What is a drivetrain warranty?
This contract covers all parts that deliver power to the wheels
A drivetrain warranty is a type of vehicle service contract that covers some of the most essential components of making a car go. This kind of warranty, which covers your car after the manufacturer’s warranty runs out, pays for repairs due to malfunctions or faulty parts.
The components of your car’s drivetrain can be expensive to repair or replace — especially the transmission. Drivetrain warranty coverage typically includes the transmission, drive shaft, axles, differentials and wheels when they break down.
- A drivetrain warranty covers the parts of a vehicle that transfer power, including the transmission and drive shaft(s). It doesn’t cover any other parts of the vehicle.
- Unlike a powertrain warranty, a drivetrain warranty doesn’t cover the engine.
- Unlike a manufacturer’s warranty, drivetrain vehicle service contracts are offered by third-party providers.
What does a drivetrain warranty cover?
A drivetrain warranty covers only the components that transfer power from the motor/engine to the wheels. It’s the most basic type of extended auto warranty coverage.
Car warranties vary widely by provider, so the best way to know what any drivetrain plan covers is to read the vehicle service contract agreement. In general, drivetrain warranty coverage includes:
- Transmission, gearbox and clutch
- Drive shaft or propeller shaft
- Transfer case
- Axles or shafts where wheels or gears rotate
- Wheels (but not tires)
In general, car warranties only cover repairs due to malfunctions, breakdowns or faulty parts. Unlike bumper-to-bumper coverage, drivetrain warranties only cover specifically listed components.
» MORE: What does a bumper-to-bumper warranty cover?
Keep in mind you can find extended auto warranties with significantly more coverage. Comprehensive plans are more expensive, but there’s a better chance you’ll be financially protected if you need a major auto service or repair.
What does a drivetrain warranty not cover?
Drivetrain warranties only cover a small portion of your car’s components. Most notably, a drivetrain warranty does not cover your car’s engine. Also, some contracts list wheels as part of a drivetrain, but most exclude wheels and tires from coverage.
Other components that might seem like part of your drivetrain but often aren't covered include:
- Infotainment systems
- Air conditioning compressors
- Fuel system components
- Suspension components
- Brakes and shocks
- Bushings and bearings
- Manual clutch assemblies (in some cases)
- Custom or aftermarket parts
In general, extended car warranties don’t cover preexisting conditions, so your drivetrain components must be in good mechanical condition when you sign up.
» MORE: What does a car warranty cover?
They also won’t cover any cosmetic problems or damage caused by accidents. For example, if your axle is bent in an accident, you would need to file a claim on your car insurance to fix it.
Each plan is different. Just because one company advertises that its warranty covers certain components doesn’t mean it’s actually in your contract.
Also be aware of payout limits for your policy. Check to see if you have to keep up with regular maintenance on your vehicle. If you fail to keep the car in good working order according to the terms of the contract, your provider may void your warranty.
Drivetrain vs. powertrain warranty
The most significant difference between powertrain warranties and drivetrain warranties is that the powertrain includes your engine (along with all other drivetrain components).The drivetrain contains the parts that transfer power to the wheels; the powertrain also consists of the parts that create that power.
|Delivers power to move the wheels||Converts kinetic energy into movement|
|Includes transmission, differential, drive shaft, axles and wheels||Includes drivetrain parts and the engine|
|Covered by basic warranty plans (less costly than powertrain)||Covered by middle-tier warranty plans (more costly than drivetrain)|
Drivetrain plans are the most rudimentary, while powertrain plans are more middle-of-the-road coverage. An exclusionary plan (sometimes called a bumper-to-bumper plan) is the top-tier level of protection that goes the extra mile.
If you have powertrain coverage, it likely covers all the important drivetrain components. For example, the Nissan powertrain warranty covers the engine, transmission, transaxle, the drivetrain and air bags.
A drivetrain warranty is likely to be the least expensive type of coverage available (if it's offered at all). Powertrain warranties are more common among carmakers and aftermarket vehicle service contract providers.
