Everything You Should Know About Factory Car Warranties

The ins and outs of everything related to standard factory car warranties.

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Whenever you buy a new vehicle, there is usually a bunch of paperwork you receive as the new owner. Somewhere in that paperwork is a list of numbers, like three years, 36,000 miles, that seem foreign and unimportant until the day comes when you need to get your car repaired.

These numbers represent the standard factory car warranty that covers your vehicle when certain problems come up. What is a factory warranty?

  • Factory car warranty: Basic coverage offered by the manufacturer to repair certain issues (usually) for free. 

The idea is simple, but there are a lot of details that can affect if, when, and how you can use the coverage. Most vehicle owners don’t take the time to understand their warranty coverage (or factory warranties in general) until the need arises. Waiting until the last minute, however, can be costly if you don’t know some important facts about factory warranties.

The reality is, factory warranties don’t cover everything or even most things vehicle owners expect. They do come in handy with specific issues, so it helps to know what factory warranties actually are and how they can impact your wallet when mechanical repairs are required.

The Basics

The first thing most people look at when buying a new car isn’t the factory warranty. In fact, the specifics of a vehicle’s warranty may be the last thing on their mind when more important details like the horsepower, safety features, or interior touches need to be considered. 

If you fall into this category of vehicle owners, you are far from alone. With that said, it’s a good idea to brush up on your warranty knowledge in case you find yourself needing repair work done on your vehicle and would like the warranty to cover the expense. 

The good news is, car warranties aren’t terribly complex. Let’s start with the basics.

Car Warranties in General

Car warranties come in a lot of varieties, like factory, extended, and CPO. Things get even more complicated when you get into the differences between things like comprehensive and powertrain coverage, but there is one overriding truth to any warranty: They are all basically the same.

All car warranties have the same purpose and promise:

  • Car warranties are written promises by the manufacturer or a third-party to repair or replace defects with the vehicle it sells to you. 

The particulars of a warranty determine when it can be used, but this basic promise is always present. Otherwise, it’s not a warranty. 

Warranties have many potential benefits, especially when it comes to reducing or eliminating repair costs to fix your car. If you discover an issue with your brakes, for example, the warranty may cover the cost of replacement parts and the labor needed to install the new brakes.

The main differences between certain types of warranties include what they cover and when they can be used. No warranty covers everything. Different warranty types cover different parts, issues, and conditions.

A parking lot full of cars.
Most factory warranties cover everything but usual wear items on a vehicle., GettyImages

Factory Auto Warranties

The unique thing about factory warranties is right there in the name; they come from the factory. Specifically, the automaker will offer a warranty—one that’s typically standard for all of its models—anytime a dealer sells a new car to a customer. 

This means the warranty is backed by the manufacturer. In technical terms, the manufacturer is the administrator of the warranty that deals with the costs of parts and services needed to repair an issue.

So, what do factory warranties cover? It depends on the specific warranty, but in general, they cover anything on the vehicle for a certain period of time. A typical factory warranty can actually be made up of different warranties: bumper-to-bumper, comprehensive, emissions, perforation, etc. 

Despite the differences, there is one universal truth about all factory warranties:

  • They cover factory defects made from workmanship and material issues. 

If a part isn’t installed correctly or the body panels begin to rust too soon, these are issues that a factory warranty will cover. If you want to get the cost of a typical oil change covered by the warranty, you’ll be out of luck. 

This is an important point to remember. Instead of damage caused by accidents, normal wear-and-tear, lack of maintenance, or your own mistakes, factory warranties only come into play when the manufacturer has made a mistake. 

This is also a point that trips up most vehicle owners going to a repair shop expecting their repair costs to be covered. In most cases, the factory warranty won’t kick in, leaving the owner to pay out-of-pocket. 

Why have a factory warranty then? The warranty covers the most common issues for new vehicles that are likely to experience defects other than normal wear and tear. This is the manufacturer’s way of keeping you from paying for one of its mistakes. 

The specifics of what is and isn’t covered by a factory warranty are included in a warranty’s limitations.

Factory Warranty Limitations

Automakers are very clear about when and how their factory warranties are applied. Since factory warranties cover their mistakes only, manufacturers have to be careful not to include things that aren’t their fault. 

More importantly, these limitations also determine how long the factory warranty will last. Very few warranties will last the entire lifespan of the vehicle itself. In fact, most factory warranties these days are among the shortest automotive warranties you will find and are even shorter than just a few years ago. 

Knowing these limitations will help you make sense of your own factory warranty so you can avoid any unpleasant surprises. Specific limitations of car warranties can include:

  • Length: Unless a warranty lists its coverage as “unlimited,” there is going to be an expiration date you need to know. Warranties generally have two primary limitations: a specific number of years and a limited number of miles. A factory warranty may be limited to three years or 36,000 miles, meaning it will expire when the car is either three years old or hits the 36,000-mile mark on the odometer. This “one or the other” approach means a warranty can run out rather quickly if you drive your vehicle frequently. 
  • Scope: Beyond time, the other major area that warranties limit their coverage is with the parts they will repair or replace. Some warranties make this easy by covering anything and everything between a car’s bumpers. Others are more limited to specific areas of a vehicle, specific systems within the vehicle, or just the most common parts that may have issues during the lifespan of the warranty. This information can be found in a warranty’s inclusion (what’s included) and exclusion (what’s not included) lists. 
  • Issues: Vehicles can have a lot of things go wrong for any number of reasons. Warranties will usually limit the type and number of causes, so they don’t apply in all cases where mechanical repairs are needed. Factory warranties make things easy by limiting issues to just defects caused at the factory. Once again, if the factory makes a mistake with inferior materials or craftsmanship, the warranty will cover the repair expense. 

The reason many people are confused or surprised by what a factory warranty covers is because this information isn’t always easy to find. Most automakers make it easy to find the basic length and exclusions or inclusions of the warranty, but you may have to wade through the owner’s manual or automaker’s website to get the details.

