Buy a new car, and it'll come with a warranty. Here we explain what it covers and what it doesn't, and for how long
If you have purchased a brand new car then you are guaranteed to have seen the words ‘new car warranty’ dotted around on your paperwork, but what exactly is a new car warranty? With cars becoming more and more complex, the risk of something going wrong inevitably rises. That’s where a new car warranty steps in as it aims to help resolve any problem in a quick and convenient manner for you.
A new car warranty is a written guarantee which ensures that a product is fit for purpose. In the case of a car, the warranty will be a document detailing what the warranty covers in terms of parts and components as well as how long the warranty lasts, both in terms of mileage and time. Each manufacturer will offer a slightly different type of warranty for their cars, varying on mileage amounts and ownership periods.
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Whatever the warranty covers, it’s a legal document that means if you have a problem with your car, then you have some back-up to help get a problem remedied without you suffering any financial penalty, as the manufacturer will pick up the cost of any major faults that might occur during the first few years of ownership.
Most new car warranties last for three years, although some manufacturers offer cover that lasts longer. On the whole, the first two years of the warranty are provided directly by the manufacturer, while the third year will be added by the UK dealer network, and they will cover the cost of this. You’ll find that a new car warranty is issued automatically when you buy a car, but if you’re planning on keeping your car for longer than the warranty lasts, then manufacturers and dealers will offer you extended warranty coverage before your existing cover runs out. This will be offered at extra cost, but you’ll get a favourable rate to recognise your customer loyalty, while in most instances the extra warranty will maintain a similar level of cover as the existing warranty provides.
What will your car warranty cover?
The whole car will be covered by a warranty, but there will be different warranties covering different parts of the car, such as for the car’s paintwork and a guarantee against corrosion, too. If you’re buying an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid, you’ll find that the battery and drive system will usually be covered by a second guarantee that runs alongside the standard warranty.
If you’re buying a used car, there are warranties available to you, too. Buy a pre-owned car from a franchise dealer, and there is likely to be a warranty available, depending on the car’s age – indeed, if the car is new enough, it’ll still be covered by the original guarantee, as the warranty coverage on a new car is transferrable between owners.
Breakdown firms such as the AA and RAC also offer warranty coverage on used cars, which some non-franchise car dealers use to help give their business a higher profile and their customers extra peace of mind.
Even if you buy privately, companies such as Warrantywise can supply you with warranty cover to help you out in the event of something going wrong with a used car. Much like car insurance, these companies will take into consideration the age and condition of the car before offering you a quote for 12 months of cover. Taking out a used car warranty can be a useful safety net, especially if you’re running an expensive car that has been bought used for a bargain amount, and gives added peace of mind if a used car doesn’t come up to scratch.
Below we run down the different types of warranty that are associated with new and used cars, from the standard new car warranty to paint and battery cover in EVs, through to extended warranties and used car cover.
What is a new car warranty?
A new car warranty is the guarantee that car manufacturers issue when they sell a new car. Each car maker will have a set warranty that applies to all of the cars that it sells in the UK. The majority of car makers offer a three-year warranty, although the main exceptions to this are Hyundai, Mitsubishi (both five years) and Kia (seven years).
Some makers have offered longer warranty periods in the past than they do now, the last being Renault, which offered a four-year warranty until recently. Vauxhall also offered a lifetime warranty for a while. This was limited to the first registered owner of the car, and also had caveats that meant the car must be serviced at a Vauxhall franchise. However, with very little uptake on such cover and an increasing number of buyers now running cars for three years on finance, the three-year warranty has held out, and both Renault and Vauxhall stick with the standard three-year cover.
While three years is a fairly standard time period for a new car warranty, manufacturers also add a mileage limit to the warranty to ensure the vehicle is covered for what it determines to be a fair amount of time. So the warranty will last for the time period or the distance quoted, whichever comes first.
The amount of miles you can cover varies according to which manufacturer you choose. Some offer a 36,000-mile limit, while others offer unlimited mileage. As an example of the differences, Mitsubishi’s five-year cover has a 62,500-mile limit, while Hyundai, which also offers a five-year warranty, has unlimited mileage for private buyers. Likewise, Kia’s seven-year warranty has a mileage limit of 100,000 miles, so for some high-mileage drivers, the Hyundai warranty could be more attractive.
The wording of the new car warranty will provide a general overview that gives a new car buyer an idea of what is covered, but more importantly, there will be a lot of small print that will explain what isn’t covered. The overall objective of the new car warranty is to ensure that a car’s major mechanical components (the engine, gearbox, suspension, electrical system and safety systems) work as they should throughout the duration of the warranty. And if anything should go wrong, then the manufacturer will cover the cost of rectifying the fault.
As a result, you will find that so-called ‘wear and tear’ items and consumables, such as the tyres, brakes, belts, fluids and lubricants, wipers, bulbs and fuses won’t be covered by the warranty. It won’t cover damage to wheels from kerbing, either, or if the interior trim has squeaks or rattles. There will also be wording within the warranty that puts the onus on the car’s owner to drive it normally and treat the car properly, as misuse could invalidate the warranty. This can include using a sports car on a race track, or an SUV for severe off-roading, or even an MPV or family car that has seen use as a taxi or for private hire.
If the manufacturer can find the car has been modified – such as the ECU being reprogrammed, a non-standard exhaust system has been fitted, or if the odometer has been tampered with – then these modifications are likely to invalidate the car’s warranty, too.
