Car warranties: all you need to know

  • What to watch out for with car warranties
  • Are extended warranties worth it?
  • The key restrictions to bear in mind

Peace of mind when you’re buying a new or used car is very important - it’s a big purchase after all.

One of the key benefits to car warranties is they offer you some assurance if something does go wrong when you drive away from the dealership so you’re not left high and dry with a hefty repair bill to pay.

There are limitations to consider though, and the small print could catch you out if you don’t know what to look for.

To help you get up to speed, here’s everything you need to know about car warranties, plus which manufacturers have the best offerings.  

How do new car warranties work?

Car warranties offer you that extra piece of mind that if anything does go wrong mechanically, you’re covered by the manufacturer for a number of miles and/or years.

Manufacturers will usually repair any mechanical or electric fault for free under your car's warranty, so if you notice anything wrong, take it to a dealership as soon as possible.

You may also get a hire car for the time that your car is in the garage, and most warranties include roadside assistance too. The new parts will also be covered under the car's warranty.

Under EU law any professional selling a new car needs to offer a warranty of at least two years for manufacturer faults, so if you buy a car and this isn’t stated, you should start asking questions.

Your car warranty will start from the registration date and will stipulate mileage and number of years' cover available.

The standard cover for many car firms is three years/60,000 miles. That said it's not unusual for warranties to go up to five years these days and some even go beyond that. 

One of the most impressive warranties in the industry currently comes from Kia, which stands at seven years/100,000 miles across the firm's entire range of cars.

The small print on warranties

One of the biggest restrictions is the amount of miles you can travel. Some warranties will offer unlimited mileage for a set amount of years and then cap the remaining left. Not many offer cover past 100,000 miles though.

So if your new car comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, this usually means it will expire when one of these limits is reached. If you travel over 60,000 miles in two years, your warranty will no longer be valid despite its stated three-year timeframe. 

Some warranties may also have a set amount of miles you can travel each year to keep your warranty valid, so you need to be sure you don't go over the figure quoted.

A sizeable proportion of the car is usually covered, including the engine, suspension, infotainment system, fuel systems, and other interior controls like air-con.

Not everything is covered though as some parts will need replacing due to wear and tear like tyres, windscreen wipers and headlight replacements.

If you have an accident and cause damage to the car then this is unlikely to be covered under a warranty either, and you should probably think twice about adding modifications as it could invalidate your cover altogether.

If you fail to carry out regular maintenance on your car like changing engine oil or refilling the coolant and a mechanical fault occurs as a result, it’s very unlikely the warranty will cover this.   

Another important thing to look out for in the warranty agreement is the length of cover for individual elements of the car, for example paintwork cover and battery replacement could vary.

Make sure you double check the small print on where you can have repairs carried out too as some warranties could become void if any work undertaken isn't done at a nominated garage or with specified parts.

What about warranties for used cars?

Toyota, Mazda and Kia all offer transferable warranties, which is great news if you’re in the market for a used car buy.

Take Kia for example, if the current owner bought the car new three years ago, that’ll leave you with four years' additional cover – be mindful of how cover varies for different components in the car though and the amount of miles the car has driven.

If you’ve got your eye on a car which has had its warranty expire, you’ll probably be toying with the idea of taking out extended warranty cover.

The amount of cover available from an extended warranty will vary but most used car dealers offer three months for free as a guarantee and then you’ll need to pay extra for further cover.

Basic used-car warranties offer minimal cover of the engine and transmission as well as other key components such as water pump and starter motor. This is similar to how insurance works; the more you pay for your warranty, the more cover you’ll generally get.

There are usually restrictions here though, for example most companies won't cover cars that are more than ten years old or have more than 100,000 miles on the clock, plus your car will need a current MOT certificate and proof of a service by a VAT-registered garage within the last 12 months.

Shopping around

Although dealerships will be quick to offer you warranty cover, that isn’t the only option available to you as specialist providers can also offer good packages, plus they can offer cover if you brought your car privately.

Before signing on the dotted line it's worth doing some research to compare prices to see if you could get a better deal by buying direct.

Important things to remember:

  • Damage to modifications, fair wear and tear and repairs from accidents will not usually be covered
  • Look out for mileage restrictions and changeable cover on different components in the small print
  • Many manufacturers offer transferable warranties for the next owner
  • Make sure repairs are carried out by a garage approved by the provider
  • Keep your servicing and MOT up-to-date otherwise it could invalidate your warranty
  • You could save money by going direct to a specialist provider

Click here to find out more about car warranties with our warranty partner, motoreasy

Still need more help buying your next car? These articles may help:

Top 10 new cars for under £200 a month

What happens at the end of a PCP deal?

Top 10 optional extras for your next family car

Is diesel still the right fuel to go for?

Top 10 cars for fishermen