Still, it’s important to know the details of your particular warranty if you are buying a new car. If a defect should start to affect the performance of your vehicle, this information will tell you exactly what to expect when you go to get the issue repaired under the factory warranty.

A toy tire sitting on a pile of papers.
Most warranties from the factory lack coverage for wear items like tires and brakes., GettyImages

How Factory Warranties Work

Factory warranties are fairly straightforward when it comes to using the coverage for approved repairs. In most cases, you’ll only need to bring your vehicle to an approved dealership or repair facility to get work done without even paying. 

There are a few details, however, that can affect how your warranty works. 

Warranty Coverage

The term “factory warranty” is actually a blanket term that covers a lot of different types of coverages that manufacturers include with new cars. Each type has a certain coverage size that is either fairly comprehensive, meaning most parts are included, or more specific. 

The different coverages are meant to address issues with different parts and areas of a vehicle, but there is usually some overlap between types that are more comprehensive. The comprehensive coverages also tend to be much shorter in length (both in terms of years and mileage).

The most common types are:

  • Bumper-to-Bumper: Also known as the “comprehensive warranty,” the bumper-to-bumper coverage is the primary part of any standard factory warranty. It covers all of the parts and systems in a vehicle (literally from bumper to bumper) minus common wear items like tires and brakes. Usually the shortest in a factory warranty, this coverage is meant to address defect issues that are most likely to come up in a car’s first few years of life. For expensive systems, like the computers and other electronics in a vehicle, this coverage can save the owner a lot of money.
  • Powertrain: The other most common part of a factory warranty, the powertrain coverage includes the most important parts for keeping a vehicle in motion: the engine, transmission, differentials, drivetrain, and other mechanical parts that involve turning the wheels. This coverage tends to last the longest in a standard factory warranty, making sure the vehicle will run longer, even when the comprehensive bumper-to-bumper coverage has expired. 
  • Corrosion/Rust: This is a specialty part of a factory warranty that almost all automakers include for a certain period of time and distance (although some offer lifetime protection). For steel parts on the car (i.e. body panels), this covers repairs needed due to rust or deterioration. Most forms of this coverage only cover surface rust, meaning more serious forms of deterioration where the rust chews through the metal aren’t usually included in the repair reimbursement. This coverage can be extremely valuable when driving in cold or humid locations or as a vehicle gets older and rust damage starts to build up.
  • Specialty: There are plenty of other smaller coverages automakers tack on to protect important components of a vehicle. For example, almost all manufacturers have some kind of safety system coverage for airbags, seat restraints, etc. Specialty coverage is also common on particular models in a company’s lineup, like electric or hybrid vehicles, that have unique or advanced components other vehicles in the lineup lack. 
  • Secret: Sometimes known as “policy adjustments,” secret coverages are basically just unlisted, informal benefits of a factory warranty most customers don’t even know about. These vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and even case by case. Typically, if there is an issue after the comprehensive warranty runs out, these “secret coverages” kick in on the goodwill of the manufacturer, meaning the company will repair the issue for free if you’re a loyal customer, others are having similar issues, or you talk to the right person through the customer service line. 

It’s important to know which coverages your particular factory warranty will include when you buy a new vehicle. All automakers differ beyond the standard comprehensive and powertrain coverages. You’ll likely find the extra coverages tend to be geared towards the vehicles the company makes.

Keep in mind that each coverage included in the factory warranty will have a different time and distance limit. While a factory warranty will have its complete coverage when a vehicle is new, each one will expire at a different point. This also means used vehicles may have partial factory warranties with only the powertrain or specialty coverages left. 

Beyond the manufacturer coverages, most factory warranties also include adjustment coverages provided by the dealership. These adjustments can include small parts or issues like squeaks, alignments, leaks, etc. Traditionally, these adjustments only last a few months as a new vehicle is “broken in.”

Unfortunately, these adjustment coverages are limited to that specific dealership, meaning you won’t be able to get repairs covered anywhere else. Typically, this isn’t an issue unless you buy a car far from your home and discover small issues that need to be fixed.

Eventually, all of the manufacturer and adjustment coverages will expire, ending the factory warranty completely. When this happens, you will need to look at extended warranty options or consider going without coverage if you believe it’s more cost-effective to pay for repairs out-of-pocket. 

What Factory Warranties Actually Do (and Don’t) Cover

Terms like “bumper-to-bumper” and “comprehensive” can make it difficult to know exactly what is and isn’t covered by a factory warranty. This is particularly true for other coverages, like the powertrain warranty, that only include specific parts in a vehicle. 

Thankfully, factory warranties make it easy to find what is and isn’t included if you know where to look. The best way to find this information is by looking at the list of inclusions and exclusions:

  • Inclusions: The list of everything that a warranty covers. This list makes it easy to check out what parts are actually covered without any confusion. Specialty warranty coverages that only have a few parts or vehicle systems tend to use inclusion lists more than comprehensive coverages. Most lists divide the parts by systems or areas like the interior, engine, or drivetrain.
  • Exclusions: The opposite of inclusion lists, exclusions are simply what’s excluded from coverage. These lists are more common with comprehensive warranties where it’s easier to just list what is left out. In this case, it’s safe to assume that everything that is not on the exclusion list is covered. Like inclusions, this type of list makes it easy to check what you should expect from the warranty. 

In addition to the inclusions and exclusions, you can also look at the scope of the warranty to understand what you should expect:

  • Causes: Although factory warranties tend to be restricted to defects caused by the automaker, it doesn’t hurt to look at the approved causes in the warranty details. Certain coverages or extra perks may include additional causes competitor factory warranties don’t include. Every now and then, manufacturers also include other causes in their “secret” coverages depending on the circumstances. 

Buying a Factory Warranty

Thankfully, the process of actually buying a factory warranty is simple and straightforward: You get it with the car. In fact, most people don’t even realize they get a factory warranty when buying a new car.

