Questions to ask a car warranty provider

Asking tough questions can help you avoid scams and score a deal on the right coverage

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Quick and easy. Find an auto warranty partner now.

    Endurance Auto Warranty, Omega Auto Care, Concord Auto Protect and Nova Warranty
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    An extended auto warranty can help pay for repair bills as your vehicle ages, but that doesn’t mean that all extended warranties were created equal. Some can offer tremendous value and peace of mind, while others may be the wrong fit for your budget or vehicle — or even downright scams. Often, determining which is which doesn’t come down to what the salesperson says but what you ask in return.

    “When it comes to vetting extended auto warranty companies, consumers should really be asking questions and getting into the details,” wrote Allison Harrison, an attorney with experience in automotive law, in an email to ConsumerAffairs.

    So, once you’ve found an extended warranty company you’re interested in, what kinds of questions should you ask? Read on to find out.

    Key insights

    • If you have an old or exotic car, you may have trouble finding an extended warranty. It’s worth asking if your vehicle is eligible for a company’s coverage right away.
    • Make sure the info you get from the salesperson lines up with what’s in the company’s sample contract.
    • Let the warranty company know that you’re comparison shopping when you ask for a price quote — that way, they’ll give you their best offer right away.
    • Ask about the claims process and company policies to get a sneak peek into what it will be like working with the company later on.

    14 things to ask your warranty company

    Find out everything you need to know before you choose an extended car warranty.

    1. Will you cover my vehicle?

    Right off the bat, you want to confirm your vehicle is even eligible for coverage. It’s common for extended warranty providers to deny coverage for niche or high-end brands, such as Alfa Romeo or Rolls Royce. Some companies, like Nova Warranty, are more willing to cover these kinds of vehicles than others, though, so you shouldn’t count yourself out immediately.

    California residents can’t purchase extended warranties, but they can buy mechanical breakdown insurance.

    Other extended auto warranty providers may not offer plans in California — where the laws governing extended warranties are a little different — and most companies don’t cover vehicles above a certain age or mileage limit.

    The point is, if your vehicle isn’t even eligible for coverage from a company, you want to know as soon as possible.

    » MORE: Extended warranties for cars with over 100K miles

    2. Is this an exclusionary policy?

    Extended auto warranties aren’t heavily regulated, meaning providers can sometimes get away with misleading marketing. One company’s “Platinum” plan may cover 5,000+ parts, while another only covers ~200 — and you may not realize that you bought the skimpier plan until your claims get denied.

    “When customers feel like they did not get the benefit of a warranty it is usually because the issue was not covered,” wrote Harrison.

    That’s why it’s worth asking upfront whether the plan you’re considering is exclusionary, meaning it covers everything but a short list of exclusions, or inclusionary, meaning it only covers the parts listed. In most cases, exclusionary (also called bumper-to-bumper plans) cover 10 times more parts than inclusionary plans.

    Then again, if you want a cheap warranty, an inclusionary plan might be your best bet. Tyler in Colorado Springs bought a warranty from Concord Auto Protect, which doesn’t offer exclusionary coverage, and he was happy with his choice, “ I cannot find anything at all to complain about because the warranty plan covered what I needed it to. I did research other companies prior to purchasing this but it's hard to pass up the cost of this plan versus others.”

    » LEARN: What does a car warranty cover?

    3. When does my coverage start?

    Most extended auto warranties have a waiting period between when you purchase the warranty and when your coverage actually starts. A typical waiting period is 30 days and 1,000 miles, but it varies by provider.

    “When I signed up with Endurance, they went over the details, but I had one question about how many miles or how many months until it kicked in. … They explained it’s 1,000 and 30 days until the warranty kicks in,” said Jordan in Florida.

    If you need coverage ASAP, look for companies that offer warranties with no waiting period, like olive.

    Most companies use waiting periods to deter warranty buyers from immediately filing claims for preexisting conditions. (Preexisting conditions aren’t covered under practically any warranty agreement, so waiting periods keep companies from having to process a bunch of spurious claims.)

