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What is a manufacturer’s warranty?

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by Emma Simon ConsumerAffairs Research Team
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Manufacturer’s warranties, also known as factory warranties, cover vehicles against manufacturing defects. These warranties come with new and certified pre-owned vehicles, but coverage isn’t universal across the industry. Read on to see what your warranty may cover and how to check if your warranty is still active.

Types of warranties

There are multiple types of manufacturer’s warranties, all with different levels of coverage. Some popular varieties include:

  • Powertrain warranties: A powertrain warranty includes coverage for your vehicle’s engine, transmission, driveshaft, differential(s), and other parts that create power or deliver it to the wheels. These warranties generally last for either five years or 60,000 miles.
  • Bumper-to-bumper warranties: These limited warranties cover most parts and systems in your car but not all. Routine maintenance and any issues caused by wear and tear are also not covered. The length of your warranty depends on your vehicle, but most last at least three years or 36,000 miles.
  • Emissions warranties: Automakers are required by law to offer emissions control coverage for a minimum of two years or 24,000 miles. Certain parts must be covered for up to eight years or 80,000 miles, though. Not every state requires an emissions inspection, but if yours does and your car fails while it’s covered, the manufacturer should take care of the repairs per the warranty agreement.
  • Lifetime limited parts warranties: A limited parts warranty guarantees that a car’s manufacturer will cover repairs or replacements for certain parts over the lifetime of the vehicle. Certain warranty plans offer a term limit for some parts and a lifetime limit for others.
  • Maintenance warranties: Some automakers provide maintenance coverage, usually as a warranty add-on. This might be worthwhile since maintenance costs can add up. However, you must purchase this kind of plan when you buy your car, and your vehicle will likely outlast the coverage.

How long does a manufacturer’s warranty last?

Most manufacturer’s warranties have tiered coverage limits.

Manufacturer’s warranties usually last for around three years or 36,000 miles, whichever happens first. The specific limits of your manufacturer’s warranty will depend on the make, model and year of your vehicle. Before you purchase the car, you should be able to see how long the manufacturer’s warranty lasts.

Depending on the car model you own, your manufacturer may have strict guidelines for how a car must be treated and maintained in order to qualify for warranty coverage. For example, if you race or modify your vehicle and experience problems because of it, the automaker may not cover the costs. While the automaker may deny coverage for the specific situation, modifications shouldn’t void your entire warranty automatically.

Some manufacturers also recommend or expect you to follow a certain maintenance schedule. Following the guidelines suggested by your manufacturer will help to keep your car in the right condition to make use of the factory warranty.

How to check if your car is still under warranty

You can check to see if your car is still under warranty by following these steps:

  1. Find your VIN. Your vehicle identification number is a 17-digit code unique to your vehicle. You should be able to find it on the driver’s side of the windshield above the dash, on the inside edge of the driver’s door or under the hood.
  2. Check your car’s mileage. Most warranties expire when you reach a certain number of miles driven. Check the odometer to find out how many miles your car has on it.
  3. Call the dealership. Provide them with your vehicle’s VIN and mileage, and they should be able to find out the terms of the warranty, when the car was purchased and if your vehicle is still covered.

If your vehicle is no longer under warranty through the manufacturer but you’re concerned about possible repair costs, consider getting an extended auto warranty.

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    What is and isn’t covered by a manufacturer’s warranty?

    You can determine what is and isn’t covered through your manufacturer’s warranty by looking at the list of inclusions and exclusions in your contract. If you’re looking for a general summary, here are a few things that are commonly included and excluded in manufacturer’s warranty coverage.

    Inclusions:

    • Repairs due to a manufacturing error: All factory warranties should provide coverage for faulty parts or poor workmanship.
    • Major systems: Exact coverages vary, but basic warranties should at least cover the engine and drivetrain. Most manufacturers offer bumper-to-bumper coverage for a shorter term and powertrain coverage for a longer term.
    • Corrosion: Some warranties cover corrosion caused by misaligned parts or environmental factors.

