A Summary of New Car Warranties and What is Covered
A new car warranty is your guarantee of free repairs. Depending on the year and make of your vehicle, you may be eligible for FREE repairs if it is still under warranty. All new vehicles come with a basic bumper-to-bumper factory warranty as well as an emissions warranty, tire warranty, body rust and corrosion warranty, sometimes an extended powertrain warranty, and a roadside assistance warranty.
If your vehicle still has warranty coverage on a component that has failed and needs to be repaired, you should be able to take your vehicle to a new car dealer (which must be a dealer that sells and services your make of vehicle) for free repairs. There may be a small deductible to pay, but the parts and labor should be covered.
NOTE: You are NOT obligated to return to the same dealer where you bought your vehicle to have the repair work done (you can choose another dealer). You can also take your vehicle to an independent repair facility for repairs. But generally speaking, the vehicle manufacturer will NOT reimburse you for repairs performed at an independent repair facility unless you had no other option available (no dealer nearby, an emergency repair on a weekend or holiday, etc.). Even then, you may have a difficult time getting reimbursed for the repairs. Our advice, therefore, is to take the vehicle back to the dealer of your choice if you are seeking free repairs under warranty.
Common Q&A’s About New Car Warranty Coverage:
What is a new car warranty?
A warranty is a guarantee to repair or replace any defective parts for a given period of time or within a certain mileage limit. If the vehicle manufacturer offers a 3 year or 36,000 mile (3/36) warranty, it means they will honor their warranty for 3 years or 36,000 miles from the date the vehicle was manufactured, which ever comes first.
NOTE: Warranty coverage is always from the date the vehicle was built, not from the date it was sold. This is because the vehicle may have sit in the dealer’s inventory for a number of months before you bought it. The date of manufacture (month and year) can be found on the build plate, which is usually located in the driver’s door pillar. It can also be determined from the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) code.
Always refer to your Vehicle Owner’s Manual or Warranty Information Booklet for the specific details and description of your vehicle’s warranty coverage.
This is essentially a bumper-to-bumper warranty that covers most defects or repairs that may occur during the specified time/mileage period. Most new cars come with a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty, but some have a basic warranty of 4 years/50,000 miles, 5 years/60,000 miles.
Any covered component that is defective or fails during this period should be covered by the basic warranty. See your Owners Manual for specific details.
Generally speaking, everything from one end of the vehicle to the other is covered against defects in materials or workmanship or failure EXCEPT for wear and maintenance parts (see below). Anything that isn’t right or fails within the covered warranty period should be replaced at the vehicle manufacturer’s expense and at no cost to you (except possibly a small deductible).
See your Owners Manual for specific details.
Generally speaking, parts that are NOT covered under the basic warranty are wear and maintenance items such as filters (air, fuel, oil cabin air & transmission filter), fluids (oil, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid), brake linings (pads and shoes), brake rotors, brake drums, clutch linings, belts, hoses, wiper blades, and tires (which are covered under their own separate warranty).
See your Owners Manual for specific details.
This is a separate warranty that covers the engine, transmission, driveshaft and axles on your vehicle. The powertrain warranty generally covers mechanical and electronic failures, but does NOT cover items that may be considered wear or maintenance parts (see below). Powertrain warranties may be for 4 years/60,000 miles, 5 years/60,000 miles, 6 years/60,000 miles, 7 years/75,000 miles, 10 years/100,000 miles, and in a few cases unlimited time/mileage for the original owner of the vehicle (excluding fleet and rental vehicles). See your Owners Manual for specific details.
This is a separate warranty that covers the body on your vehicle against paint peeling or flaking, body rust and rust holes. Some warranties have a certain limit for paint and surface rust, and a separate warranty for rust perforation. See your Owners Manual for specific details.
This is a separate warranty that provides towing and in some cases emergency roadside service (flat tire, stalling, out of gas, locked keys inside the car, etc.). Roadside warranties are typically for 3 years/36,000 miles, 4 years/50,000 miles, 5 years/50,000 miles, or 5 years/100,000 miles.
See your Owners Manual for specific details.
