As humans, we crave security - from burglars and thieves, from the weather, from other bad drivers, and from all else that's unpleasant and unexpected. It's why we buy life insurance for our families and keep umbrellas in our car. Security brings us peace of mind we may not otherwise have.
That peace of mind is a big reason people spring for an extended car warranty when they go car shopping. Extended warranties are exactly what they sound like - an extension of the factory warranty that comes standard with every new car sold today. For a single one-time fee, you can extend your coverage for a few years beyond when the normal auto warranty expires.
It's a tempting offer, one that looks even better when the cost of it gets when rolled into a monthly payment. For a few dollars more a month, why shouldn't a car buyer splurge on it? But there's more to it than that. Many buyers of these warranties eventually realize they spent more on the warranty than they got out of it.
You'll want all the facts before you make any decisions about getting an extended warranty. To help, we've gathered up the facts you'll need to know before deciding to buy an extended car warranty.
The premise is simple. You'll pay upfront for the warranty, and if anything happens to the car during the period of coverage, the warranty provider should pay all costs less any deductible.
That's the idea of it, at least. In reality, the warranty provider may not cover every sort of unexpected repair your car might need. They also might reduce coverage for certain repairs as the car continues to depreciate or as mileage accumulates. Each extended warranty is different in this regard, so you'll need to carefully read the fine print. The last thing you want is to get in a dispute with the provider over who is paying to fix your car when it's down and out on the side of the road.
Most manufacturers offer bumper-to-bumper warranties for three years or 36,000 miles, though this may vary. Powertrain warranties also vary but are typically good for five years or 60,000 miles. Hyundai and Kia notably offer 10 years or 100,000 miles on their powertrains, which is the best in the business.
Extended warranties kick in once the factory warranty expires. They also make distinctions between bumper-to-bumper and powertrain coverage, but they may not be as comprehensive as the factory warranty. The provider should be a list of inclusionary and exclusionary items that spells out what is and isn't covered by these warranties. Consider it a must-read before buying any warranty.
Again, we can't stress enough the importance of reading the fine print that comes along with any extended warranty, so you can know exactly what constitutes a covered repair should your car break down.
Used cars do not come with a warranty unless you are purchasing a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. Therefore, an extended warranty can provide necessary protection against costly repairs. Extended warranties can even be found on high-mileage vehicles with 100,000 miles or more. However, cars older than 10 years old or those that have over 200,000 miles may not qualify.
When you're purchasing a new or used vehicle from the dealership, the salesman will likely offer you an extended warranty. If you choose to buy it, the price of the service contract will be bundled into the financed amount of your auto loan. You can also make a larger down payment or opt to pay annually. This is convenient, but it will also cost you: a larger amount will need to be financed, which in turn results in paying more interest over the life of the loan.
As for a dollar value, expect to shell out between $1,000 and $3,000 for an extended warranty plan. The exact pricing depends on factors including the level of coverage and the amount of your deductible, as well as the age, make, and model of your car.
Popular third-party warranty companies include Carchex, CarShield, and Endurance. AAA also offers a limited extended warranty that goes beyond their usual roadside assistance services like tire changes, towing services, and battery jumps. The national used-car dealer Carmax offers a generous extended warranty covering the cars they sell. (Check out our guide that details the CarMax extended warranty.)
To fit your budget and needs, extended warranty providers often offer various coverage plan options so you can get just the right amount of protection. They may also come with perks like towing, rental car reimbursement, and even roadside assistance. The better providers will let you choose your repair shop as well.
Similar to car insurance, an extended warranty is there when you need it but invisible otherwise.
Even if you do need to use the warranty, you'll still have to pay a deductible, tempering potential savings. And sometimes coverage might not extend to certain items. If one of these exclusionary parts fails, you'll be on your own to pay for these often expensive repairs.
Not all extended warranty protection plans are transferable, either. This means that if you choose to sell your car or gift it to a family member, the new owner may not enjoy the benefit of warranty coverage. This could be important if you were planning on giving your car to your children or selling it to a friend.
You also may not be able to transfer a warranty to a new car should you choose to replace your current one. If you aren't planning on keeping your car for the long haul, an extended warranty might not be the best option.
Rather than an extended warranty, you can allay your fears of future car trouble by buying a car with a proven track record of reliability. Finding that data isn't hard to do: with a bit of searching you can quickly learn what are some of the most reliable cars on the market. Consumer Reports, for instance, is famous for their comprehensive reliability data of all cars, trucks, and SUVs on the market. iSeeCars has also conducted numerous studies concerning the most reliable and longest-lasting cars and trucks. You can find those studies and others here.
If you’re in the market for a car, you can search over 4 million new and used cars with iSeeCars’ award-winning car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report.