What is a manufacturer’s warranty?
New vehicle limited warranties cover major parts and components
Manufacturers’ warranties, also known as factory warranties and new vehicle limited warranties, protect car owners against mechanical and workmanship defects. This coverage expires once you reach the mileage or age limit specified by the manufacturer.
Basically, it’s the car maker’s guarantee that you won’t have to worry about any major problems after buying a new car — for a certain amount of time.
Manufacturers’ warranties are included in the price of new cars and certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles, but coverage isn’t the same for each automaker.
Types of warranties
There are multiple types of manufacturers’ warranties when you buy a new vehicle, all with different levels of coverage. According to CARCHEX, the most common types of factory warranties include:
- Bumper-to-bumper warranty: Sometimes called “new vehicle limited warranties,” these cover most parts and systems in your car but not all. Routine maintenance and any issues caused by wear and tear are not covered. The length of your warranty depends on your vehicle, but most last three years or 36,000 miles.
- Powertrain limited warranty: A powertrain warranty covers your vehicle’s engine, transmission, drive shaft, differential(s) and other parts of the drivetrain (parts that deliver power to the wheels). Powertrain limited warranties generally last for either five years or 60,000 miles.
- Lifetime limited parts warranty: A limited parts warranty guarantees that a manufacturer will cover repairs or replacements for specific parts over the lifetime of the vehicle. Qualifying parts are determined by the manufacturer. This type of warranty does not cover normal wear and tear.
- Emissions warranty: Automakers are legally required to offer emissions coverage for at least two years or 24,000 miles. Some parts must be covered for up to eight years or 80,000 miles. The manufacturer will take care of the needed repairs if the car fails an emissions inspection, provided certain other conditions are met.
- Corrosion warranty: This type of warranty covers the car’s sheet metal and body panels in case there is corrosion or rust damage.
How long does a manufacturer’s warranty last?
Manufacturer warranties usually last for at least three years or 36,000 miles, whichever happens first, but some really go the extra mile.
The specific limits of your manufacturer’s warranty will depend on the brand, model and year of your vehicle. For context, here are the new vehicle limited warranty lengths of some popular manufacturers.
|Car brand||Bumper-to-bumper coverage||Powertrain coverage|
|Honda||Three years or 36,000 miles||Five years or 60,000 miles|
|Toyota||Three years or 36,000 miles||Five years or 60,000 miles|
|Ford||Three years or 36,000 miles||Five years or 60,000 miles|
|Nissan||Three years or 36,000 miles||Five years or 60,000 miles|
|Chevrolet||Three years or 36,000 miles||Five years or 60,000 miles|
|Tesla||Four years or 50,000 miles||Varies|
|Cadillac||Four years or 50,000 miles||Six years or 100,000 miles|
|Hyundai||Five years or 60,000 miles||10 years or 100,000 miles|
|Kia||Five years or 60,000 miles||10 years or 100,000 miles|
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.
Most manufacturer’s warranties have tiered coverage limits.
If you’re looking for a general summary, here are a few things commonly included in a manufacturer’s warranty coverage:
- 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: Warranties cover body panels that need repair or replacement due to perforation from rusting.
- Emissions: Manufacturers pay for repairs in case your vehicle fails to meet emissions standards.
Check out your car’s manual for a list of what’s not covered. Generally, the following is not included:
- Regular maintenance: Oil changes, tire rotations and similar maintenance items 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 generally won’t cover it.
- Damage caused by accidents: If you get in a wreck, your warranty won’t pay to repair the damages — this is what car insurance is for. It also won’t cover damage caused by fire or flooding.
How to find out if your car is still under warranty
You can check to see if your car is still under warranty by following these steps:
- Find your VIN. Your vehicle identification number is a 17-character 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. Sometimes, you’ll find it on the driver’s side rear wheel well. It’s also on the car’s paperwork (registration, insurance card and title documents).
- 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. If it’s more than 100,000, it’s probably not under warranty anymore.
- Call the dealership where you purchased the car. Provide your vehicle’s VIN and mileage, and the dealership should be able to find the terms of your warranty, when the car was purchased and if your vehicle is still covered.