No matter which type of coverage you opt for, whether it's worth it “depends on several factors, including the level of coverage provided, the cost of the warranty and the likelihood and cost of potential repairs,” said Oliver Brown, owner of wheelssize.com, an online automobile info hub.
“It's essential to carefully review the terms and conditions of the warranty to ensure it covers the specific components and repairs that are most likely to fail. If the cost of the warranty is significantly higher than the expected cost of repairs, it may not be worth it. Additionally, if the vehicle is still under the manufacturer's warranty, an extended warranty may not provide much additional value,” Brown said.
Drivetrain warranty FAQ
How much does it cost to fix a drivetrain?
Completely replacing a drivetrain can get very expensive. Exact costs depend on the car problem you’re facing and the make, model and year of your vehicle, but here are estimated costs for some of the more common drivetrain problems:
- Transmission replacement: About $4,000
- Differential repairs: $200 to $400 (each); up to $2,000 or more if differential housing work is required
- Drive shaft repair: Up to $2,000
- Transfer case replacement: Up to $2,500
- CV joints: Anywhere from $260 to $1,180
How long does a drivetrain warranty last?
With a new car, drivetrain warranties usually last five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. An extended drivetrain plan typically lasts five to seven years. However, the exact length and coverage vary by provider.
Sometimes manufacturers extend the warranty on a model if drivers report recurring issues. For example, “Nissan knows they have problems with this transmission; otherwise they would have never been forced to extend the warranty on 2003 to 2010 Nissans for 10 years or 120,000 miles or the 2012 to 2020 models for 84 months or 84,000 miles,” according to a reviewer in Alabama.
What is considered the drivetrain?
Drivetrain warranties only cover the parts necessary to transfer power from the motor to the wheels — nothing else. There’s no universal definition for drivetrains, though, so be prepared to compare specific coverages.
The exact elements you need to worry about depend on your vehicle’s transmission and drivetrain design. Transmissions are normally categorized as either manual or automatic. According to Endurance, the following components are typically covered under a standard drivetrain warranty:
- Manual transmission: Covered components typically include the rear axle with hypoid bevel gear, final drive, flywheel and clutch, gearbox, propeller shaft and differential.
- Automatic transmission: Drivetrain warranties generally include the torque converter, transmission, propeller shaft, rear axle and differential.
- Drivetrain configurations: A drivetrain warranty should cover the parts essential to your vehicle’s functions regardless of your vehicle’s configuration. Drivetrain configurations include front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. For instance, only front-wheel-drive vehicles typically have transaxles, and only four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive vehicles have transfer cases.
Where can I get a drivetrain warranty?
After your manufacturer’s warranty expires, you can get drivetrain coverage through extended car warranty companies like Protect My Car and Endurance. Extended drivetrain warranties are also sometimes available from dealerships.
Do new vehicle warranties include drivetrain coverage?
Yes, new vehicle warranties have drivetrain coverage. Extended coverage is available for vehicles with up to 100,000 miles or more.
Bottom line: Do you need a drivetrain warranty?
Drivetrain warranties cover only a small portion of your vehicle’s components. Most notably, a drivetrain warranty doesn’t cover your vehicle’s engine. Also, while some sources list wheels as part of a vehicle’s drivetrain, most basic vehicle service contracts exclude wheels and tires.
“I really wanted something that would cover the drivetrain of the vehicle, mainly just for when I'm on the road, which is once or twice a year,” an Endurance policyholder in Indiana told us during a phone survey. Another survey respondent in California said olive’s drivetrain coverage could be beneficial for “anyone who wants to keep their car running for a long time without possibility of large, major expenditures.”
Before you purchase a drivetrain warranty, weigh the price of the plan against the odds of a malfunction and the potential costs of repairs. For you to come out ahead, the cost of repairs needs to cost more than you pay for the warranty (plus the deductible). Let’s say you have a car model that’s known to have transmission problems as it gets older — getting extended coverage might be worth it for the peace of mind.
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