How do you get your car warranty claim approved?

Learn 10 steps you can take to maximize your chances

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Audi, Endurance Auto Warranty and Toyota
lady talking to rep about filing a car warranty claim

Once you learn the basics of how an extended auto warranty works, your next question might be, “How do I get my warranty claim approved?”

To find out, we spoke to several extended auto warranty providers to learn what steps you should take to file a claim and what you can do to maximize your odds. You might even be able to expedite your repairs, save money and make the whole process less stressful.

Key insights

  • Before you even need repairs, you can help yourself out by keeping up with routine maintenance, understanding your coverage and staying current on monthly payments (if applicable).
  • Once you do need repairs, it’s best to call your warranty provider right away. It can connect you with roadside assistance, find a nearby provider that accepts your coverage and more.
  • If you’re unhappy with your claim’s outcome, you can usually file an appeal.

How to get your warranty claim approved

The key to successfully making an extended warranty claim is holding up your end of the warranty agreement.

That means there are preventive measures you need to take before you ever submit a claim, and once you have a breakdown, there are a few key steps to follow to help ensure that your claim goes through without a hitch.

What to do before you need repairs

Keep up with routine maintenance.
One of the major stipulations of any extended auto warranty is that you have to keep up with regular maintenance — things like oil changes and filter changes.

Most providers will say you have to follow the manufacturer’s routine maintenance schedule listed in your owner’s manual. Toyota , for example, recommends a synthetic oil change every 12 months/10,000 miles and engine air filter changes every 36 months/30,000 miles.

You’ll also need to keep your receipts. If you have engine trouble down the road, your warranty provider may ask for proof that you’ve been keeping up with maintenance before approving any repairs.

Know what your plan does (and doesn’t) cover.
Even the most robust bumper-to-bumper warranty won’t cover maintenance, wear-and-tear parts designed to be replaced (like brake rotors) or anything listed under “exclusions” in your contract.

Most plans also won’t cover any repairs needed due to neglect, abuse, misuse (like racing or off-roading) or any form of damage. Remember that warranties only cover factory defects — parts that fail entirely on their own.

“Read every last little bit of the policy before signing,” wrote Michael in Virginia . “I was denied a $10,000 repair because I didn't pay a $250 ‘modification’ fee up front because my tires were 1/2 inch larger than stock. No one discussed this with me when I signed up. Now I am having to pay out of pocket $10,000 for a new transmission and oil cooler when I thought I had a warranty.”

» MORE: What does a car warranty cover?

Know your waiting period.
With few exceptions ( olive being one of them), most warranty contracts have a waiting period of up to 60 days and 1,500 miles before coverage activates. Even if you’ve already paid for the warranty, any claims filed during this waiting period will automatically be denied.

So, if you recently purchased an extended auto warranty or plan to in the near future, check your provider’s mandatory waiting period so you know when your coverage actually starts.

Stay current on monthly payments.
Some extended auto warranty providers allow you to pay month to month for as long as you want coverage. (As soon as you don’t want coverage anymore, you can simply stop paying and request a cancellation of your policy.)

Just keep in mind that these plans will only remain active for as long as you’re making payments. That’s one reason why taking advantage of automatic payments might be a good idea.

Consider a pre-purchase inspection.
One of the most common reasons repair claims are denied is because they’re associated with preexisting conditions. In other words, if the warranty provider thinks a part failure traces back to the car’s condition before your waiting period expired, it’ll likely deny your claim.

Let’s say you file a warranty claim for an engine replacement within 30 days of your waiting period expiring. Most providers will find that suspicious and pay careful attention to your diagnosis. If the shop then finds that the engine failed because your aging radiator has been leaking coolant for a while, your provider will likely deny your claim because your contract doesn’t cover preexisting conditions.

That’s why it’s often a good idea to order a pre-purchase inspection when you get an extended auto warranty. The inspection report will show what was (and wasn’t) a preexisting condition, and it may improve your case if there’s a debate about a problem being due to a preexisting condition. In the example above, if you have a record showing that your radiator and engine were fine when your waiting period expired, your warranty may end up covering both repairs.

» MORE: When should you get a pre-purchase inspection?

What to do once you need repairs

Call your warranty provider.
As soon as your car breaks down — or you suspect a part is failing — it’s best to call your warranty provider right away. Someone from your provider’s customer service team can provide you with further instructions, and they might even help you with the next few steps on your list by pre-authorizing your benefits, connecting you with roadside assistance (which is included in most plans) and suggesting a local shop for repairs.

Basically, following your warranty provider’s instructions from the get-go is a good way to improve the chances of having your claim approved.

Find the right shop for repairs.
If you have a manufacturer-backed extended auto warranty, such as Toyota Extra Care or Audi Pure Protection , you’ll generally be required to take your car to the nearest authorized dealer for repairs.

“We will deny the claim if you don’t go to a Mopar dealership,” a Mopar representative once told us. (Mopar is the official parts and extended warranty supplier for Chrysler , Dodge , Jeep , Ram , FIAT and Alfa Romeo vehicles.)

» MORE: What to know about manufacturers’ extended warranties

If you have a third-party extended warranty from a company like Endurance , you’ll typically be allowed to take your car to any ASE-certified technician for warranty work. However, not all independent shops like working with warranty companies, and sometimes the added layer of communication can lead to longer repair times.

