What is a Car Warranty?

A Car Warranty is a type of insurance policy that covers the cost of repairing your car if it has a mechanical fault, an electrical failure or faulty paintwork during the period of the cover. New cars will usually come with a warranty that’s valid for three years or 60,000 miles from the date of manufacture – whichever comes first. Although some car makers offer even longer warranty periods. It’s the case for Kia’s seven-year guarantee or 100,000 miles; or Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

If you’re buying a used car and it’s no longer covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty you can buy an independent car warranty. You can choose policies that last from a month to five years, although most run for 12 months with the option to renew after that.

What does a Car Warranty cover?

It does vary depending on the insurer and type of car warranty you have but most warranties will cover repairs for mechanical breakdown and electrical parts such as:

  • The Engine
  • Transmission
  • Fuel and ignition systems
  • Air conditioning
  • Electric systems
  • Gearbox
  • Steering system
  • Suspension
  • Clutch and brake parts that are unaffected by friction.

Some car warranties also include cover for breakdown recovery and a replacement car while yours is being fixed. But that’s not always the case. So read well your policy details to make sure your repair bills will be covered. Check what parts are covered and, particularly, which ones have a limited coverage period. A good example of this would be that Kia’s seven-year warranty only covers batteries for two.

What’s not covered by your Car Warranty?

Having a car warranty doesn’t mean you’ll be covered for any kind of issue you have with your vehicle during the warranty period. It will largely depend on the type of warranty you have but, generally, these things may not be included in your car warranty:

  • General Wear and Tear – Things like worn tyres, brakes and windscreen wipers
  • Specified car parts like batteries and wheels
  • Cars used for racing or as taxis
  • Repairs to parts that are not broken
  • Damage caused by frost or carbon buildup
  • If you don’t take reasonable care of your car that could invalidate your car warranty. That includes taking your car in for regular servicing.
  • Some car warranty will limit you to using only garages approved by the dealership/policy for repairs and servicing.
  • Any modifications to your car can invalidate your warranty. Check before having anything fitted or changed.

Other things to consider

When taking out a car warranty always check the policy documents thoroughly and make sure you understand the small print and its jargon. These are some of the things you may want to get familiar with:

  • ‘Consequential loss’ – That is how warranty providers call any damage to an insured part of the car that is caused by an uninsured part of the vehicle breaking. Imagine your (insured) exhaust gets damaged because the (uninsured) catalytic converter breaks. You’d have to pay for some or all of the parts. Check well and, ideally, look for a warranty that will cover you for ‘consequential damage’.
  • ‘Betterment’ – Betterment is when your car gets a part that is ‘better’ than the one it’s replacing. Meaning that your vehicle ends up in a better condition than it was and increases its value. If you have a ‘betterment’ clause on your car warranty you may be expected to pay for the replacement or part of its cost. When possible, try to find a policy that doesn’t restrict your cover like this.
  • Garage choice – It may not happen to you but some policies and car warranty providers may have a list of ‘approved garages’ that you’ll need to use for your repairs. If you take your car somewhere else you may have to end up paying for the job.
  • Labour rate – That’s the garage’s hourly rate. And how much of it your car warranty provider will pay towards.
  • Excess – The amount that you will need to pay towards repairs when you make a claim.

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What types of Car Warranty are there?

There are several types of car warranty out there and the one you’ll get will depend on whether you are buying a new car, a used car or looking for cover for the vehicle you currently own.

New car warranty

A new car warranty, popularly known as ‘manufacturer’s warranty’, is the one that’s usually included when you buy a brand new car. It depends on the carmaker and it can last from three to seven years. The majority of manufacturers opt for a three-year warranty. However, Hyundai and Mitsubishi offer a five-year car warranty and Kia goes further with its seven-year cover.

Some carmakers will also add a mileage limit to the warranty to ensure that the new car is covered for a fair amount of time. This means that the car warranty will last for the time period or the distance quoted, whichever comes first.

Extended warranty

By extended warranty, we mean the extra cover that new car buyers can pay for to have more peace of mind.

There are essentially two types of extended car warranty with different coverage. One is an option that some car manufacturers offer as an extra when you get a new car. The other is when your manufacturer allows you to extend your car’s warranty before it expires.

For example, when adding an extended warranty to a new car you should expect the same amount of coverage as the standard warranty but for a longer period of time and a higher mileage limit. Whilst the extended warranty added when the existing cover is nearly finished may not be as comprehensive and will vary depending on your car manufacturer and policy provider.

Electric car battery warranty

An electric car battery warranty is the one that covers an electric car’s battery. If you’re buying an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle this is something you may be interested in, as an electric car battery warranty usually lasts longer than the standard warranty that covers the rest of the car.

Currently, most EV and PHEV manufacturers offer an eight-year battery warranty. But the mileage limit differs depending on the maker.

The purpose of having an electric car battery warranty is to protect you against the ability for the battery to stay fully charged – also called ‘battery degradation’. If the charge capacity dips below a certain point, depending on your car maker, they will replace the battery free of charge.

Paintwork and perforation warranties

Paintwork warranties guarantee the quality and finish of a car’s bodywork and they usually last for the same amount of time as the standard warranty – usually three years. That is because the paint is quite prone to get damaged by scratches or stone chips and after three years it can be tricky to establish whether paint damage happened because of poor production or the normal wear and tear of owning a car.