What is an extended warranty?
An extended warranty isn’t the five or seven-year guarantees dished out by makers such as Hyundai, Mitsubishi or Kia. Instead, an extended warranty refers to the extra cover that new car buyers can pay for to give added peace of mind. The extended warranty will be an option that some car manufacturers offer as an optional extra when you spec up a new car, while many manufacturers also offer existing owners the option to extend their car’s warranty before the standard warranty expires.
The main difference between these two types of extended warranty are the cover you can expect. When adding it to a new car, you can expect the same amount of coverage as the standard warranty, but for a longer period (including a higher mileage limit). However, the extended warranty offered near the end of the existing cover may not necessarily be as comprehensive. Some makers offer extended warranties for older cars, too. As long as the vehicle has a reasonable mileage (usually less than 100,000 miles), there will be some cover available for a monthly payment that guarantees against major vehicle failure.
What is an electric car battery warranty?
If you’re buying an electric car or a plug-in hybrid model, then there will be a certain amount of trepidation about the purchase thanks to the new technology on board. However, manufacturers offer peace of mind by including a separate warranty that covers the car’s battery, and this usually lasts for a longer period than the standard warranty that covers the rest of the car.
The current trend is for EV and PHEV makers to offer an eight-year battery warranty, with differing mileage limits depending on the manufacturer. This guarantees against battery degradation (the ability for the battery to stay fully charged) and, depending on the manufacturer, if the charge capacity dips below a certain percentage, the battery will be replaced accordingly.
Manufacturers offer this longer warranty because there isn’t as much stress put on an EV’s battery as there would be in a conventional combustion-engined car. Again, the usual small print about tampering and modification of the battery pack applies, and just like the standard warranty for the rest of the car, the battery warranty is transferrable when the car is sold on.
What is a paintwork or perforation warranty?
Paintwork warranties are designed to guarantee the quality and finish of a vehicle’s bodywork. They are usually accompanied by a perforation warranty, which guarantees the bodywork against any rust or corrosion that may occur because of faults in the vehicle building process.
The paintwork warranty usually lasts for the same length of time as the standard warranty, so normally three years, because the paintwork is the first form of defence against the elements. That means the paint is prone to damage from stone chips, scratches, bird lime and tree sap, which can have a deteriorating effect on paint. After three years it will be hard to determine whether paint damage is a result of poor production or wear and tear, which is why the paintwork warranty is only as long as the vehicle’s overall warranty.
A perforation warranty will last for a longer period, and it guarantees against rust and corrosion that are the result of poor manufacture. A perforation warranty will be clearly worded to guarantee against corrosion that comes from a source within the bodywork, ie: not caused by external damage. Some warranties explicitly state that the bodywork has to have a hole all the way through it before the manufacturer will take action.
The duration of the perforation warranty will vary between manufacturers, and it may also vary between models, depending on where each model is built. On the whole, anti-perforation warranties last for 12 years, although some makers sometimes have models that are an exception to the general rule, when they are built at a different plant, for example.
What is an approved used car warranty?
An approved used car warranty will be a level of cover that is offered on approved used cars sold via a franchised dealer. Usually, the used cars that a manufacturer approved dealer has on sale will be less than three-years-old, so most will have some of their existing warranty cover still to run. But to give used car buyers added peace of mind, a used car warranty will be offered to anybody buying a used car from the franchise.
The used car warranty will be included on an approved used car once it has been given a full inspection to make sure it meets the standards expected by the manufacturer. Usually the used car warranty will be valid for 12 months, and there will be small print to say if there’s a mileage limit that you need to stick to so that you get the full year of cover.
In general terms, the used car warranty will offer the same amount of cover as a new car warranty, because the cars it is issued against will be nearly new, so there is a low risk of a warranty claim being made against such a car. However, it’s always worth checking the small print to see what the used car warranty covers because not all manufacturer cover will be the same.
What is a used car warranty?
If you’re buying a used car outside of the UK’s franchise dealer network or want warranty cover for an older car then you still can. However the warranty cover will be entirely dependent on where you buy your used car from. Second-hand car dealers don’t have to offer warranty cover of any description, but those that want to raise their profile and trade on a good reputation will offer a used car warranty to keep their customers happy.
One of the favourite ways of doing this is by offering a warranty provided by the AA or RAC. The breakdown firms will carry out a multi-point inspection on a used vehicle before providing warranty cover, while the cover will last for at least six months. And as you would expect, these warranties will also be accompanied by breakdown cover for the same period.
What is private warranty cover?
If you’re buying privately, there is still warranty cover that you can take out so that you new purchase won’t leave you out of pocket. Again, the AA and RAC provide warranty cover direct to buyers, and it can be tailored to suit any car, irrespective of age, mileage or condition. Of course, the older the car, the amount you pay is likely to rise, and what is covered is also likely to be limited to the major mechanical components.
Another option is the aftermarket warranty, provided by companies such as Warrantywise and Warranty Direct. These firms offer warranty coverage on older cars up to a certain age and mileage, and you buy the warranty in a similar way to car insurance. That means you can pay in a lump sum or monthly repayments for your convenience. Again, these warranties are flexible, so you can pick how long the warranty lasts (it should be transferrable with the car if you sell it on), and there are different levels of cover depending on the car’s age, mileage and previous history.
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Have you ever had to use your car’s warranty to get it fixed? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below!