That’s why you may have a better overall experience if you call your warranty provider ahead of time and ask for shop recommendations. “We have a customer service claims department that can help you look up a shop and find one that won’t give you any issues,” a rep from Endurance told us.

» MORE: Where can you use an extended auto warranty?

Pre-authorize your benefits.
The additional benefits that come with most warranties (towing, roadside assistance, rental car reimbursements) usually need to be pre-authorized. That means you need to let your warranty company know you’re going to use them beforehand so the warranty company can add the expense to your overall claim.

You can get your towing and roadside assistance pre-authorized by calling your provider’s customer service number or dedicated roadside assistance number (if it has one).

As for rental car or travel expense reimbursements, you typically need to tell your mechanic you intend to use these benefits so they can add them to the claim for you. But, according to the Endurance rep we spoke with, it doesn’t hurt to follow up with your warranty provider to make sure your benefits were submitted. “They may not submit your rental request until they have the diagnosis, and sometimes they forget,” the rep said.

Get a tow.
The rep from Endurance also told us that “the best way to get approved is to make sure you get that vehicle towed in.” If you get a check engine light or start hearing or smelling something out of the ordinary, it’s best to pull over right away and call for a free tow. Ignoring these common warning signs could lead to small problems becoming big problems in just a few hundred yards. And your claim may be denied on the basis that you didn’t pull over soon enough.

While stopping and waiting 45 minutes for a tow truck is inconvenient, it’s still more convenient than dealing with catastrophic transmission damage .

Don’t let the shop overcharge you.
Another advantage of using a provider-approved shop is that it’s less likely to try pulling a fast one on you when you come to pick up your car.

In an ideal scenario, the shop sends a diagnosis to your warranty provider; your warranty provider then pays for all covered repairs, and when you pick up your car, you’re only billed for your warranty deductible and not a penny more.

But, according to multiple warranty providers we spoke with, what often happens is that the shop feels it didn’t get paid enough by the warranty company, and it tries passing that cost along to the customer. The shop might say, “Your warranty only covered $1,000 but this is a $1,800 repair, so your balance is $800.”

Don’t pay it if this happens to you, said the Endurance rep. “Give us a call first. We cover 100% of cost, so there shouldn’t be a discrepancy.”

(It’s worth pointing out that a shop might legitimately charge you for other repairs if the parts involved weren’t covered by your extended warranty, but that’s different from being overcharged for the same service your warranty already paid for. Make sure you know why you’re being charged and whether that matches the coverage in your warranty agreement.)

What should you do if your warranty claim is denied?

Just because your warranty claim was denied doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Here’s what you can do to try to turn the situation around.

1. Find out why your claim was denied.

If the shop calls and says your warranty provider denied coverage, your first step should be to find out why. The shop might be able to forward you the provider’s response in some cases. Alternatively, you can call your provider directly to learn more. Get as many details in writing as you can.

At this point, you’ll need to decide whether you think the denial was justified based on the terms of your warranty agreement. If your warranty provider is abiding by its end of the deal, there’s little you can do. However, “If you’re still unhappy with your claims decision, you can file an appeal,” a rep from olive told us.

If you’re still unhappy with your claims decision, you can file an appeal. ”
— olive representative

Here’s what the rest of that process looks like.

2. Get your mechanic’s opinion in writing.

Believe it or not, shops will sometimes go to bat on your behalf. They want to get paid too, so getting your claim decision reversed can work to their advantage.

Once you have your provider’s denial in writing, ask a shop technician for their opinion. For all you know, your denial was the result of a simple miscommunication or a mistyped part number.

Often, claims are denied for more nuanced or technical reasons, though. Maybe your radiator cracked, and your warranty provider believes it was caused by road debris — not a factory defect — and therefore it’s not covered under warranty. If your technician disagrees with that assessment, getting their opinion in writing could greatly strengthen your appeal.

3. Make your case, and file an appeal.

Once you’ve gathered compelling evidence that your repair should be covered, give your extended warranty provider a call and inquire about its appeal process. Some providers may have a more formal process than others, with forms to fill out and phone numbers to call. Others may just pass you along to a manager to have a discussion.

In either case, it’s best to have your evidence ready.

According to multiple providers we spoke with, the odds of a successful appeal are low. Still, it could be worth your time to submit an appeal if you strongly feel that your denial was made in error.

“At the end of the day, we’re human too,” a warranty company representative told us, “and we sometimes make mistakes.”

At the end of the day, we’re human too, and we sometimes make mistakes. ”
— Warranty company representative

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How long does it take for a warranty company to approve a claim?

The time it takes to get approval can range anywhere from a few hours for basic repairs to several days for complex repairs involving multiple parts and systems.

Generally speaking, if you work with a mechanic within your provider’s trusted network, you’re more likely to have a faster claims decision, though.

Why would a warranty claim be denied?

Here are some of the most common reasons extended warranty claims are denied:

  • The part(s) in question were not covered by the warranty.
  • The part(s) in question failed due to preexisting conditions.
  • The part(s) in question failed due to aftermarket modifications (e.g., a lift kit damaging your suspension).
  • The vehicle was driven too long while repairs were needed.
  • The vehicle was not properly maintained.
  • The claim was filed during the mandatory waiting period.
What isn’t covered by an extended warranty?

Your coverage will depend on your chosen plan, but even the most comprehensive bumper-to-bumper extended auto warranty won’t cover wear-and-tear parts (think brake pads and wiper blades), routine maintenance or parts that fail due to negligence, abuse or misuse.

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