Automakers and dealerships work with car prices with factory warranties in mind. This means you essentially pay for the warranty through the cost of the car itself and any interest you pay on an auto loan. 

Thankfully, this arrangement isn’t quite as bad as paying for a factory extended warranty, which is why it pays to take some time to consider if an extended warranty is necessary if the original coverage hasn’t expired. Most factory extended warranties just extend the lifespan of the coverage, meaning you won’t get anything extra in terms of repair cost reimbursement or additional services. 

Getting Repairs Covered

When it comes to actually using the warranty coverage to reduce or eliminate repair costs, factory warranties are easier to utilize than extended or auto insurance coverage, assuming you go to an authorized repair facility and have an issue/part that’s covered by the warranty.

While there usually isn’t an official claims process to get a repair approved, the warranty may fail to cover the costs for a number of reasons:

  • The repair isn’t covered by the warranty.
  • The cause of the issue isn’t covered by the warranty.
  • Regular maintenance hasn’t been maintained.
  • The issue was caused by modifications to the vehicle.

The main challenge with getting repairs covered is whether the automaker will “approve” the repair. Since you don’t pay out-of-pocket for repairs, dealerships and approved repair facilities need to be reimbursed by the automaker; otherwise, they’ll just absorb the costs, which isn’t the best way to do business. 

The approval process is pretty straightforward for defects covered by the warranty. If the issue falls outside of the warranty’s scope, however, the manufacturer may refuse to pay for the repair. Knowing this, the dealership or repair facility may refuse to do the work in the first place, requiring you to find another place and to (most likely) pay for the repair yourself. 

This is the biggest limitation of factory warranties and a common reason why many vehicle owners choose to include an extended warranty or auto repair insurance to their overall coverage. Expanded coverage will approve more repairs, increasing its value in more situations.

Maintaining Your Warranty

Automakers tend to be fairly strict about how a vehicle needs to be treated and maintained for warranty coverage to apply. This way, the manufacturer protects itself from issues it has no control over and shouldn’t have to pay for. 

If a vehicle owner drastically modifies the vehicle, for example, such modifications may not be covered if something directly related goes wrong. The good news is, most modifications won’t completely void the warranty outright. The automaker will likely just deny coverage for the specific issue.

Some manufacturers also expect or recommend a specific maintenance schedule. Sticking to this schedule will keep the vehicle in the condition necessary to use the factory warranty without worrying about any coverage denials. 

Keep in mind, the maintenance will most likely need to be done by a dealership or approved auto garage so the automaker knows the work is done right and with OEM parts. 

Routine Maintenance Costs

The major letdown most people experience with any auto warranty is the lack of coverage for routine maintenance. It’s easy to assume that typical things like oil changes are covered by the warranty, but factory and extended warranties fall short in this regard.

The reason for this is simple: Regular maintenance on thousands of cars is too expensive for automakers and third-party providers. Warranties are only cost-effective when only a few cars have issues. Since regular maintenance is something every car should have, the costs can quickly skyrocket.

Still, proper maintenance is essential for keeping a vehicle in working condition and aligned with the factory’s expectations for warranty coverage. You can take a DIY approach for minor maintenance tasks, but the costs of regular maintenance through a local dealership can be worth it to keep everything running. 

Twisted metal from of a car.
Most factory warranties offer no or limited help for major damage and rust., GettyImages

Factory Warranties and Other Warranties

If you buy a new car, you may reach a point where the salesperson starts to talk about other warranty options. While it may seem like you can replace the factory warranty with another one, this isn’t the case. Instead, you can only add other warranties or replace the factory coverage once it has expired.

It’s helpful to know what other warranty types exist and how they differ from the factory coverage. This way, if you do want to alter the coverage, you will know exactly what options may be your best bet or most appropriate for your vehicle’s repair needs.

Factory vs Extended Car Warranties

Factory warranties are most often compared to extended warranties since they are similar and tend to follow one after the other. Once a factory warranty expires (or if it doesn’t provide the coverage you want), an extended warranty is the most logical alternative to consider.

On the surface, extended warranties are a lot like factory warranties. They have a certain lifespan (in terms of years and mileage) and a list of inclusions and/or exclusions that determine the parts covered. All extended warranties also have certain conditions in which they apply. 

These surface similarities, however, don’t reflect the reality behind how extended warranties work. In fact, there are actually two different types of extended warranties you can consider when you want to extend coverage:

  • Factory Extended Warranties: What happens when your factory warranty runs out but you don’t want to sacrifice the basic defect coverage? Most manufacturers actually offer the option to extend the factory coverage for a few more years and/or miles for an additional cost. Factory extended warranties are just like the original coverage, covering the exact same parts with a new limit period. In some cases, this can be a good way to extend coverage while keeping expenses low since there aren’t too many extra perks or services that can drive up the cost.  
  • Vehicle Service Contracts: Also known as third-party extended warranties, vehicle service contracts don’t come from the manufacturer at all. Instead, another company acts as the administrator, meaning they will pay the repair shop or dealership for repair work. If you are searching for an extended warranty, going the third-party route can be a good idea since providers will give you more options and extra perks if you want additions like roadside assistance, free towing services, hotel reimbursement, and more if an emergency situation arises.

Extended warranties don’t replace a factory warranty as long as the manufacturer’s coverage is still in effect. You can replace the warranty after it expires or buy an extended warranty to supplement the existing coverage. 

