Despite the complexity of new cars, they're more reliable than ever. What would once be cause for celebration for owners — breaking into the 100,000-mile club — has now become so commonplace that no one gets excited until you hit 500,000 to a million miles. That said, because of the intricacy of new car maintenance, your car's warranty has never been more important.
Car warranties can cover everything from manufacturing defects, faulty components, normal wear and tear, and everything in between as manufacturers are keen to keep your business and reduce the hassle of maintenance, while also keeping you within its dealership network. Someone has to upsell you on the limited-edition cupholders. But not every car manufacturer offers the same spec of warranties or offers the same level of coverage. Even among automakers under the same corporate umbrella, there can be variations.
To understand who has the best new car warranty, you have to look at a handful of variables and understand what you need from your new ride, such as how many miles you're planning to put on it, what type of driving you do, how hard you are on your vehicles, and what level of maintenance coverage are you looking for. In order to help you make an educated choice and arm you like Jinx from League of Legends, The Drive's editors have laid out this guide to help you understand new car warranties.
Basic Factory Warranties Explained
There is a lot of confusing information surrounding automotive warranties. Some people assume they are just scams, while others figure they cover anything and everything that can go wrong with a vehicle. The truth is out there, and it's here too.
It’s important to understand that there are many types of vehicle warranties. Basic factory warranties cover new cars. Extended auto warranties (also called vehicle service contracts) can cover new or used cars. CPO warranties only cover certain used vehicles a manufacturer has certified though its own inspection process. You can even find third-party warranties that provide coverage and perks that automakers lack.
Since we’re focusing on automaker factory bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties, we can ignore the extended, CPO, and third-party warranties. We’re only concerned with the warranty that comes with a brand-new car and kicks in after it has left the lot. It generally comes in two flavors:
- Bumper-to-bumper warranty: Provides basic, comprehensive coverage for any standard, manufacturer-approved part on a vehicle.
- Powertrain warranty: Offers powertrain coverage for basic drive components such as the drivetrain, engine, transmission, and axles.
All factory warranties don’t cover every possible issue that comes up with a vehicle. Factory warranties are about addressing manufacturing defects, usually issues that don’t require a recall. If, for example, your steering wheels randomly falls off, and it’s not due to general wear and tear or your own actions, chances are it will be covered.
If you want additional coverage for things like unexpected breakdowns or routine maintenance, you need something beyond most factory warranties. This is where some manufacturer and third-party-supplied extended warranties come in.
Comparing Manufacturer’s Warranties
Assessing which company has the best factory warranty isn’t the most straightforward process, especially if you’re searching for a new vehicle and don’t have much experience with them. However, it’s not rocket science and it’s helpful to know how to compare different warranty options by seeing how they differ in a few important areas:
- Length: All factory warranties have limits. Typically, manufacturers set two limits for their warranties: age and mileage. For example, the industry standard has become a three-year or 36,000-mile warranty. Once a car is either three years old or hits the 36,000-mile mark, the warranty is expired. In general, longer warranties are better. Powertrain warranties tend to last longer than bumper-to-bumper warranties since they cover less.
- Inclusions: To assess what you actually get with a factory warranty in terms of coverage, look at the inclusions list. This will include all of the general parts and systems the warranty will fix or replace if defects arise. Powertrain warranties tend to use these lists more than bumper-to-bumper options.
- Exclusions: Some warranties take the opposite approach of simply listing the parts and systems they don’t cover. This is more common with bumper-to-bumper warranties since they tend to be more comprehensive in coverage. This way, it’s easier just to list the excluded items.
- Extra Perks: Factory warranties may seem rather bare in their offerings, but some offer a few additional perks. From roadside assistance, trip-interruption coverage, and rental cars to basic coverage on routine maintenance or repairs such as oil changes and free towing, these perks may come in handy.
The Best Warranty Providers
In searching for the best factory warranty providers, we’ve had to put a lot of automakers aside. The differences between some providers are just too small to matter, while others clearly stand out. To find the best, we’ve looked at important factors such as age and mileage limits, inclusions and exclusions, and anything extra the company throws into the mix.
We’ve included the best of the best, the best value, and a few honorable mentions for specialty and luxury brands.
Best New Car Warranty Overall: Hyundai
It may not be the longest or most comprehensive car warranty available, but Hyundai takes the top spot because it strikes the right balance of long bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties with top-notch extras you won’t find with most other manufacturers. Coupled with the brand’s growing reputation of reliability that now rivals more established companies, this Korean automaker is one to look at for a good car and a good car warranty.
The five-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty is one of the longest available today. The even longer 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty is nearly twice as long as what many other automakers offer to cover the engine and drivetrain. The thing that really puts Hyundai’s warranty over the top, however, is the inclusion of unlimited-mile corrosion warranty and roadside assistance. With these, the only limitation is the age: seven and five years, respectively.