    Exclusions:

    • Regular maintenance: Oil changes, tire rotations and similar maintenance tasks are typically not covered by factory warranties.
    • Wear and tear: Parts that break down or wear out through normal use, like brakes and windshield wiper blades, usually aren’t covered.
    • Damage caused by improper care: If something on your vehicle breaks down because you're not properly maintaining the vehicle, your warranty won’t cover it.

    Manufacturer’s warranties vs. extended warranties

    Manufacturer’s warranties and extended warranties have much in common, but here are a few key differences:

    • Manufacturer’s warranties are offered by carmakers for new or certified pre-owned vehicles. The cost of a manufacturer’s warranty is typically included in the price of the vehicle, and the manufacturer chooses the level of coverage. If you want to use your warranty, you probably need to have your repairs done at a licensed dealership. This type of warranty expires once you reach the mileage or age limit specified by the manufacturer.
    • Extended auto warranties provide coverage that either complements or mimics a manufacturer’s warranty. You can sign up for an extended warranty when you buy the vehicle or later on. If you choose to buy an extended warranty, you’ll pay for it either monthly or yearly. You may also have to pay a deductible before receiving service from an authorized mechanic. Extended warranties can theoretically last indefinitely, but most providers limit coverage to vehicles under a certain age or mileage.

    Manufacturer’s warranty FAQ

    How does a manufacturer’s warranty work?
    When it comes time to use your warranty coverage, the process is relatively simple. If there’s a problem with your vehicle and your coverage is still active, you should be able to get it fixed for free at an approved dealership.
    What is the difference between a dealer warranty and a manufacturer’s warranty?
    Dealer warranties and manufacturer warranties can vary quite a bit. Typically, dealer warranties are offered on older vehicles once the factory warranty has already expired. Dealer warranties usually last either 90 days or 3,000 miles and cover engine and drivetrain issues. Sometimes, they also provide coverage for power windows, air conditioning components and other accessories.
    Can a dealer refuse to do warranty work?
    If your car’s problem meets the guidelines set by the warranty, then a dealer shouldn’t refuse to perform warranty repairs. Even if you have gotten work done on your car by someone other than the dealership, your warranty should still be active. A dealer or manufacturer usually only voids your warranty and refuses service if improper repairs or maintenance by a third party damaged the part you need fixed.
    Can my used car still be under a manufacturer's warranty?
    Yes, but the original warranty does not reset when you purchase the car. If you want a new factory warranty on a used car, consider a certified pre-owned vehicle. Otherwise, you may be able to duplicate factory coverage with an extended warranty.
    What voids a manufacturer’s warranty?
    Generally, automakers are strict about how a vehicle should be maintained for warranty coverage to apply. This prevents the manufacturer from paying for problems that it did not directly cause. The best way to ensure you can use your factory warranty coverage is by following the recommended maintenance schedule. Making modifications to your car should not void the warranty outright, but if something goes wrong with a modified part, automakers are likely to deny coverage for the issue.
    Are all warranties transferable?
    No, not always. Some manufacturer's warranties only apply to the original owner, and some extended auto warranties aren’t transferable.
    Is there a deductible with new car warranties?
    Not usually. If your vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty, the manufacturer often pays 100% of covered repair costs.
    Are oil changes covered under warranty?
    Oil changes are not usually covered under a vehicle warranty, whether it’s a manufacturer’s warranty or an extended auto warranty. However, some manufacturers or dealerships may include complimentary oil changes with the purchase of the vehicle, and some extended auto warranty providers have plans that cover routine maintenance.

    My manufacturer’s warranty expired — now what?

    Manufacturer’s warranties typically expire within a few years. After your coverage ends, consider whether a new vehicle, an extended warranty or going without coverage is the right option for you. An extended auto warranty lets you avoid the risk of going without coverage and the expense of buying a new vehicle. Research available warranty plans and your car’s reliability ratings to see if an extended warranty is worth it for you.

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    Profile picture of Emma Simon
    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.