Between factory and extended warranties, major differences include:

  • Provider: Factory warranties only come from the factory. Any warranty from a third-party provider that claims to be a factory warranty is just some form of an extended warranty. In general, all new cars come with some set of factory warranties to cover the vehicle for any defects or mistakes that may be made during its construction. For the most part, factory warranties don’t include recalls.
  • Coverage Variety: Automakers are fairly set in the different types of factory warranties they offer. Beyond the standard bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties, there isn’t much variety with extras, like perforation coverage. Extended warranties from third-party providers have the advantage by offering more plan options customers can select for the specific needs of their vehicle.
  • Scope Variety: Factory warranties are extremely limited in the types of repairs and the causes they cover. Unless the issue comes from a defect, a factory warranty is unlikely to pay out. Extended warranties vary from plan to plan but tend to be more broad in the causes that they cover.
  • Restrictions: There are many restrictions both factory and extended warranties place in terms of when and where you can get your vehicle repaired. With factory warranties, most automakers have a list of certified garages and dealerships they will automatically approve ahead of time. This can limit your repair options, but it’s a good way to ensure qualified technicians will be doing factory-approved work with OEM parts. Extended warranty providers can have similar lists, but most repair facilities won’t be as manufacturer-specific as a dealership. 
  • Price: Whereas a factory warrant is wrapped into the cost of a vehicle, most extended warranties cost extra. Third-party warranties, for example, have a set cost for the length of the coverage that you typically pay on a yearly or monthly basis. Extended warranties from the manufacturer also cost extra unless you buy a used vehicle and the coverage at the same time.

Many people find third-party extended warranties attractive since they tend to offer more than the factory options. It’s easier to choose a plan that fits your needs since there are multiple coverage options to choose from. 

If you are in the market for an extended warranty, we recommend researching your options before making a decision. There are plenty of extended warranty providers out there, and some are better than others. 

The number of providers, however, makes it easy to find one that is reputable and that offers the coverage you really need. If you are looking for a good place to start, we suggest checking out one of CarShield’s Warranty plans which could save you thousands of dollars if your vehicle fails.

Factory vs Dealership Warranties

Buying a car from a dealership is normally a straightforward process when it comes to the warranty coverage. Most dealerships simply offer the standard manufacturer warranty, so there is no need for research or decision making as long as you are happy with the make and model of the vehicle.

A few dealerships, however, make themselves stand out with their own warranty. In many cases, a dealership warranty replaces or supplements the factory coverage depending on the agreement the dealership has with the automaker. 

The particulars of the dealership warranty depend on the individual dealer, but there are a few universal truths when it comes to comparing the two types:

  • Dealership warranties can be backed by the dealership itself. This means the factory will have no role in covering the costs of specific mechanical repairs. If you are getting work done for free with the dealership warranty, the dealership itself is footing the bill. This isn’t always the setup, however.
  • Dealership warranties can actually be extended warranties in disguise. It’s not common, but some dealerships offer warranties backed by third-party administrators, meaning the dealership is acting as a broker. The dealership may advertise the warranty as “factory coverage,” but it most likely acts like a third-party extended warranty that exists on top of the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Dealership warranties often offer more than factory warranties. Once again, this isn’t always the case, but dealerships can attract new customers by offering more coverage. It’s not unreasonable to expect to find better inclusions lists, longer limitations, and more additional perks with a dealership warranty.
  • Dealership warranties vary in quality. The main drawback with a dealership-specific warranty is the variation in quality. The quality of any warranty depends on the backer: the company that handles the costs and/or repairs. Many dealerships are reputable and put customer service first, but this isn’t universally true. It pays to do some research on the dealership before you buy a car from them.
  • Dealership warranties may limit repair locations. Warranties tend to specify where you can and can’t get your vehicle repaired to have costs covered. Automaker and third-party providers are large enough to have big networks of accepted repair facilities. Individual dealerships, on the other hand, may need to restrict the acceptable repair locations.

Dealership warranties can offer a few extras or benefits over standard factory warranties, but it’s important to know the specifics of the warranty. Knowing where the warranty actually comes from, in terms of the administrator, will help you assess the credibility of the provider. These details will also make using the coverage easier if and when the time comes. 

Factory vs CPO Warranties

One question that often comes up is whether a used car is covered by a factory warranty. Unless the original warranty hasn’t expired yet, most used vehicles have no coverage. The only other exception is with certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles that come with some kind of new warranty coverage. 

Almost all automakers have some kind of certified pre-owned program where they take slightly used vehicles, make sure they still work, and then sell them again with a new warranty. 

This type of program is meant to give you more peace of mind about buying a used car. When you buy a used vehicle, it’s hard to know what condition it’s in or what issues it may have. There is always a chance that you’re buying a vehicle that will require a lot of repairs to run.

Certified pre-owned programs eliminate the usual risks of buying used with the inspection process. Each automaker has a different inspection process, but almost all of them are thorough enough to check the most important systems of a vehicle. 

Most CPO programs also limit eligible vehicles to ones that are a couple years old and that have a small number of miles on the engine. Better still, the CPO vehicle will also come with a new warranty that completely replaces the original factory coverage. This means you won’t have to choose between a factory and CPO warranty. Instead:

  • For most automakers, the specifics of the warranty are the same as the factory coverage, so it’s basically like hitting the reset button.
  • CPO warranties aren’t the same as extended warranties since you can’t buy one for a new car you buy.
  • The factory, extended, and CPO warranties from the manufacturer may all be the same in terms of inclusions/exclusions and the length. 

Like new car warranties, CPO coverage tends to be included in the cost of the vehicle. This means you won’t decide whether you want the warranty or not; it’s just there. It also means you may pay interest on the warranty cost that’s included in the final price if you take out a loan.

If you are looking for a slightly used car, checking out an automaker’s CPO program is a good place to start. Since the CPO warranty will likely match the original factory coverage, you will get the same coverage for a vehicle that is new enough to avoid most common wear and tear issues.

Factory Warranties vs. Auto Insurance

Another common and incorrect assumption vehicle owners often have is that auto insurance will pay for vehicle repair work. While some auto insurance policies do cover the costs of repairs after accidents and other incidents, they don’t apply in all cases.

