Tips and advice

Car warranties explained: what’s covered in a new or used car warranty

A guide to new and second-hand used car warranties, including the car warranty claim process

Kia warranty sticker

It’s widely accepted that cars today are more reliable than at any other point in history, but having a car warranty can still be a wise idea for added peace of mind in case of unexpected issues. 

Advancements in engine design, rustproofing and manufacturing tolerances have all contributed to a crop of modern cars that, in most cases, can happily run for 100,000 miles and beyond without suffering any major issues. However, cars have also grown more complicated with advanced safety technologies, hybrid systems and dual-clutch gearboxes, meaning if something does go wrong, the repair bill can be eye-watering.

This is especially true for electric vehicles. The batteries in EVs are designed to last, but if something does go wrong, they can be phenomenally expensive to replace.

The most reliable cars headerTop 10 most reliable cars 2024

Purchasing a car with a comprehensive warranty provides you with a safety net from big bills. Even if you're buying an older car, many second-hand dealers offer used car warranties, providing you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you won't be on the hook for any costly repairs, should something go wrong. 

The following guide covers everything you need to know about car warranties, from how long they last, to any exclusions and how you make a warranty claim.

How long does a new car warranty last?

New car warranties will commonly have a time and mileage limit. These limits vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and sometimes between different models from the same brand.  Typically, you should expect the cover to last for at least three years or 60,000 miles – whichever it reaches first. With an average annual mileage of 8,000 miles, most UK motorists will find the period of cover runs out before the maximum mileage is reached.

In the event you decide to sell your car, many manufacturers allow the warranty to be transferred to the new owner too.

What are the best new car warranties?

Some carmakers provide longer warranty periods as a way to stand apart in a competitive market. At the time of writing, some of the best new car warranties provided by manufacturers include:

  • Kia – 7 years or 100,000 miles
  • KGM (formerly Ssangyong) – 5 years or 80,000 miles for internal combustion engines (ICE), or 7 years or 90,000 miles for EVs
  • MG – 7 years or 80,000 miles
  • Toyota and Lexus – 10 years or 100,000 miles when serviced at a main dealer
  • Hyundai – 5 years, unlimited mileage

It’s always worth reading the terms and conditions for a particular manufacturer’s warranty, as what’s covered and what’s excluded may differ between brands.

What is an extended car warranty?

Where a new car has a less generous warranty period, there’s often the option to extend cover at the end of the original duration. The cost of this can vary between manufacturers and we’d suggest getting a quote from one of the many third-party warranty providers, too. However, it’s worth checking the cover of any policy you consider – some third-party policies aren’t as comprehensive as those provided by manufacturers, for example.

What does a car warranty cover?

Generally speaking, a new car warranty should cover all mechanical and electrical faults and also guarantee against the appearance of rust for a minimum of three years. Different brands’ policies vary in some aspects, though: BMW provides a three-year and unlimited-mileage warranty on all its new cars, as well as 12 years’ cover against rust (although corrosion caused by stone chips isn’t covered).

BMW 3 Series engine

Many hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars have a specific warranty for their battery pack, reassuring buyers that it'll last the life of the warranty cover without severe degradation. Some even stipulate that if the battery capacity drops below a certain point (70% of its new state, for example) within five years or so, it'll be either repaired or replaced.

What are warranty exclusions?

Car warranties won’t necessarily cover everything; as the owner, you will be expected to replace ‘consumable’ items that naturally wear out through use, such as tyres, brake discs and pads, windscreen wipers and clutches, to name a few. Although, in some cases, cover may be considered if they’ve worn out prematurely as a consequence of a mechanical fault.

Specific items excluded from a manufacturer’s warranty will be stated in the warranty terms and conditions.

What about a used car warranty?

Depending on the policy of the dealership, used cars are sometimes sold with a warranty as part of the deal. A used-car warranty typically lasts for three, six or 12 months, with older cars often supplied with shorter policies. Cars sold by franchised dealers are often marketed under an ‘approved used’ scheme and are generally covered by a 12-month warranty.

Many policies provided with a used car sold at an independent garage will be sourced from a third-party company. It’s very important that you check any warranty policy to confirm what will and what won’t be covered under the terms of the policy – some are far more comprehensive than others. You don’t have to buy a warranty, despite what some garages may suggest; you may decide to take the risk and do without the extra expense.

Used car dealership

Many second-hand dealers, particularly those at the less expensive end of the market, sell cars with no warranty at all. However, the Consumer Rights Act states that you should expect any car to be of ‘satisfactory quality’, ‘as described’ and ‘fit for purpose’ at the time of sale. If any of these criteria aren’t met, the dealer is under a legal obligation to rectify any faults at their cost. If repairs performed fail to rectify the fault reported, you’re entitled to a refund. It should be noted that you’re likely to find that having repair work performed under the Consumer Rights Act will be a lot easier within the first six months of your purchase being made. If you find a fault, report it to the supplying dealer as soon as possible.

You’ll also need to factor in a car’s age if you’re considering invoking the Consumer Rights Act: an elderly secondhand car costing a few hundred pounds that develops a minor fault (like the glovebox latch sticking, for instance) will likely be deemed of ‘satisfactory quality’ by a dealer, given its value and age.

