BUYER’S GUIDE: New Car Warranties

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One of the best parts of buying a new car is not having to worry about it breaking down. Spending too much on repairs for an old car is often what gets a person to consider buying a new one in the first place.

Despite being shiny and new, there’s still a chance that something could go wrong. That’s when your new car warranty comes into play. A good warranty can save you money down the line so it’s best to understand what’s offered on your car before you buy.

A car warranty is a little like an insurance policy right from the automaker. It will cover certain repairs on your vehicle for a certain period of time, but it doesn’t cover everything. Even if it says bumper to bumper, there are still things that you have to pay for on your own.

Warranty information will be listed with a number of months and miles. A 36,000-mile/3-year warranty covers you for either 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you manage to put 50,000 miles on your car in the first year, then that warranty is over even though you haven’t hit the three-year mark yet.

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This is also sometimes called a Basic Warranty, and it covers the repair or replacement of component parts. This includes things like your air conditioning, infotainment system, electrical components and all those fancy new safety system components. It does not, however, include regular maintenance.

If your tires wear out or even if you run over a nail on your way out of the dealership and have a flat by the time you pull into your driveway, then this warranty won’t help cover the cost of the repair. It is supposed to cover things that really shouldn’t break on a new car, not normal wear and tear or regular maintenance.

It’s a good idea to have a maintenance check done on your car before the bumper-to-bumper warranty expires in case there’s a covered repair that needs to be done. You don’t want to walk in a month after it expires and be stuck with a repair bill you could have avoided.

Powertrain Warranty

This one can be just as confusing as the bumper-to-bumper and not really cover as much of your car as you think. The powertrain is the engine and the transmission along with the moving parts that connect to your wheels. Depending on the automaker, it may include a little more than that, so look carefully at your car’s warranty to get the specifics.

What it doesn’t cover is, once again, scheduled maintenance or normal wear and tear. An oil change and tune-ups might be important for keeping your engine running smoothly, but they aren’t covered under warranty.

You have to maintain your car. If something goes wrong through neglect, then you’ll be on the hook for the repair bill. The powertrain warranty only covers you if something goes wrong through a failure for things to perform as intended.

Roadside Assistance

This is something that varies widely depending on the automaker with some offering nothing at all. When the coverage is offered, it can include a wide range of possible issues you might have while you’re on the road.

If you get a flat tire, run out of gas, lock yourself out of your car, or need a jump-start or a tow, then roadside assistance can help. If your car breaks down and you have to stay overnight in a hotel, they don’t usually cover the hotel cost, but roadside assistance coverage can at least get you help and get your car towed to someplace where it can be repaired.

Looking for a new or used car? Check out BestRide’s listing search here.

Rust Perforation

There was a time when it was very common to see rust perforation on a car. Today’s cars have rustproofing that make this very unlikely, which is why automakers offer warranties on rust perforation.

Understand that this is not a warranty against any rust whatsoever appearing on your car. Perforation means a body panel has rusted entirely through. If your car gets a scratch or dent and that rusts, then it’s called surface corrosion and it is not covered.

Rocks, hail, and acid rain can all leave your car open to rust. So can the dents and dings from fender benders, shopping carts, and car doors. Make sue you take care of these issues sooner rather than later so they don’t show signs of rust. If you don’t, your rust perforation warranty isn’t going to help.

Oil Change.


Sometimes a conventional car battery is covered as a part of the bumper-to-bumper warranty. Other times it gets its own warranty for several years. These warranties won’t just replace the battery free and clear, but are instead pro-rated.

If you have a two-year-old battery that was warrantied to last for three years, they’re only going to compensate you for a year of lost battery life. The closer you are to the end of the warranty period, the more you’re going to pay to replace it.

Hybrid batteries are their own special case. These are much more expensive to replace than conventional batteries and they have longer warranty periods. Some automakers even offer lifetime battery warranties, which will save you a painful repair bill if something does go wrong with your hybrid battery.

Emissions Control Warranties

The government requires emission control components on every car. Automakers warranty these components and will cover the cost of repairing or replacing them should they fail.

You might not know this system is failing to perform correctly until you have your car inspected and it’s put through an emissions test. If your car fails the test during the warranty period, they’ll make the fix.

California has particularly strict emissions standards. Your car might pass in another state, but not pass in California. The warranty to meet these standards is often different than it is for meeting standards in the rest of the country. Be sure you look at this carefully if you happen to live in the Golden State.

Extended Warranties

Extended warranties aren’t automatically included when you purchase your car. These are available at an extra cost at the time you buy your car and cover varying periods of time beyond the original warranties.

These warranties aren’t cheap and can cost thousands of dollars, which adds a big chunk to the cost of your new car. You still won’t get coverage for wear and tear or for maintenance so that cost won’t go away. If you aren’t planning on keeping your car for long, these don’t make much sense since the car could be sold before they even kick in. They can, however, offer peace of mind as your car gets older.

Check out our Extended Warranty Buyer’s Guide to learn more about these types of warranties so you know if they’re right for you.