In fact, there are several different types of auto insurance, some which have nothing to do with vehicle repairs at all. The types that do include: 

  • Collision: This type of insurance covers basic repairs when a collision with a car or other object (like a wall) has occurred. The unique thing about this coverage is that it will cover repair costs when you are at fault, meaning you caused the accident in the first place. If you aren’t at fault, then the other driver(s)’s insurance will likely cover the costs. 
  • Comprehensive: Going beyond mere collisions, comprehensive auto insurance covers your vehicle from damage caused by other uncontrollable incidents. Fire, flood, vandalism, hail, and falling rocks and trees are all usually covered under this type of auto insurance. Once again, comprehensive insurance doesn’t extend to mechanical failures or the wear and tear that develops as a vehicle ages.
  • Glass Coverage: This is additional insurance coverage that deals specifically with damage caused to the windows on a vehicle. Basically, any time the glass needs to be repaired or replaced, this insurance will cover the damage.

There are other auto insurance policies that don’t involve vehicle repairs:

  • Liability: This is the basic form of insurance required to actually drive your vehicle legally. It covers property damage, medical issues, or legal fees. It pays money to other people to keep you from paying out-of-pocket.
  • Personal Injury Protection: If anyone in your car is injured during an accident (including yourself), this insurance will reimburse the medical costs. A few policies also cover lost wages and other random expenses if you have a lengthy recovery period that takes you away from the job.
  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Getting in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist can be difficult when it comes to getting costs covered. Uninsured motorist insurance covers you in these circumstances, paying for automotive, medical, or legal expenses you’d otherwise have to pay out-of-pocket. There’s also underinsured motorist coverage for when the other driver has insurance but lacks adequate coverage.

It’s important to understand that most auto insurance won’t cover the same issues that a basic factory warranty does. If there is an issue caused by the manufacturing process or materials, the insurance won’t kick in. 

There is also little to no coverage for mechanical issues that develop unexpectedly. In this case, another type of insurance is necessary:

  • Mechanical Breakdown: Sometimes known as auto repair insurance, mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) pays for repairs not caused by incidents like accidents. An MBI plan is similar to an extended warranty, covering more than factory warranties, but is regulated by the insurance industry. 

An MBI plan is a popular choice for vehicle owners who want something extra beyond the factory warranty but don’t want a true extended warranty. Even though you won’t get rid of your factory coverage, there are many differences between manufacturer’s and extended warranties and MBI coverage:

  • Mechanical breakdown insurance can only be sold through a licensed insurer or broker. Like factory warranties, the single source of insurance makes it easier to assess the reputation of the provider. The insurance provider, however, may not be completely focused on automotive needs like a car manufacturer. 
  • Paying for an MBI plan vs. a factory warranty is different. An MBI plan is similar to other insurance policies; you pay a monthly premium. This premium will last the entire duration of the MBI plan until it expires. Since factory warranties are included in the price of a vehicle, you pay for the manufacturer’s coverage upfront, even through an auto loan. 
  • Mechanical breakdown insurance is usually limited to newer vehicles. Like factory warranties, most MBI plans are limited to newer vehicles. Some plans have shorter limitation periods (i.e. under five years or 100,000 miles) or may limit the eligibility requirements a vehicle must meet to qualify. Some insurance providers, however, do offer specialty insurance plans for older or classic/antique vehicles
  • Mechanical breakdown insurance and vehicle service contracts are different. MBI and extended warranties are similar in the scope of coverage, but most extended warranty providers aren’t regulated. This means you may find some providers are less reputable or trustworthy than others.

Is a Factory Warranty Valuable?

Since you’ll get a factory warranty with any new vehicle, it’s hard to question whether the coverage is necessary or not. You don’t need it to legally drive, meaning you may drive the vehicle without ever using the warranty. Its value to you, however, is a different story.

Factory warranties can save you money on mechanical repairs. This heavily depends on what issues you experience and what’s covered by the warranty, but there are many situations where new vehicle owners will grow to appreciate the assistance. 

Some of these situations include:

  • There are major defects that typically plague new vehicles.
  • The vehicle has issues with expensive components, like electrical systems.
  • The vehicle’s make and model has a history of service needs.
  • The automaker provides extra perks with the factory warranty, like roadside assistance.
  • You buy a used vehicle that comes with a factory warranty already.

Like any warranty, factory coverage is only useful to you when there is a need to save money. In other words, unless there is something wrong with the vehicle, you won’t notice the money-saving value of the warranty. This is why some owners may not even know about their factory warranty coverage.

The good news is you aren’t losing any money by not using a factory warranty. Unlike extended warranties that will cost extra and can be skipped, the standard warranty that comes with the car doesn’t increase the final price. So, at the very least, you can use or not use the warranty without hurting your wallet. 

A toy Model T.
Classic and antique cars present a unique challenge for factory warranties, which is why other alternatives like auto insurance are better., GettyImages

Finding the Right Factory Warranty

We never recommend buying a car just for its factory warranty, but if you find yourself in the position of choosing between different automakers and models, the warranty coverage is a good point to consider. More importantly, comparing factory warranties is also a good way to compare different automakers.

Warranties are a measure of a company’s confidence in its products. Generally, the longer the warranty, the higher the level of confidence. While many automakers stick with a standard warranty length, there are a few companies that entice customers with longer lengths.

Even if you don’t buy a new car for its factory warranty alone, it still pays to do some research ahead of time. This way, you will know what to expect from the warranty and the manufacturer long before you actually need to use the coverage in an unexpected emergency situation.

Buying Scenarios

Compared to extended warranties, there aren’t many different situations you may find yourself in when researching factory warranties. New and slightly-used cars are the only vehicles that have the whole set of warranties still in effect under the factory coverage. For longer-lasting warranties, particularly powertrain warranties, there may also be some partial coverage left for a used car as well.

New Car

Any new car sitting on a dealership lot will likely have the same manufacturer’s warranty as every other vehicle in the company’s lineup. As a result, it’s fairly easy to find what warranty coverage will come with a new vehicle. As long as you can find the info on the company’s standard warranty, you’ll have most of the information you need.

