How Do Car Warranties Work? Learn Before You Buy!

Woman-using-computer-searching-for-clients-online-dataWhen you buy a new (or used) car, you'll hear some details about warranties. What are they exactly? In a nutshell, it's the dealership's short term promise to fix or replace certain parts in your car. They come in handy for huge repairs that would otherwise cost you an arm and a leg. But how exactly do car warranties work?

Let's pretend something happens to the car you just bought. With a warranty, you can take your car to a licensed auto shop to get it fixed. As long as the repair is covered under the warranty, you won't have to worry about paying anything because the warranty will cover it. However, warranties only last a certain length of time or miles traveled.

The specifics of a warranty vary by dealer or manufacturer. But today, we'll be going over how common warranties work. Keep reading for an in-depth guide on car warranties.

What is Covered Under a Car Warranty?

Generally, all of the basics in the car are covered under the warranty. That includes things like the air conditioning system, the dashboard, and mechanical and/or electrical faults. Many car brands nowadays include roadside assistance for breakdowns in the warranty.

Additionally, you get powertrain coverage. According to CBS News, federal law mandates a minimum coverage length of eight years/80,000 miles for components of the emission system. This means your dealership is legally obligated to repair these parts during this period.

What's Not Covered Under a Car Warranty?

Most of the following items aren't covered in the warranty:

  • Routine maintenance: oil changes, tire rotations, and fluids
  • Wear and tear: warranties won't cover the cost of replacing brakes, windshield wipers, headlights, etc
  • Exterior and interior damage: scratches or tears
  • Accidents
  • Environmental damage: hail, ice, and debris from tornadoes

How Long Is A Car Under Warranty?

According to Carchex, here are the durations of basic warranties by these mainstream auto manufacturers:

  • BMW, Lexus, Volvo, and Mercedes: 4 years or 50,000 miles
  • Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan, and Ford: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Kia: 5 years or 60,000 miles

You are more than welcome to extend the warranty once it expires. It can be with the dealership or with a third party. What they cover depends on who you purchase the extended warranty from. More on this to follow later.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Car Warranty Refund?

Let's say something happens and you need to get your money back for your warranty purchase. You'll qualify for one if you meet one of the following common qualifications:

  • Your car, while still under warranty, is considered totaled or stolen by your insurance company
  • You bought an extended warranty no more than six years ago and haven't gone over the mileage limit
  • The car was sold or traded in and the warranty wasn't transferred

If you do qualify, the length of time it takes to get your refund depends on the warranty company. It will take a long time regardless. Usually, it would take from four to six weeks, but it can even take over three months. If you bought a warranty from a third party, they'll probably stall the process on purpose.

There isn't much for you to do on your end. All you have to do is provide your basic information, an odometer statement, and proof of your warranty coverage. Unfortunately, there isn't much more you can do beyond that to accelerate the process.

Can You Take A Car Under Warranty To Any Dealership?

Man discussing his vehicle warranty in a dealership

In some cases, the place you acquired your warranty may be a little inconvenient to access. It may be easier to go somewhere else to get warranty work done. And that is perfectly fine.

You don't even have to worry about your warranty being voided for repairs or maintenance at other dealerships. However, depending on your warranty, you may only be allowed to use a select group of auto facilities to have it covered. Going somewhere outside of that selection may result in you needing to pay out of pocket. The only exception to this is if you or a mechanic improperly try to repair something; the dealer doesn't have to act under the warranty in this case.

So long as you're meeting your warranty's guidelines, where you go doesn't matter. At the end of the day, your car is getting fixed or serviced and the dealers are getting their money. The mechanics are definitely getting their money, too.

No matter where you go, an intelligent dealer will do what they can to get your 100% satisfaction; they want you to keep coming back again and again. Of course, that doesn't mean they'll try to make a quick buck off of you. Their business has a status and reputation to uphold. A good dealer will give you your money's (or warranty's) worth regardless of which one it may be. Just make sure to read the guidelines of your warranty so you're fully certain everything will go smoothly.

Are Used Car Warranties Worth It?

In some situations with a used car, purchasing a warranty may not be ideal. Sometimes purchasing a warranty will end up costing you more in the long run than it would to pay for repairs yourself.

For example, it definitely won't make sense to get one if the manufacturer's warranty is still valid on the vehicle. Then you'd unnecessarily own two warranties when you only need one. Check to see if the manufacturer's warranty is still in effect. If so, wait until it's close to expiring to consider getting an extended one.

Another example is if you don't plan on owning the car for long. If it's being leased or you plan to sell it, consider whether or not you'll have it long enough to justify getting a warranty.

Two ways to help you decide on whether you should or shouldn't get a warranty depends on the reliability of two factors: the used car and the place or person you're buying the warranty from.

When researching a used car to buy, its reliability is something you must look into. If the car has great reviews from official review sites and other drivers and doesn't have hardly any reports on mechanical flaws, getting a warranty wouldn't be a good idea.

On the other hand, if you do see some negative feedback on the car, then you may want to consider it. Avoiding the risk of a huge repair bill is another consideration. Just make sure the warranty covers everything so you won't be denied a claim.

You also need to background check the warranty seller, not just the car. Many warranty companies, like CarShield, are well known and have a large reputation to uphold. Getting a warranty from companies like this should be no issue. Lesser-known warranty companies need to be well researched; they may not be as cooperative when dealing with a claim.

Is There A Difference Between A Warranty And Car Insurance?

Before you even consider getting a warranty, please understand that it's not the same as getting insurance. It's not a substitute for insurance either.  The difference between the two lies within what they cover.

Yes, insurance is there to cover damages from a collision. It also covers you for liability, medical expenses in the event of injury, and repairs due to damage from non-collision events.

Warranties, on the other hand, are meant to cover the car's system: the electrical system, A/C, the engine, etc. It saves you from having to fork out a huge bill to fix a malfunctioning piece in your car.

One thing the two have in common is that you'll likely get roadside assistance. That will be available to you 24/7 whenever you need it. The details of the roadside assistance vary by company, so make sure you know all the information.


To wrap up, car warranties can be your saving grace in the event of a mechanical failure. Just be sure to look over all the details of your agreement. You don't want to overlook a crucial detail that may cause you to have to pay a deductible on.

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