What is a car warranty?

After buying a new car the last thing anybody wants is to have to pay to for it to be fixed. A warranty covers you for certain car faults or failures for an agreed period of time. Depending on the warranty, a variety of problems can be repaired without you having to pay for replacement parts or labour.

Car warranties explained

A car bought new from the manufacturer will normally come with a warranty that will cover it for three years or up to a certain mileage (often 60,000 miles). During this time a mechanical breakdown warranty will cover the vehicle for most faults that are not considered 'wear and tear'. This means that problems with the engine, gearbox, steering, suspension and the electrical system are typically covered, but brakes and tyres, which will wear over time, are not.

After the car has travelled the warranty's specified distance, or once it is three years old, the owner has the option to buy extended car warranty, which must continue from the manufacturer's warranty uninterrupted, and varies according to car type and level of cover.

Buying a used car does not necessarily exclude you from the manufacturer's warranty. If the mileage is less than the specified distance and the car is less than three years old, the warranty will still apply when the car changes hands. If it has expired and you are buying from a third party (not the car's manufacturer) you will have the option to buy an extended warranty. For more information see the Warrantywise tips on warranties for used cars.

Choosing a car warranty

There are a number of things to be aware of when choosing a car warranty, in particular, look out for a claim limit and excess charges and make sure that you know what level of cover is involved, before committing to what might seem like a great deal. Also check whether the warranty covers insured parts failing as a result of the failure of a non-insured part (consequential damage). Some warranties have an early claims clause and will not pay out within the first few weeks of the warranty.

Depending on where you live, you might find that an otherwise great warranty is unsuitable. Check that the cover does not apply to only a specific chain of garages because having to travel long distances for repairs could be a major problem. See Which? magazine's website for more tips on choosing a used car warranty.

Remember that as the vehicle ages and its mileage increases, a car is more likely to require costly repairs. Because of this, an extended warranty is more likely to be used than the manufacturer's, so it is worth spending time picking the right one.

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