The only challenge for finding detailed warranty info about a car you’re looking at is if the automaker has different coverage for that particular model. This is rare, but some companies have different terms for unique models, like hybrids or electric vehicles, that reflect the unique needs of the model itself. 

If you’re trying to find a new car and want to include factory warranties into your decision-making process, the best warranties straight from the factory include:

  • Standard or above-average warranty lengths (time and distance).
  • A large inclusion list for the powertrain warranty.
  • Useful coverages beyond the comprehensive and powertrain warranties, like a safety restraint warranty.
  • Additional perks or services that go beyond the basic warranties. 

A factory warranty is a good opportunity to get more value than just the standard comprehensive and powertrain warranties offered. Not all automakers add additional value in the form of other coverages or extra perks, but the ones that do may be worth an extra look if you can find a model in the lineup. 

Used Car

Buying a used car is a tricky situation when it comes to the factory warranty. Most standard coverages are transferable to a new owner, but the remaining duration on each warranty will vary depending on the age and use of the vehicle. This means you can find multiple vehicles of the same make and model with different warranties left over. 

More importantly, buying a used car is an opportunity to decide whether you need an extended warranty or not. Basically, you may find the leftover factory warranty isn’t good or young enough to offer the coverage you want on the used vehicle. 

With that said, you can include the condition of the factory warranty into your search in order to find something that has the leftover factory coverage you want. For used cars, look for a remaining factory warranty that:

  • Is actually transferable to a new owner.
  • Has at least a year and/or 10,000 miles left on the bumper-to-bumper-like coverage. 
  • Has two years and/or 25,000 miles or more left on the powertrain coverage.
  • Is better than extended warranty options you may be considering.

In general, newer used vehicles (anything under three years old with less than 35,000 miles on the engine) are more likely to have all or some of the factory warranty left. Older vehicles (three to eight years old with less than 100,000 miles on the engine) will likely have partial coverage left over. 

High-Mileage Cars

Vehicles that have over 50,000 miles on the engine will rarely have a complete factory warranty if you are buying one used. Almost all vehicles around this mark will no longer have the comprehensive warranty. Like newer used vehicles, this means you’ll likely have to weigh the existing factory warranty with the value of a new, extended warranty. 

High-mileage cars often are at the point where wear and tear issues begin to come up. Since a factory warranty won’t cover these issues, alternatives like extended warranties or auto repair insurance may be necessary so you won’t need to pay out-of-pocket for anything major that breaks down unexpectedly.

While we generally recommend purchasing additional or replacement coverage, the existing factory warranty can be adequate if:

  • There’s at least a year and/or 10,000 miles left on the powertrain warranty.
  • There are unlimited coverages in the warranty for specific systems like safety features.
  • The automaker offers the option to extend the comprehensive and powertrain warranties for a low cost.

If you want additional coverage and the automaker doesn’t offer an affordable extension option, check out a third-party warranty provider. This will allow you to keep the remaining factory warranty coverage and add the extended coverage on top of everything else. 

Researching Factory Warranties

Want to know all the little details of a specific factory warranty? Researching the factory warranty not only gives you an idea of what to expect from the warranty coverage on a new or used vehicle, but it can also help you decide between automakers if everything else appears equal between models, trims, and extras.

It’s easy to get the basics, but you may find it more difficult to get the specifics you need to decide between different automakers if you haven’t selected a particular model yet. In this case, there are a few steps to take to get this information. In fact, looking at different resources will give you a better understanding of the warranty than just the automaker’s website can provide. 

Factory Websites

We avoid starting with provider websites when it comes to extended warranties, but factory warranties are a different story. There is no better direct source for information than the manufacturer, as long as it makes it easy to find the information on the website or marketing materials for a specific model.

You can always get the information from a dealership, but if you want the convenience of researching details from your own home, look at the automaker’s website instead. Most automakers list the basics of the factory warranty, including information like the different types and duration of the coverage. 

This makes it easy to see how comprehensive the factory warranty actually is and how it divides the coverage up between the bumper-to-bumper, powertrain, and other types of warranties. 

Unfortunately, things become more difficult when searching for some details with certain automakers. If something is listed on one of the main pages of the site, look for links leading to warranty-specific materials or car manuals that have a section on the standard coverage.

Talking with someone from the company’s customer support line or at a local dealership also gives you a direct line to more in-depth information. This is also a good way to get information on car-specific warranties if the certain model deviates from the standard terms.

Third-Party Sites

There are plenty of third-party resources that review extended warranties and their provides, but you can also get an unbiased look at factory warranties when assessing different automakers. Unlike factory websites and dealerships, these resources tend to look at warranties through an objective lens that is more helpful for potential vehicle owners doing the necessary research.

In fact, we use a number of third-party sites when researching the factory warranties of cars we review. These sites tend to look at the nitty, gritty details of the warranty information factory websites and dealerships may ignore or forget to include when briefing you on the particulars of the standard coverage.

Some of our favorite resources include:

  • ConsumerAdvocate: A website focused solely on matching readers with reputable companies (and their goods and services), ConsumerAdvocate takes a transparent approach to evaluating car warranty providers. In addition to hours and hours of research, the company is clear about who it works or advertises with and what kind of steps it takes in its evaluation process.
  • ConsumerAffairs: ConsumerAffairs is a unique review site since it actually gathers its own user reviews on products, services, and entire brands or companies. The site also acts as a bridge for customers and companies, inviting both to leave feedback, answer questions, and otherwise interact in a productive way. This means you can find some personal insights and user experiences with different warranty providers here. 
  • Retirement Living: Don’t let the name fool you. Yes, Retirement Living is targeted at people preparing for or living out their retirement. If you don’t fall into the site’s target demographic, however, there’s still a lot of value to get from its warranty provider reviews. We like this site because it does a good job of comparing competitors and highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each one. 
  • Best Company: The thing that Best Company does better than almost anyone else is showing the world how they review companies. Skipping the usual “pay-to-play” model where review sites force companies to spend more to rank higher, Best Company makes it clear how user reviews, company input, and industry expertise all factor into the final ranking, including reviews on auto warranty providers.
  • Better Business Bureau: There is no more extensive resource than the Better Business Bureau. The BBB does a good job of rating companies on an individual basis. While you won’t find too many comparison reviews, its individual auto warranty lists are a great resource for finding local providers you can trust.