This is a separate warranty that required vehicle manufacturers to cover all emissions-related components for a specific time and mileage. For most emission controls, engine sensors, fuel injection and ignition components, the federally mandated warranty coverage is 2 years or 24,000 miles. For more expensive components such as the engine computer (PCM) and catalytic converters, the federally mandated coverage is 8 years or 80,000 miles.
NOTE: Some states have their own emissions warranty requirements for vehicles that are sold within that state, including California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. There is a 3 year/50,000 miles emissions defect warranty, a 7 year/70,000 miles emissions defect warranty on the PCM and catalytic converters, and a 15 year/150,000 mile emissions warranty on vehicles that meet PZEV (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle) emission requirements. The specific requirements will vary somewhat depending on the year and make of the vehicle.
Specific warranty coverages will vary from by vehicle year, make and model. For current and past warranty coverage information, go to your vehicle manufacturer's website and find their warranty section. You can find a list of all the Vehicle Manufacturer Websites here.
To keep your warranty in effect for the duration of the warranty period, you are required to follow the vehicle manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance recommendations. This includes things like having the oil and oil filter changed at the specified intervals for the type of driving you do, replacing a timing belt or other parts at the specified mileage and so on. See your Owners Manual or Maintenance Brochure for the items and time/mileage recommendations for service.
NOTE: You do NOT have to use OEM parts to service your vehicle. You also do NOT have to take your car back to the dealer for service. You can have your vehicle serviced ANYWHERE, and you can use aftermarket parts. Just be sure to keep your repair receipts to prove what was done and when. The receipt should show your vehicle make/model/year and VIN number, and describe the services performed and parts replaced. If you do your own oil changes, keep a receipt for the oil and filter you have purchased, and note the date and mileage of the oil change.
Dealers are always looking for excuses to void your warranty coverage so they can charge you for repairs (and possibly double bill the vehicle manufacturer, in some cases!). Obvious reasons for voiding a warranty include vehicle abuse (such as racing), vehicle modifications (such as replacing OEM parts with certain aftermarket performance parts or racing parts), tampering with the odometer, or failing to maintain your vehicle properly. If you do something to void the warranty, the dealer won’t pay for the repairs.
If you think you are entitled to free repairs under warranty, make sure your vehicle within the time/mileage limits of the warranty period. If you don’t know, write down your year/make/model info and the VIN number from your vehicle (which is located at the base of the windshield on the driver’s side), and call a dealer. Their service department should be able to tell you if your vehicle is still eligible for free repairs under warranty.
Maybe, maybe not. Let’s say your vehicle has a 5 year/50,000 mile powertrain warranty and it is only a few months out of warranty but has low miles on the engine (say 35,000), but the engine just failed. If you maintained your engine according to the recommended service intervals (and have the receipts to prove it), and you have not abused or modified the engine, you may be able to negotiate with the dealer on the cost to replace the engine.
In some cases, a vehicle manufacturer will issue a "secret" or "dealer only" extended warranty on a component that has had an usually high incidence of failure. The vehicle manufacturer does not want to issue a recall because of the huge expense. But they will take care of customers on an individual basis as the need arises. They may offer to pay for the part if you pay for the labor to replace it, or they may cover the entire repair. It is more of a goodwill gesture toward the customer than an actual extension of the original warranty.
If you are not satisfied what how the dealer treats a warranty issue, you can ask for the vehicle manufacturer’s district office or consumer affairs number and plead your case with them. Or, if you are facing a high dollar repair (like replacing a bad engine or transmission) on a vehicle that should still be under warranty or may just be out of warranty, you can always hire a lawyer and take the dealer or manufacturer to court. Litigation can be VERY expensive, and may end up costing you a lot more than the original repair if you lose and have to pay attorney fees and court costs out of your own pocket. In some instances, lawyers will file a class action lawsuit if there are multiple vehicle owners who have the same issue. But in most of these cases, the only ones who come out ahead are the lawyers who get a multi-million dollar settlement while the motorists get a coupon good for $25 off their next oil change. I’m exaggerating, but class action lawsuits are usually a joke for those who are actually seeking to have an issue or problem resolved.
The following pdf files list by model year the basic warranty coverage provided by vehicle manufacturers. This is a summary only, so always refer to your Owners Manual or Warranty Brochure for specific details.