If the used car you’re buying is only a year or two old, it may still be covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty. Check by asking your dealer, or visiting the manufacturer’s website and reading the warranty terms and conditions.

Are there different kinds of warranty?

There are three types of car warranty: manufacturer policies, dealer policies and third-party cover. All new cars come with a manufacturer warranty, although you’ll have to go through one of the brand’s dealers if you need to make a claim on this.

If you’re buying from a franchised dealer, any warranty is likely to be dealer-backed. Smaller dealers often use third-party companies for their warranties and some charge extra if you want to take out a policy. If this is the case, it’s well worth reading through the paperwork carefully and getting a second quote elsewhere, as it may be possible to buy a more comprehensive warranty for less money.

Buying a third-party warranty

There are a number of companies that’ll sell you a third-party (or ‘aftermarket’) warranty for cars up to about 12 years old – although, do note that older cars, vehicles that cost more to buy when new and cars with high mileage, tend to have higher premiums.

If you find a good aftermarket policy and are happy with the cost, you’ll be reimbursed for any repairs needed for the duration of the warranty. Do bear in mind that third-party warranties tend to have more exclusions than manufacturer warranties; some only cover issues with the engine and gearbox, for example.

It’s also likely you’ll have to get a quote for any repairs, both to officially confirm the fault and to check that the cost of the work falls within the policy’s limits. Make sure to contact the warranty company before getting any quotes, as if the problem isn’t covered by the policy, you’ll have to pay for the diagnostic work yourself.

While some aftermarket warranties are great, many leave much to be desired. Read the policy documents carefully so you’re absolutely clear about what is and isn’t covered. It’s not unheard of for some companies to contest a claim and you’ll want to be doubly sure of what you’re entitled to.

Gasket service

Also note that many third-party policies place a limit on hourly labour rates, which can be fairly low. If this is the case, you’ll have to make up any shortfall yourself or find a cheaper garage. Other providers will only pay a portion of labour and parts costs depending on the age of the car: 80% for a four-year-old car, 60% for a five-year-old car, etc. In essence, read the terms and conditions of any aftermarket policy carefully. We’ve heard of drivers getting great cover and hassle-free repairs, while others haven’t been so lucky.

Vehicle warranty code of practice

When choosing an aftermarket warranty, it’s worth checking if the provider is accredited by the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Vehicle Warranty Products by the Motor Ombudsman. Around 70% of the major providers are fully approved and follow guidelines on advertising their products honestly and giving appropriate advice, clear information on what’s covered by the warranty before you sign, a 14-day cancellation ‘cooling off’ period and a simple, fair and prompt claims procedure.

How do I make a warranty claim?

Claiming against a manufacturer warranty on a new car should be fairly straightforward and won’t cost you a penny, and many dealerships will also provide a courtesy car while yours is in for repairs.

If you need to make a warranty claim on a used car, this should be a similarly easy process if you bought from a franchised dealer. You might not receive the same level of service as you’d expect with a new car, but it should be a seamless affair and you may be given a courtesy car here as well.

Claiming against a third-party warranty can either be refreshingly simple or frustratingly involved, depending on the quality of the policy. Either way, you’ll most likely have to get the work assessed and quoted for before any repairs are approved; this may add to the time and inconvenience associated with the process, as you’ll potentially have to make two separate bookings with the garage if the claim takes a while to be agreed.

Assuming there are no issues with the work being carried out, some third-party warranty providers will require that you use an approved garage, which they will pay directly. Other policies allow you to use a garage of your choosing, but may require you to pay for the work yourself before reimbursing you. Do bear in mind that – as mentioned above – some policies put a cap on the amount they’ll pay per hour for labour. This is an important area to check before you take out any policy.

Anything else to know?

If you’re thinking of picking up a bargain new car from overseas, be aware that manufacturers sometimes provide different warranties in different countries. On the subject of travel, rest assured that should your car go wrong while on holiday, warranties are valid within the EU – as long as you use an approved repairer. Many manufacturers also include free recovery within Europe as well.

There is one final point to bear in mind: whether you’ve bought a new or a used car, make sure to get it serviced in line with the recommended schedule. Manufacturers and warranty providers are within their rights to reject a claim if you haven’t maintained the car to their stipulated standards. Also remember that warranties don’t cover servicing or MOTs - you’ll still have to pay for these when required.

Common warranty questions

Are tyres covered under warranty?

Most warranty policies cover mechanical parts of the car as opposed to wearable items, so while parts like the engine and gearbox are likely covered, consumables like the tyres, brakes and windscreen wipers won’t be. Of course, some companies do offer total care packages where you only have to add fuel and drive the car, but this typically costs quite a bit extra and will be stipulated in the contract.

Is a timing belt covered under warranty?

A car’s timing belt is usually also considered to be a consumable item that needs to be replaced as part of a vehicle’s standard maintenance, so it isn’t covered under warranty. However, timing belts are designed to last for around six to 10 years before needing to be changed, so if one were to fail very prematurely, the manufacturer may investigate if a manufacturing defect was to blame.

Is a fuel pump covered under warranty?

Yes, because a fuel pump is a critical component within the car’s fuel system, and isn’t considered a wear and tear item, it should be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty in almost all cases.

Check out our guide to dashboard warning lights in the event of a fault or, for more information on the best cars to own, read the results of our 2023 Driver Power survey.

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