The best way to research and compare factory warranties from third-party sites is to use multiple sites for a comprehensive look at the coverage. This means you’ll get multiple looks at the same coverage so important details and impressions won’t go unnoticed. 


We’re no strangers to wading through the complicated, confusing details of factory and extended warranties. Our in-depth reviews require a lot of research to even begin assessing the quality of different options for our readers.

As a result, we strive to make TheDrive a go-to resource for anyone needing an honest look at warranties. In fact, that’s where we specialize: unbiased, close looks at warranty options from automakers and third-party providers alike. 

If you haven’t picked a make and model yet or just want to see what specific automakers are offering these days, check out our warranty review section. You can find a number of in-depth looks and comparisons where we tell you exactly what to expect and where a warranty may fall short.

You can also get a sense of how most factory warranties stack up to other alternatives like extended and insurance coverage. So, even if you aren’t buying a new car, there’s something helpful for you in our warranty reviews.

Comparing Automakers

It’s easy to simply pick a car based on your experience or loyalty to a specific brand. If you have been driving for a while, you likely have one or two favorites that you’ll start with the next time you are in the market for a new vehicle. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it can help to compare different automakers, especially ones you don’t know too much about.

When it comes to factory warranties, comparing manufacturers will give you an idea of what you may gain or lose with each provider. Combined with a company’s reputation, model lineup, and other offerings, you can get a sense of which company may offer you the most.

We like to look beyond just the factory warranty to get a sense of how each automaker handles its coverage. That’s why we check out the extended and CPO warranties as well when matching companies up.

You will likely find out how an automaker treats its customers through its warranty offerings. For example, if the factory and extended warranties are long and comprehensive (beyond the typical bumper-to-bumper coverage), that can be a good sign that the automaker has your interests in mind. 

If the coverage is slim, however, it may suggest that the company has a “hook ‘em and toss ‘em” approach where it largely ignores you after the money is in hand. 

When comparing different automakers, consider the following:

  • Warranty Range: As discussed before, there tends to be slim pickings when it comes to the range of factory warranty options from any given automaker. Manufacturers like to standardize this coverage since most models are similar enough in design and construction to benefit from the same coverage. You can, however, prepare for the possible need of an extended warranty by seeing what options exist through the company. A large vehicle care program, for example, will give you more options to consider in the future or now if you want to add extended coverage right from the start.  
  • Reputation: A company’s reputation is perhaps the most powerful indication of your potential experience with its products and services. Automakers are no different. Beyond the reputation a manufacturer has for quality cars, you can compare different companies by their warranty reputation. This reputation is largely based on previous customer experiences when they’ve needed to reduce repair costs. 
  • Source of Warranties: All warranties need to be backed by a company to actually work. This company, known as the administrator, is the one that actually pays a dealership, repair facility, or customer to reimburse the expenses of the work. For factory warranties, the automaker is almost always the administrator, so it pays to look at how each company handles warranty coverage for covered repairs. In other words, is the process quick and simple? Can dealerships do repair work quickly without having to wait for a lengthy approval process? For extended warranties, the administrator may be a different company that you’ll need to research if and when you consider adding the extra coverage. 
  • Customer Service: What happens when you need some assistance from the automaker? How do you get in touch with someone who will have the information you need? An automaker’s customer service support comes in many forms but remains the same at its core. Whether it’s from the dealership, a phone line, or email, good customer support addresses the customer’s needs quickly and completely. For warranty issues, customer support is a direct line to information regarding the specifics of the coverage, how the repair process works, and for resolving any issues that come up. If an automaker doesn’t have good customer support, you may think about looking at other options. 
  • Size: A company’s size can be an indirect measure of how easy it will be to get your vehicle repaired and the service covered by the warranty. You don’t have to worry about how successful a company is or how many cars it sells each year. Instead, look at the number of dealerships or authorized repair facilities it lists under its warranty coverage. If the automaker has dealerships all over, for example, you’ll likely have few problems getting the work completed and covered through the warranty.

If you decide to take the time to compare different automakers, different resources will give you different information to make the final choice. An automaker’s website is a great place to start for details on the factory warranty it offers. Third-party websites are also a good resource for getting review information about the warranty terms and coverage. 

Talking to a human being never hurts either. While basic information you can find online is good for a general understanding of an automaker’s factory warranty, speaking to someone at a dealership or through the company’s customer support is a better way to get details or answers to questions you may have.

Ultimately, comparing different automakers and their factory warranties isn’t an exact science. Sometimes, there’s a clear winner in terms of the scope and length of the coverage, but this isn’t always the case. You may find the decision comes down to the little details.

It’s helpful to choose what warranty aspects are most important to you. So, if you want a small exclusion list or lengthy warranty, keep an eye out for manufacturers that deliver in the standard coverage.

Keep in mind that the factory warranty should also be one part of your decision-making process when buying a new vehicle. The warranty itself won’t get you around, so the quality and capabilities of the vehicle are a top priority. 

Additions to Factory Warranties

Even though factory warranties come standard with all new vehicles, there are a few options to increase the coverage if you don’t want to leave it with just defect repairs. Extended warranties and auto repair insurance will give you additional coverage, usually in different areas from the factory warranty so there isn’t much redundancy or overlap. 

Extended Warranties

Extended warranties are often the next logical addition after the factory warranty has expired. It’s important to remember that most extended warranties are different from factory warranties since they’re vehicle service contracts. This means they’ll have a different set of terms, provider, and even claims process than the standard factory coverage.