Perforation warranties usually accompany paintwork ones. What they do is guarantee the vehicle against any rust or corrosion related to poor manufacturing. This type of warranty will last for a longer period than paintwork warranties – depending on the carmaker – but will be worded clearly to make sure that the corrosion is not caused by external damage. As a reference, anti-perforation warranties can last for 12 years, although there are exceptions.

Approved used car warranty

When you buy a used car from a manufacturer approved dealer you may be able to get this type of cover. These vehicles will usually be less than three years old and most will still have some of their original warranty cover to run.

Franchised dealers will give anyone buying a used car from them a used car warranty for extra peace of mind. It will be included on an approved car once it has been thoroughly inspected so that it meets the manufacturer’s standards. As a norm, used car warranties will be valid for 12 months. In some cases, there may be a mileage limit so that you get the full year of cover.

What will an approved used car warranty cover? Overall, it will offer the same amount of cover as a new vehicle warranty. That is because the car will be nearly new and the risk of a claim is low. In any case, always check the small print because not all used car warranty cover will be the same.

Used car warranty

It may sound the same as an approved used car warranty but a used car warranty applies to cars bought outside of the UK’s franchised dealer network. It’s also the one you should get if you want to cover an older car you already own.

This type of used car warranty will depend entirely on where you buy your used car from. As a rule, used car dealers are not obliged to give you any warranty. However, some will do it to keep their customers happy and because they want to raise their profile and good reputation.

How do they do it? A favourite way is by offering a used car warranty provided by RAC. These firms will inspect the used vehicle before offering any cover. This type of used car warranty will last a minimum of six months and will come with a breakdown cover.

Private Warranty Cover

Those buying a car privately may be interested in getting private warranty cover. It’s a type of policy that you can take out so that if your new used car has a fault you’re not completely out of pocket.

How can you get a private car warranty cover? There are two main choices in the market:

  • RAC – Provides car warranty directly to buyers and it can be tailored to suit any car, no matter its age, mileage or condition. Usually, the older the car, the more you pay. And what is covered is also likely to be limited to the major mechanical components.
  • Companies like Warrantywise and Warranty Direct also offer warranty cover to older cars up to a certain age and mileage. You buy it like you buy car insurance: you can pay a lump sum or monthly repayments. These warranties are flexible and you can usually pick how long you want it to last. There are also different levels of cover depending on how old the car is, how many miles it has and its previous history.

Do you need a Car Warranty?

A car warranty is not a legal requirement for car ownership, unlike car insurance. But it can give you peace of mind and help you cover the costs of repairing or replacing broken parts. In any case, it’s always worth checking all the exclusions and the fine print so that you pay for what you need.

Advantages of taking out a car warranty

  • You’ll be covered against unexpected repair bills
  • You can tailor any car warranty policies to suit your needs if you pick an after-market product.

Disadvantages of taking out a car warranty

  • There are limits to how much you can claim – Usually, the car’s total value will be taken as the upper limit.
  • It’s a significant extra annual cost on top of the rest of the running costs – although it could save you money if your car has a mechanical or electrical fault. Make sure you’re weighing up the cost of car warranty vs the risk of needing it. Do your numbers and ensure it makes sense for you.
  • You’ll need to make sure you know all the exclusions and requirements so that your warranty is not invalidated.

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Where can I get a car warranty?

First and foremost, if you’re buying a new car it should come with a car maker’s warranty as standard. These last from three to seven years and can have a mileage limit. If you want to extend the coverage of your new car warranty then you can pay for an extended car warranty when it’s about to expire.

In the case you’re buying a pre-loved car from an official dealer, then you may get a used car warranty as part of the deal. This is not a given, so make sure you check. Used car warranties tend to be much shorter than the manufacturer’s ones and can last from a few months to a year.

And if you’re buying your car from an independent garage, dealer or privately then you can get an independent car warranty provided by another third-party – also called ‘aftermarket warranties’. These tend to be quite customisable and it’s totally up to you to buy one and to check all the terms and conditions. The RAC offers an aftermarket car warranty.

How much does a car warranty cost?

There isn’t a standard answer to this question. How much you pay for a car warranty will depend on factors like your mileage, the make and model of the car, its age, the level of cover you want and the length of time you’ll need it.

In general, the older or more expensive the car is, the pricier the warranty. But make sure you shop around and check with different providers to get a great deal if you’re buying privately – if you’re buying through a dealer you may have to get their warranty.

How to make a warranty claim

If your car has broken down or needs a replacement part, here’s how to make a warranty claim.

  1. Check that you are covered: first and foremost, check what your car warranty covers.
  2. Contact your insurer immediately to report the issue and set up a claim. Don’t wait longer than 7 days as you may not be covered if you wait that long. Follow the procedure set out in your policy documents. They will give you approval and tell you where to find your nearest authorised garage.
  3. Contact the authorised garage to book your car in for repairs. Take a copy of your warranty policy documents, proof of servicing and an up to date MOT certificate.
  4. If your claim is accepted, then your insurer will pay the cost of the repairs directly to the garage or reimburse you once you’ve paid for the work. If you have an excess policy it will be deducted from your claim.

We hope this complete guide to Car Warranty will help you sort of any questions you may have about the topic. And if you still want more information and advice for buying a used car, then check out the rest of our car buying guides. We’ve got everything you need.