranty covers critical powertrain components such as your engine, transmission, and driveshaft, along with extras including air conditioning, infotainment and GPS systems, and electrical parts.

How do I know what a car warranty covers?

After purchasing a new car or an extended warranty, you’ll get a copy of your warranty contract. This document should list exactly which parts your car warranty covers, but make sure to read the fine print. It’s important to keep this document safe so that you’ll have your policy number handy if you have to file a claim.

Does a car warranty cover the windshield?

Most vehicle service contracts and factory warranties do not cover windshield damage. To get coverage you will likely need to purchase a separate product protection plan.

Does a car warranty cover a battery?

Car batteries are not covered under most warranties since it is considered a wear and tear item, but separate warranties can be purchased to replace or repair your battery if it fails.

How We Rate Warranty Providers

Our review process aims to deliver consistent and unbiased assessments of extended auto warranty providers. While there are multiple qualities that make a warranty company successful, our review team focuses on those we believe are the most important for consumers:

  • Reputation: It’s important that an extended car warranty company is able to meet its claims obligations. Companies with a strong rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and a long history of reliable service score well in this category. We also evaluate the availability and transparency of each company’s contracts, as well as whether each provider offers a money-back guarantee.
  • Coverage: Our team of experts looks at the number of extended warranty plans available, as well as term limits, exclusions, and added benefits like roadside assistance. Ratings also take into account the availability of maintenance coverage.
  • Price: Cost can be difficult to compare between providers because so many factors impact vehicle service contract pricing. To determine our cost score, we perform a secret shopper analysis for a variety of vehicles and plans and consider available deductibles.
  • Customer Experience: We listen to real customer sales calls and comb through reviews on sites like the BBB to learn about customer experiences. Warranty companies with a low volume of complaints score well in this area. We also consider the availability of mobile apps and chat features.

*Data accurate at time of publication.

View Pricing from our #1 Provider – Endurance