The great thing about extended coverage is there are more options to consider than factory warranties offer, meaning there is usually something you can add that meets more of your needs. This is particularly true if you choose an extended warranty from a third-party provider.

Other advantages include:

  • Payment is different. Factory warranties are included in the costs of the vehicle, meaning you pay upfront. Extended warranties, on the other hand, have a total cost that’s broken up by year or month over the length of the warranty’s lifespan.
  • You aren’t excluded to automaker dealerships and repair facilities. While factory warranties are rarely limited in local locations to get repairs completed, third-party warranty providers commonly have the advantage by working with a larger range of repair facilities they reimburse for work. 
  • You’ll likely get extra perks. Almost all third-party providers include extras that factory warranties lack. In most cases, these extras are convenient if not potentially lifesaving in an emergency. The most common perks include roadside assistance, free towing services, and rental car or trip reimbursement.

Buying a third-party warranty can happen at any time, but it’s most common to add it after the factory warranty is gone. You may find that having extended coverage with the factory warranty on a new car is preferable if you expect or discover some issues with a new vehicle. 

Mechanical Breakdown Insurance

Mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI), also known as auto repair insurance, is the form of auto insurance that actually covers expenses when certain mechanical issues occur. Unlike regular auto insurance, accidents or incidents don’t have to happen for the policy to kick in. 

MBI is a popular alternative to extended warranties since they have to follow certain regulations that protect the consumer. Along with a factory warranty, this combination adds more confidence in the providers (the automaker and insurance company).

Other important details about MBI include:

  • You will have a deductible. Insurance doesn’t kick in until a certain amount, known as the deductible, has been paid. All plans have different deductibles that usually range between $0 and $500.
  • You pay on-the-go. Unlike extended warranties that tend to get paid on a yearly basis (unless the provider has a monthly plan) or upfront with a vehicle purchase, MBI plans are paid on a monthly basis through the monthly premium: a set amount that gets paid until the policy expires. 
  • You will likely be reimbursed for costs. The major difference between auto repair insurance and a factory warranty is what you have to pay upfront. In addition to the deductible, most MBI plans reimburse you for the work instead of the dealership or repair garage. So, you pay out-of-pocket at the start, then get the money back once the service is approved. 
  • You can cancel at any time. With no legal requirements for having an MBI plan, you are free to cancel at any point. This means you won’t be stuck with a factory or extended warranty you have to purchase completely.
  • Not all cars are eligible. Like many extended auto warranties, cars have to qualify for MBI. Many insurance providers favor newer vehicles that are under 15 months old and have under 15,000 miles on the engine. Some providers, however, offer insurance plans geared for older or even classic vehicles.


Q. How do I see if a factory warranty has expired?

A. The best way to get this information is to check with the manufacturer. You can visit a local dealership or call/email the manufacturer’s customer service directly to get the history of your vehicle, even if you bought it used. You will probably need to get the VIN of the vehicle to help them identify the warranty.

Q. Can I sell a car without a factory warranty?

A. Yes. Used cars are sold all of the time without a factory warranty. Even partial warranty coverage is okay to sell. This can be a disadvantage, however, if a potential buyer wants some kind of coverage to come with the vehicle. In this case, a transferable extended warranty is the best option.

Q. Can I buy a factory warranty for a used car?

A. No. Unless the original factory warranty hasn’t expired, you can’t get original coverage for the vehicle. Extended warranties or auto repair insurance, on the other hand, can be applied to a used vehicle if it meets the qualification requirements of the particular plan or policy. This usually depends on the condition of the vehicle and your driving history. 

Q. What happens when my bumper-to-bumper coverage expires?

A. You will lose the comprehensive coverage that includes nearly everything on a vehicle save for common wear items like tires and brakes. If the coverage has recently expired, you will likely still have other parts of the factory warranty, like the powertrain coverage, to keep the most important parts on the vehicle covered longer. 

Q. Do automakers change their factory warranty terms?

A. Only for new vehicles. Automakers change the factory terms every few years to meet shifts in the industry or what their competitors do. If you have a factory warranty, however, the terms and conditions will be set, meaning the coverage or length won’t change on you unexpectedly. 

Major Manufacturer Factory Terms

Here’s a list of some of the most popular factory warranties and their bumper-to-bumper and powertrain coverage terms:

  • Acura Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Six years/70,000 miles
  • Audi Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Four years/50,000 miles
  • BMW Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Four years/50,000 miles
  • Buick Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Five years/100,000 miles
  • Cadillac Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Five years/100,000 miles
  • Chevrolet Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/100,000 miles
  • Chrysler Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Lifetime Limited
  • Dodge Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Lifetime Limited
  • Ford Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • GMC Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/100,000 miles
  • Honda Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • Hyundai Warranty
    • Five years/60,000 miles
    • 10 years/100,000 miles 
  • Infiniti Warranty
    • Four years/60,000 miles
    • Six years/70,000 miles
  • Isuzu Warranty
    • Three years/50,000 miles
    • Seven years/75,000 miles
  • Jaguar Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Four years/50,000 miles
  • Jeep Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Lifetime Limited
  • Kia Warranty
    • Five years/60,000 miles
    • 10 years/100,000 miles 
  • Lexus Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Six years/70,000 miles
  • Lincoln Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Six years/70,000 miles
  • Mazda Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • Mercedes-Benz Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Four years/50,000 miles
  • Mercury Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • Mini Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Four years/50,000 miles
  • Mitsubishi Warranty
    • Five years/60,000 miles
    • 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Nissan Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • Pontiac Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/100,000 miles
  • Porsche Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Four years/50,000 miles
  • Saab Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Five years/100,000 miles
  • Saturn Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/100,000 miles
  • Scion Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • Smart Warranty
    • Two years/24,000 miles
    • Two years/24,000 miles
  • Subaru Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • Suzuki Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Seven years/100,000 miles
  • Toyota Warranty
    • Three years/36,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • VW Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Five years/60,000 miles
  • Volvo Warranty
    • Four years/50,000 miles
    • Four years/50,000 miles