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What is a car warranty and what does it cover?

June 08, 2023 by

Wondering about car warranties? Wonder no more

All new cars sold in the UK come with a warranty of one form or another, with this policy guaranteeing the vehicle against defects and malfunction for certain number of years, and/or a certain number of miles.

This means if the vehicle goes wrong within the warranty period, you won’t be liable for any costs associated with a repair. This guide will talk you through the ins and outs of new car warranties.,

How does a car warranty work?

When you buy a new car you are offered some legal protection by the Consumer Rights Act, but a car warranty takes this a step further.

A new-car warranty is effectively a contract between the car maker and you, which says that as long as certain conditions are met, if the vehicle develops a defect or malfunction, the car maker or dealer will fix it, at no cost to you.

What does a car warranty cover?

The industry standard car warranty lasts for three years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some car makers offer longer guarantees, though, with Kia covering its cars for up to seven years or 100,000 miles. Toyota provides a standard three-year 60,000-mile policy, but if you service a Toyota at a franchised dealer you will add another 12 months cover, with this being repeatable until the car reaches 10 years of age or 100,000 miles. Our guide to impressive new-car warranties has more information.

Car warranties don’t cover everything, though: wear and tear items like brakes, windscreen wipers and tyres have to be replaced out of your own pocket.

Plus if you get the car serviced outside of the dealership network, any parts that are used in repairs or servicing must be manufacturer approved in order for the warranty to remain valid.

Other than that, you should be covered for most things: engine malfunctions, electrical issues, defective interior trim – new-car warranties tend to be pretty cast-iron things.

Do note that you will have to get the car serviced in-line with manufacturer recommendations in order for the warranty to be valid.

In addition to a vehicle warranty, new cars tend to have separate protection against rust, with up to 12 years’ coverage against corrosion – although again, conditions apply here, so if you leave a stone chip repaired and rust develops from this, you’re unlikely to be covered.

Electric cars tend to have additional warranties for their battery packs and motors. A typical EV drivetrain warranty might guarantee that the battery retains 80% of its original capacity over eight years and 100,000 miles.

Types of car warranty

Manufacturer warranty

What we’ve covered so far describes manufacturer warranties, which are provided by the company that built your car. If you need to make a warranty claim and effect a repair, this will be done via the dealership – usually the one that sold you the car, although you should be able to use any dealer from the same franchise.

Extended warranty

Many car makers offer extended warranties for extra peace of mind. This will see you pay a certain amount (perhaps £150 to £500) for an extra year or more of cover, which should have similar terms to the standard warranty.

Used car warranties

If you’re buying a second-hand car, the dealer may include a used car warranty with the vehicle. Older cars tend to have shorter warranties, and approved used vehicles from franchised dealers tend to come with longer policies.

Three months tends to be the shortest amount of cover given, while approved-used cars might come with a year two’s protection.

Do note that even if a dealer only offers a three-month policy, the Consumer Rights Act tends to provide six months of legal protection against defects.

Third-party warranty

Cars sold by private buyers don’t come with any warranty, while if you’ve bought a used car from a dealer you may want to buy extra protection.

In both these instances a third-party car warranty may hold appeal. Such policies are provided by specialist companies, and differing levels of cover tend to be offered. A low-tier third-party policy might cover just the engine and gearbox against malfunction, whereas a more comprehensive warranty might cover the car’s electrics, air-conditioning system, and more.

Do note third-party policies tend to come with a variety of terms and conditions, often related to what specific parts are covered, and how much the firm is prepared to pay out for a repair to a specific component.

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How do I make a claim on my car warranty?

If you need to claim against a manufacturer warranty, this should be done via the franchised dealership, who will handle the claim and repair process.

Third-party providers should be contacted directly and repairs facilitated according to their policy terms; you may need to use an approved garage for repairs, or you may be able to use any VAT registered garage.

Can a car warranty claim be rejected?

Assuming you have abided by the terms and conditions set out in the warranty (IE the car has been serviced on time and using approved parts, and you have not modified it), and the defect is covered by the policy, your warranty claim should be approved.

Things aren’t always as clear cut as this, though, as while it’s reasonable that wear and tear items like tyres won’t be replaced when they’ve reached the end of their lives, some policies might consider the engine’s timing chain, for example, to be a wear and tear item, potentially leading to disputes. If a warranty claim is rejected and you think it should not have been, you can lodge an official complaint with the car maker; if this does not resolve things The Motor Ombudsman’s resolution service may be able to help.