    4. What does the plan cost?

    When shopping for an extended auto warranty, it’s never too early to ask for a bottom-line, out-the-door price. After all, you may not have the time or patience for a 15-minute sales pitch from every single provider you collect a quote from.

    On that note, be sure to mention that you’re shopping around and would like the absolute rock bottom price before you start comparing quotes between providers. You can say something along the lines of, “Before I call [insert competitor] and compare, can you offer me the best possible price on this plan?”

    We’ve found that a line like this greatly increases your chance of scoring a previously hidden discount or promotional rate.

    For context, the average extended auto warranty costs around $1,000 per year of coverage, but costs vary by vehicle, provider and level of coverage.

    5. What are my payment options?

    Generally speaking, extended warranty providers offer three payment options:

    1. A lump sum upfront
    2. Six- or 12-month financing at 0% APR
    3. Month-to-month (i.e., you stay covered for as long you pay, like a subscription)
    If a large lump-sum payment is your only option, there’s a much higher likelihood that you’re being scammed

    If you buy an extended warranty at the same time you purchase the vehicle itself, the dealer may offer to include the cost of the warranty in your loan. That seems convenient, but it’s important to note that you’ll then be paying interest on the price of your warranty, too. (A $2,500 warranty financed at 5% APR over 60 months would cost you an additional $330 in interest.)

    In any case, it’s worth asking what your options are so you can determine how your warranty fits into your budget.

    6. Can I see a sample contract?

    Asking to see a sample contract is a great way to filter out scams and make sure the salesperson is accountable for the promises they make. Any legitimate extended warranty provider should happily send over a sample document.

    If the salesperson refuses to send even a sample contract to your email address, it’s likely a scam — or, at the very least, they’re afraid that you’ll call their bluff on some big promises.

    That’s also why it’s important to read both the sample contract and your actual contract thoroughly. Whatever the salesperson promised you is overridden by what’s in the contract you sign.

    7. Do you cover diagnostic fees?

    Assuming your repair is covered, you might only have to pay your deductible (usually around $100) to get your car fixed.

    You’ll have to pay your deductible every time you take your car in for a covered repair.

    However, some extended warranty providers only cover the cost of the actual repairs — not the diagnostics that identified what fix was needed. That can be a big deal because some dealerships and mechanics charge $400+ for a diagnosis alone.

    Ask your warranty provider if they cover diagnostic fees before you sign up so that you’re not stuck with an unexpected bill when you make your first claim.

    8. Where can I take my vehicle for repairs?

    Generally speaking, any extended warranty you buy from a dealer or the automaker itself will require you to return to a dealership for warranty work. But most third-party warranties let you visit any ASE-certified mechanic of your choice.

    “When I turn my car into an ASE mechanic and give them the PDF or the printout of my warranty, it is great because it's out of my hands,” said Clint from Colorado in a review for Endurance.

    But that may not always be the case, so it’s worth confirming where you can (and can’t) take your car for repairs before committing to a certain extended warranty.

    » MORE: What to know about manufacturers’ extended warranties

    9. Do you have a list of preferred mechanics?

    Even if they have loose limits on where you can take your car for repairs, some extended warranty providers have a list of mechanics that they’ve worked with in the past. That’s a bigger deal than it sounds like because it means these mechanics will likely get your warranty work done faster — and they won’t refuse to work on your car just because they don’t want to deal with your warranty company.

    So, be sure to ask whether they have a list of preferred mechanics in your area. If they don’t, consider calling up your preferred mechanic to ask whether they’d be willing to work with this particular warranty company.

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

    10. Is coverage transferable? How?

    If you sell your car while your extended warranty is active, most companies let you transfer your remaining coverage to a new owner (but never a new vehicle). There’s often a fee of between $25 and $75 involved, as well as some paperwork, but it’s probably worth it if you’re selling the vehicle to a friend or family member.

    If you’re selling your vehicle to a stranger, you can always offer to transfer your remaining warranty amount as a courtesy if they pay the fee. Just don’t put too much into some providers’ claims that having an extended warranty will raise your vehicle’s value — we haven’t been able to find credible proof of this.

