What is a manufacturer’s warranty?

Businesswoman driving a carImage: Businesswoman driving a car

In a Nutshell

When you buy a car, it may come with a manufacturer’s warranty. That warranty is the automaker’s guarantee that if certain problems occur within a certain period of time or miles, it will make the repairs. Make sure to get your hands on your manufacturer’s warranty to understand what’s covered.
Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Information about financial products not offered on Credit Karma is collected independently. Our content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

A manufacturer’s warranty is a carmaker’s promise to cover certain problems with your vehicle. The warranty is usually valid over a certain period of time or miles.

When you buy a car, you want to know it’s built to go the distance. That’s why automakers may provide manufacturer’s warranties with your purchase, which if provided is usually built into the price of your new car.

The warranty should also outline what the carmaker handles in the event something breaks down in your car. Not all car warranties are the same and can vary based on many factors, including vehicle type, type of warranty and manufacturer.

What is a manufacturer’s warranty?

When you make a big purchase like a car, the manufacturer will often offer a warranty. This is a promise that the company stands behind its product and that it will correct certain problems — often through repair, replacement or refund.

Your manufacturer’s warranty may cover major vehicle parts, like the car’s battery, seat belts or air conditioning system. And if you’re leasing, the manufacturer’s warranty may even cover parts on your leased vehicle.

A new vehicle limited warranty

Many new cars include a three-year or 36,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty (whichever comes first) from your date of purchase that covers items that break down. Systems that fail because of general wear and tear or routine maintenance items typically aren’t covered.

Powertrain limited warranty

Powertrain warranties typically last for five years or up to 60,000 miles (whichever comes first). Your car’s powertrain typically includes the engine, transmission and drive components.

Make sure to carefully ready your car’s manual, which can tell you what’s not covered in your car’s warranty. For example, a 2019 Toyota Camry booklet lists certain conditions for its New Vehicle Warranty under which it’s not liable for repairs, like the following:

  • Fire, accidents or theft
  • Abuse or negligence
  • Misuse (like racing)
  • Improper repairs (like fixing something yourself and doing it incorrectly)
  • Alteration or tampering, like using non-Toyota accessories
  • Lack of or improper maintenance (like using the wrong fluids or fuel)
  • Installation of non-Toyota parts
  • Airborne chemicals, tree sap, road debris, rail dust, salt, hail, floods, wind storms, lightning and other environmental conditions
  • Water contamination
  • Problems caused by normal wear and tear

Tires can have a separate warranty not attached to a regular limited warranty with new cars.

Fast Facts

How do I know what a warranty covers?

The manufacturer should provide information about what the warranty does and doesn’t cover, and make it available to you, even before you buy the vehicle. For example, a manufacturer’s warranty might not cover natural disaster damage but may cover something else.

But if a system or part isn’t working because the vehicle wasn’t properly cared for, it may not be covered in the warranty. Check with your auto insurer to see if you have coverage there.

Can my used car still be under a manufacturer’s warranty?

If you’re buying a used car, there’s still a chance it could have a manufacturer’s warranty that’s valid. But it depends on the car you’re buying.

The Federal Trade Commission requires all used car dealers to post a buyer’s guide on the vehicle’s side window. There are several pieces of information you’ll see, including the following:

  • Warranty: The car manufacturer’s warranty may still apply, or a manufacturer’s used vehicle warranty or other type of warranty may apply. A box will be checked or unchecked for each. If you have the option to pay a fee to get an additional service contract, it’s known as an extended warranty.
  • Implied warranty: An implied warranty is provided by state law and not something you’d typically see in your contract. There are two common types of implied warranties. One is “warranty of merchantability,” which basically says a car is supposed to run and if it doesn’t, the dealer must fix it until it runs (unless it was sold “as is”). The other is a “warranty of fitness for a particular purpose,” which means the car is suitable for a certain use, like hauling a trailer.
  • As is: There is no warranty. If you buy a car “as is,” nothing is covered by the carmaker or dealer (though depending on your state, certain implied warranties may apply). But you may have the option to buy a dealer-service contract within a certain number of days of purchase. 

What’s the difference between a manufacturer’s warranty and an extended warranty?

A manufacturer’s warranty covers specific things guaranteed by the carmaker. If available, it’s usually included in the cost of the car and ends after a certain amount of time or after you’ve hit a specific number of miles.

An extended warranty is sometimes also referred to as a service contract and isn’t technically a warranty as defined by federal law. An extended warranty’s costs are added on top of the price of your vehicle and typically don’t include regular maintenance.

Before you buy an extended warranty, ask your dealer (in writing) about what’s covered and what the costs of repairs may be without one. It may not be worth the investment.

Bottom line

If you buy a new or used car, it’s important to understand your warranty coverage. Make sure you read through the contract provided by the dealer that details what the manufacturer or dealer is liable for. That way, you’ll have a better idea of whether you’re covered or if you have to pay for a pricey repair.

About the author: Dori Zinn is a personal finance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She enjoys helping people find ways to better manage their money. Her work can be found on numerous websites, including Bankrate, FinanceBu… Read more.