If you’ve had the vehicle for a while and the dealership can’t help you, you can pay for a vehicle history report through a company like Carfax.
My manufacturer’s warranty expired — now what?
When the manufacturer’s warranty expires, many people consider two options: trading the car in or buying an extended warranty plan or mechanical breakdown insurance.
You aren’t required to have a car warranty at all, despite what some scam callers say. Still, some people don’t like the idea of paying out of pocket for unexpected repair costs.
An extended warranty is usually only worth it if you rely on an older vehicle as your primary mode of transportation and you plan to keep it for several more years. You can buy one at any time from a car warranty company.
If you extend coverage, it lasts as long as your contract states. “The industry average is three- to seven-year plans, depending on level of coverage. But there are some like Toco and olive that do month to month,” according to a ConsumerAffairs concierge team member.
Manufacturer warranty vs. extended warranty
Manufacturers’ and extended warranties offer car owners similar financial protections. However, they do have some important differences.
Technically, only a manufacturer can issue a warranty. Extended auto warranties are actually vehicle service contracts.
A real car warranty is defined as “a contract to fix certain defects or malfunctions for a specific amount of time after you buy a car” by the Federal Trade Commission. On the other hand, a service contract is an agreement by a third party “to perform (or pay for) certain repairs or services.”
A vehicle service contract is sometimes called an “extended warranty” because the coverage mimics the original manufacturer’s warranty protection.
|Manufacturer’s warranty||Extended car warranty (VSC)|
|Technically a warranty||Technically a vehicle service contract|
|Provided by car manufacturer||Offered by dealers and third parties|
|Typically lasts three to 10 years||Typically lasts three to seven years|
|No waiting period||Usually a waiting period|
|Included in vehicle price||Additional cost (negotiable)|
Car 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 at no cost at an approved dealership.
Depending on the car model you have, your manufacturer may have strict guidelines for how a car must be maintained to qualify for warranty coverage. Some manufacturers require you to follow a specific maintenance schedule. You’ll need to have your repairs done at a dealer selling your make of vehicle.
What is the difference between a dealer warranty and a manufacturer’s warranty?
One is provided by the dealership, and the other comes from the manufacturer. Most dealers advertise a limited service warranty on used cars, often a “90-day or 3,000-mile guarantee” or something similar. The factory warranty comes with new cars and is backed by the automaker for much longer (usually at least three years or 36,000 miles).
Both are different from the extended car warranty plan a salesperson is likely to offer you when you buy a new or pre-owned vehicle.
Can a used car still be under a manufacturer's warranty?
Yes, used cars may still be covered under the warranty that originally came with the vehicle when it was new. Dealerships are required to provide a “Buyers Guide” with every used vehicle, according to the FTC. The guide tells you if the manufacturer’s warranty still applies.
What voids a manufacturer’s warranty?
Depending on the car model you own, your manufacturer has strict guidelines for how a car must be treated and maintained in order to qualify for warranty coverage. Sometimes, getting alterations or aftermarket modifications can void a manufacturer’s warranty. Racing in speed competitions could also void your coverage.
Follow the rules from your manufacturer to keep your car in the right condition and maintain your warranty coverage.
If my car is under warranty, do I have to pay for a service?
It depends on if the service is covered by the warranty and the type of warranty you have. If your vehicle is covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty or a dealership warranty and you have a valid claim, you won’t have to pay for repairs or replacements. Vehicle service contracts usually have a deductible that you have to pay toward repairs.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.
- Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, “What is the difference between a manufacturer’s warranty and an extended vehicle warranty or service contract?” Accessed Nov. 16, 2021.
- Federal Trade Commission, “Auto Warranties and Service Contracts.” Accessed Nov. 16, 2021.
- Federal Trade Commission, “Buying a Used Car From a Dealer.” Accessed Nov. 16, 2021.
- USA.gov, “Car Complaints.” Accessed Nov. 16, 2021.
- J.D. Power, “How to Check if a Car Is Still Under Warranty.” Accessed Nov. 18, 2021.
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