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What is a drivetrain warranty?

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by Emma Simon ConsumerAffairs Research Team
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Drivetrain coverage is the most basic type of warranty or vehicle service contract. It pays for repairs due to malfunctions or faulty parts but only for select components that transfer power from your vehicle’s engine to its wheels.

The basics

  • A drivetrain warranty covers the parts of a vehicle that transfer power, like the transmission, driveshaft(s), differential(s) and axle(s).
  • Drivetrain warranties do not cover any other parts of the vehicle.
  • Drivetrain warranties tend to last longer than other types of warranties, including powertrain warranties.

What does a drivetrain warranty cover?

A drivetrain warranty covers the parts of a vehicle that take power created by the engine and deliver it to the wheels. Depending on your vehicle and your contract, this may include its:

  • Clutch
  • Flywheel
  • Torque converter
  • Transmission
  • Transaxle
  • Driveshaft(s)
  • Transfer case
  • Differential(s)
  • Drive axle(s)

This is far from an exhaustive list, and some of the listed components are parts of larger systems.

A drivetrain warranty covers parts that deliver power to the wheels.

The exact parts you need to worry about covering depend on your vehicle’s transmission and drivetrain design.

  • Transmissions are normally categorized as either manual or automatic, though more options are available.
  • Drivetrain configurations include: front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

For instance, only front-wheel drive vehicles have transaxles, and only four-wheel drive vehicles have transfer cases.

Regardless of your vehicle’s configuration, a drivetrain warranty should cover the parts essential to your vehicle’s functions. Read your contract carefully before signing to make sure it covers the components on your vehicle’s drivetrain.

What does a drivetrain warranty not cover?

Drivetrain warranties only cover a small portion of your vehicle’s components. Most notably, a drivetrain warranty does not 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 from coverage.

Many other components may seem like part of your drivetrain but often aren’t covered, such as:

  • Fuel system components
  • Suspension components
  • Shocks
  • Bushings and bearings
  • Manual clutch assemblies (in some cases)
  • Custom or aftermarket parts

A drivetrain warranty only covers the specific parts that are listed on the service contract, and each contract provider has its own list. When choosing a drivetrain warranty, read the contract to make sure you know what’s actually covered.

Extended car warranties do not cover preexisting conditions, so your drivetrain components must be in good mechanical condition when you sign up — or you can't claim repairs. Be aware of payout limits for your policy, too.

Likewise, warranties only cover repairs due to malfunctions, breakdowns or faulty parts. If your axle is bent due to an accident, that’s up to your car insurance to fix.

Finally, check to see if you have to keep up with regular maintenance on your vehicle. If you fail to keep it in good working order, your warranty may be void.

Drivetrain warranty vs. powertrain warranty

The biggest difference between powertrain warranties and drivetrain warranties is that powertrain warranties cover engines along with all drivetrain components. While the drivetrain consists of all the parts that transfer power to the wheels, the powertrain consists of the parts that create and transfer that power.

Anecdotally, drivetrain warranties are often available for longer terms than powertrain warranties, potentially covering vehicles with higher mileages. A drivetrain warranty is also likely to be the least expensive type of coverage available, if it's offered at all. Powertrain warranties are more common among carmakers and reputable vehicle service contract providers.

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Drivetrain warranty FAQ

How long does a drivetrain warranty last?
An extended drivetrain warranty typically lasts five to 10 years, but the terms of coverage differ by provider and vehicle age. Some providers cover a vehicle only up to a certain number of miles.
What is considered the drivetrain?
A drivetrain consists of several components that work together to transfer power from the engine to the wheels, including the:
  • Transmission
  • Driveshaft(s)
  • Differential(s)
  • Drive axle(s)

There’s no universal definition for drivetrains, though, so be prepared to compare specific coverages.

Where can I get a drivetrain warranty?
Extended drivetrain warranties are sometimes available from vehicle dealerships, but many people purchase extended drivetrain warranties from third-party providers. Most of these providers sell vehicle service contracts online.
How much does it cost to fix a drivetrain?
Replacing a complete drivetrain is rare and usually prohibitively expensive. Here are some estimated costs for more common drivetrain repairs:
  • Transmission replacement costs about $4,000.
  • Average differential repairs cost $200 to $400 each.
  • Driveshafts can run up to $2,000 to fix.
  • Transfer case replacement can be as much as $2,500.
  • CV joints cost anywhere from $260 to $1,180.

Exact costs depend on the specific problem you’re facing and the make, model and year of your vehicle.

Do new vehicle warranties include drivetrain coverage?
Yes, most manufacturer’s warranties include powertrain coverage, which encompasses the components of the drivetrain.

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    Do you need a drivetrain warranty?

    No one technically needs a drivetrain warranty, but they can be helpful in a pinch. The components of your vehicle's drivetrain can be expensive to repair or replace — especially the transmission. A drivetrain warranty can help you afford to keep your car on the road. They're often better for vehicles with more than 100,000 miles because they're typically past the original manufacturer’s warranty and more likely to break down.

    If you’re purchasing a drivetrain warranty, weigh the price of the warranty against the odds of a malfunction and the potential costs of repairs. For you to come out ahead, your vehicle will need to cost the warranty company more than the warranty costs you. On the other hand, a warranty may be worth the expense simply as a means of avoiding excessive out-of-pocket expenses. A drivetrain warranty can help you spread out thousands of dollars in repair costs, which is critical if you don’t have much in savings.

    Bear in mind that you can also find extended auto warranties offering significantly more coverage. While these plans are generally more expensive, their more comprehensive coverage means you’re more likely to put them to some use and get a return on your investment.

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    by Emma Simon ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    As a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team, Emma Simon is dedicated to creating accurate and valuable content that helps consumers make difficult decisions.