    11. What is your cancellation process?

    A typical extended warranty provider will have a cancellation policy that lets you cancel within 30 days for a full refund or after 30 days to receive a partial refund minus fees and any claims paid.

    You’ll typically need to submit a notarized affidavit verifying the mileage of your vehicle at the time of your request, as well, just so they know you’re not fudging the numbers to maximize your refund.

    If the warranty provider you’re considering doesn’t have a clear, written cancellation process, it might be a scam.

    12. What will void my warranty or lead to denied claims?

    Most extended warranty providers will only void your policy outright if you miss a payment or deliberately provide misinformation on your application. If you just break the terms of your warranty agreement, they won’t void your policy — they’ll just deny your claims.

    Common reasons for repeatedly denied claims include:

    • Negligence (e.g., you missed required maintenance)
    • Abuse/misuse (e.g., you towed something beyond your car’s rated capacity)
    • Aftermarket parts caused your other parts to fail (e.g., you installed a lift kit that did suspension damage)

    Put simply, warranties will only cover parts that failed entirely on their own, seemingly for no reason. That’s generally consistent between providers, but it’s absolutely worth confirming. For example, if you’re looking to buy an extended warranty for your Jeep Wrangler, you might want to ask whether off-road use is covered or if it will make your warranty worthless.

    “This company has SO MANY loopholes to get out of paying any claims,” wrote Lynn in Colorado. “They make it IMPOSSIBLE to follow their instructions to get repairs done.”

    I was concerned that Endurance would find some way to deny coverage. … They said they would cover it, and they did. I only had to pay $100. ”
    — Robert, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer in Wisconsin

    On the other hand, Robert in Wisconsin was pleasantly surprised with how his warranty company handled his claim, “When I took my car in for 90,000 mile service, I was told it needed head gasket replacement, which would cost about $5000. I was concerned that Endurance would find some way to deny coverage for that. They sent someone to inspect the problem, and, based on his report, they said they would cover it, and they did. I only had to pay $100, for which I was very thankful.”

    » MORE: What voids a car warranty?

    13. How long does pre-authorization take?

    When you take your car to the shop for warranty work, your mechanic will diagnose your issue and submit a claim to your warranty provider on your behalf. At that point, your warranty provider will either approve the repair — meaning they agree to pay for it — or deny the repair — meaning you’ll have to pay for it yourself.

    That decision is called pre-authorization, and the time it takes can vary by provider.

    A good provider will pre-authorize repairs within hours for small stuff and within days for big stuff. If a provider tells you pre-authorization could take up to a week, plan accordingly — you may need to pay for a rental car while your car is in the shop.

    » MORE: How an extended auto warranty works

    14. What other benefits does my plan include?

    In addition to paying for covered repairs, most extended warranties provide additional benefits, like roadside assistance.

    If your car breaks down over 100 miles from your home address — and your repair is covered under warranty — some warranty companies will also cover the cost of your meals and lodging while you’re waiting for your car, up to around $100 per day.

    Likewise, some providers will help cover the cost of a rental car while yours is in the shop. The typical reimbursement amount is $50 per day for up to five days, meaning it’s a benefit worth up to $250.

    Aside from roadside assistance, travel expenses and rental car reimbursements, some extended warranty providers offer even more sprinkles on top. Omega Auto Care, for example, includes a complimentary Maintenance Program with every plan sold, helping to cover the cost of oil changes, brake pads, batteries and more.

    These perks are worth considering when you’re shopping around, although the salesperson will probably volunteer that information well before you have the chance to ask.

    Quick and easy. Find an auto warranty partner now.

      Bottom line

      Needless to say, a legitimate extended warranty provider will be able to answer most of the questions above without much hesitation. Even if you’re on the phone with someone less experienced, they should still be able to find answers to these questions pretty quickly.

      Asking these tough questions should help you maximize your chances of scoring the right extended warranty for your budget. For more on extended auto warranties, read more from ConsumerAffairs.

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