Car warranty: protection against expensive repairs

Could you live without your car? If the thought turns you cold, you’ll probably welcome a car warranty because let’s face it, car repairs are expensive.

Car warranties offer a way to get mechanical and electrical faults corrected with someone else picking up the tab. Here we explain the ins and outs of warranties for new, and not so new, cars.

Mechanic working underneath a vehicle performing a service

What is a car warranty?

All new cars come with a manufacturer’s car warranty, that covers you for some of the things that your car insurance doesn't.

A car warranty kicks in if your car is off the road due to an electrical or mechanical fault. If it wasn't caused by an accident, the repair or replacement costs will be normally be covered by your car warranty.

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How does car warranty work?

A car warranty runs for a set number of years, typically 3 or 5 years or up to 100,000 miles. Some manufacturers are more generous, but all will differ in what’s included or excluded.

If your car breaks down or develops a fault, you contact the warranty provider and explain the problem. Providing it’s a legitimate problem, they’ll give you the green light to get your car fixed at a reputable garage, often the manufacturers own.

New-car warranties usually last 3 to 5 years. They can sometimes be extended if your car’s serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

What does a car warranty cover?

A car warranty will cover your car for mechanical failures, such as faults to the transmission, the engine, air conditioning, suspension and the electrics.

Many manufacturers will also cover components such as onboard entertainment systems. But you might find there’s a limit on how much the provider will pay towards replacements or repairs.

As warranty terms and conditions can vary, it’s important to check the details so you know where you stand. While your car may come with a 5 year or 100,000-mile warranty, certain repairs might be limited, or even excluded.

For example, your battery may have just 1 or 2 years of cover, if any at all.

What isn’t included in a car warranty?

No car warranty gives complete cover for a car. Certain elements are almost always excluded, normally parts that wear out, such as brake pads and windscreen wipers.

Components that are more likely to be accidentally damaged, such as windscreens, tyres and the bodywork, are also not usually included.

Even mechanical and electrical failure or damage may be excluded in some cases. Problems that occur due to vandalism or driver error, for example, aren’t usually covered. That said, you might be able to add some additional level of cover for an extra cost if there’s something you’d like protection for.

Which car manufacturer has the best warranty?

Car manufacturers differ in their generosity when it comes to warranties. Some offer more than the usual 3 or 5 years of protection, and likewise longer mileage.

A search around the market for car warranties reveals a few standouts, each offering long warranties on all their models:

Lexus and Toyota

Toyota cars, including Lexus models, automatically come with a 3-year warranty. This manufacturer makes the list because the warranty can be extended by 12-months after every annual service, up to 10-years or 100,000 miles.

Kia

Kia began offering a seven-year warranty on certain models back in 2006, but extended it to the full range in 2019.

Cover applies to most of the car’s components for unlimited mileage up to 36 months, and for 100,000 miles over 7 years.

SsangYong

The SsangYong seven-year warranty comes with a 150,000-mileage limit on petrol and diesel models, outgunning Kia, and also up to 90,000 on their electric vehicles.

MG

While MG doesn’t offer a seven-year warranty on all of its models, it does with both the MG3 and the MG ZS EV electric among others.

How long does a car warranty last?

Car warranties typically last for a specific number of years or until your car has driven a maximum number of miles. In most cases, the range is from 3 to 5 years, or between 60,000 and 100,000 miles.

Certain manufacturers offer better deals, such as for 7 years. But these warranties may well come with certain provisos, such as you’d need to get the car serviced every year or 2, depending on the model.

Services and repairs normally need to be undertaken by an authorised garage, and the longer, better warranty term won't extent to all parts. Some elements of cover may be limited to just 1 or 2 years.

Can I buy my own car warranty?

Although all new cars come with a warranty, sooner or later this contract will expire. The good news is that at this point you can continue to benefit by buying your own warranty.

Extended or aftermarket warranties continue to provide many of the key benefits of your initial car warranty. But the range of cover on offer varies, so you should read the terms and conditions.

Look for what's included, and for how long, as certain benefits may be covered for fewer than the headline number of years or mileage. Keep an eye out for excesses too, as some may be so steep that it’s not worth claiming.

Where can I get a car warranty?

There are 2 main ways to get your own car warranty, through the manufacturer or via a third party.

Here’s what you need to know about both options:

Manufacturer extended warranties

You may be contacted by the manufacturer or dealer to see whether you’d like to buy an extended warranty when your current one ends. This option normally extends the period of your cover by up to 5 years, depending on how much you’re willing to pay.

A good warranty may cover you for more wear and tear than is usual with the initial new-car warranty. This is a big plus considering wear and tear will become more of an issue as your car ages.

Third party warranties

Things can be little trickier when it comes to buying a car warranty from a third party.

As you’d not be buying from the manufacturer or the dealer, the new warranty is unlikely to be an extension of your old one.

This is because your old warranty would have been built around your specific model, whereas a third-party warranty will be designed to suit all models.

Buying from a third party can be a good idea, and plenty of decent, well-respected companies sell vehicle warranties. But read the T&Cs thoroughly so you know exactly what’s covered and the limitations and exclusions that apply.

How much does car warranty cost?

Car warranties vary in price. You can expect to pay more for a warranty from your manufacturer or dealer, as this will be comprehensive and is an extension of your initial contract.

Third party warranties are designed to be relevant to a wide range of cars. They are more basic and include more exclusions and shorter cover periods for individual components or mechanical failures. This means they’re usually cheaper.

What you’ll pay depends on the age, condition, value, make and mileage of your car. Less common and more expensive models typically cost more to repair, meaning the warranty cost will be higher.

Can I get a warranty for a used car?

Warranties are available for used cars. In fact, if you’re buying a relatively new second-hand car you could find you’re covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

This is because manufacturer warranties are almost always transferable. For example, if you buy a Kia that’s 5 years old and has done less than 100,000 miles, the manufacturer’s warranty would still have 2 years to run.

Of course, you should contact the dealer or manufacturer behind the warranty to ensure the warranty’s transferred to you and all paperwork's in your name.

If you've got an older car, your best bet could be a third-party warranty provider. These'll typically cover cars up to 8 or 10 years old and with up to 80,000 to 120,000 miles on the clock.

More comprehensive warranties and those covering older or higher mileage vehicles tend to cost more to protect due to the greater likelihood of a claim.

What does used car warranty cover?

You can expect a wide range of mechanical and electrical faults to be covered. More comprehensive options also protect components such as key fobs, in-car entertainment, and even wear and tear.

Many used car warranty providers sell more than one level of cover, so check what’s included or not before making a purchase.

As with manufacturer warranties, used car warranties also typically provide cover for driving in Europe, diagnostic testing and vehicle recovery and delivery services.