Common Repair Costs
Some of the most common issues and repair costs with Hyundai vehicles:
- Hyundai Genesis: Power seat switch replacement ($279-$294)
- Hyundai Elantra: Catalytic converter replacement ($779-$806)
Best Car Warranty Value: Kia
Kia isn’t just a budget car manufacturer by any means, but it has quickly become one of the best brands with a good selection of budget vehicles. As a result, it wins the value spot in our list for its combination of reliable, affordable cars and a warranty offering that rivals its sister brand, Hyundai, along with many other more expensive automakers.
The five-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, along with the 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, rival most other competitors and matches Hyundai’s standard factory warranties. The area where Kia falls just short of topping its sister brand is with the corrosion warranty and roadside assistance package.
While Hyundai offers unlimited miles on both, Kia caps the limit to 100,000 and 60,000 miles, respectively. Still, these are nearly twice as much as most other automaker warranties.
Common Repair Costs
Some of the most common issues and repair costs with Kia vehicles:
- Kia Optima: Air conditioning diagnostic ($88-$111)
- Kia Sportage: Anti-theft system diagnostic ($88-$111)
Best Long-Term Car Warranty: Volkswagen
Volkswagen has long been connected with the reputation of German automotive engineering. It only makes sense, then, that a company synonymous with quality vehicles offers one of the longest-lasting car warranties available. This offers a good balance between a reliable car and good warranty coverage.
The standard Volkswagen bumper-to-bumper warranty is a six-year or 72,000-mile coverage plan that firmly puts it on top of the bumper-to-bumper heap. This means you get to maximize the general coverage a car for nearly twice as long as most other automakers and at least a year compared to its closest rivals.
Unfortunately, the company’s six-year or 72,000-mile powertrain warranty falls short of other competitor offerings that extend up to 10 years.
Common Repair Costs
Some of the most common issues and repair costs with Volkswagen vehicles:
- Volkswagen Jetta: Radiator replacement ($522-$706)
- Volkswagen Passat: Control arm replacement ($579-$928)
Best Luxury Car Warranty: Jaguar
Luxury automakers aren’t always known for high-quality construction. While you are paying more for a luxury vehicle, the cost may be due to design choices, exotic material inclusions, or just for the reputation of the brand itself. That is why it’s helpful to gauge the warranty any luxury brand offers to get a little insight into how much stock the company puts into itself.
Jaguar takes this top spot since it offers the longest bumper-to-bumper coverage of any luxury brand. Its five-year or 60,000-mile coverage applies to both the bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties, matching other automotive manufacturers near the top of the warranty duration spectrum while the powertrain falls a bit short of its competitors. On the plus side, its five-year or 60,000-mile roadside assistance program is also among the longest compared to its rivals.
Common Repair Costs
Some of the most common issues and repair costs with Jaguar vehicles:
- Jaguar F-Type: Suspension shock/strut replacement ($996-$1,038)
Best EV Car Warranty: Nissan
When it comes to electric vehicles (hybrid or all-electric varieties), the standard factory warranties aren’t quite enough. That is why many EV manufacturers also include additional factory warranties to cover the EV-specific parts. Batteries, in particular, are a key component that requires some coverage from defects and general wear and tear. Since all batteries eventually wear out over time, it can help to keep costs down on a replacement when you have a good warranty backing you up.
This spot didn’t have quite as much competition as the others, but Nissan edges out competitors such as Chevrolet and Tesla with its battery warranty and replacement program. Applicable specifically to the Nissan Leaf, the battery coverage lasts for eight years or 100,000 miles.
Most notably, the warranty has one of the highest percentage guarantees (roughly 75 percent), meaning the company will replace the battery once its charge capacity only reaches three-quarters of its original capacity. The car also comes with the more standard three-year or 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and five-year or 60,000-mile powertrain warranties.
Common Repair Costs
Some of the most common issues and repair costs with Nissan electric vehicles:
- Nissan Leaf: Brake pad replacement ($208-$331)
- Nissan Leaf: Radiator replacement ($700-$858)
Q. Which companies offer a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty?
A. Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, and Genesis are the top providers of a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Q. What does a factory warranty cover?
A. Most bumper-to-bumper factory warranties cover most, if not all, design and material defects that occur during normal use of the vehicle.
Q. Do I have to go to a manufacturer-specific or approved dealership to use my warranty?
A. Not always. While some manufacturers or dealerships may recommend a specific repair shop, going to an independent mechanic won’t void the warranty. You may not, however, get work covered for free.
Q. Can I void my factory warranty?
A. Yes. Generally, if you make a modification that the manufacturer or car dealership can prove led to necessary repair work, it will likely void your warranty.
Considering Factory Warranties
As we mentioned before, you shouldn’t base your choice on finding the best new vehicle only on the warranties companies provide. All factory warranties eventually end, and there are other options such as extended warranties to consider if you want better coverage for your vehicle. Instead, this information should just be one point to consider in your overall decision-making process. Don’t forget to read the fine print as well on any warranty options.
If you already have a brand you know you want to buy from, perfect. This information will give you a basic understanding of what to expect in terms of coverage. When brand loyalty isn’t important or if you haven’t picked a brand yet, however, this information might help you narrow down the list of possibilities or at least give you a good starting point to check out different model options. This will give you the peace of mind to find the right vehicle for you.