Understanding warranties

A warranty is essentially an insurance policy that covers your car against specific mechanical failures. Most new cars have a three year manufacturer-backed warranty. Buying a used car from a main dealer usually means there will be a 12-month manufacturer guarantee. Cars purchased from independent dealers and car supermarkets may be offered with a warranty package.

It is also possible to buy your own warranty cover. There are plenty to choose from and some cover more than a simple mechanical failure. You can even get a policy that operates when a car fails its MOT, and there are also packages that cover maintenance and spread any servicing and repair costs over the year. It will suit some drivers perfectly and remove any worries they have about unexpected expenditure.

Choosing a warranty

To get the best warranty that suits you it is important to read the small print to see exactly what is covered. You may have a claims limit and may even have to contribute to any costs. Indeed high mileage and older cars may not be eligible for a warranty, usually if they are over a decade old or have covered more than 100,000 miles.

At the other end of the car market, some sports cars and complicated luxury vehicles may also be specifically excluded. Otherwise a good warranty will cover the engine, fuel and ignition systems, cooling system, electrical system, gearbox, transmission system, steering, suspension and selected clutch and brake system parts but not wear items like the clutch itself or brake pads.

Wear and tear

Some warranty companies may rely on this as their get-out clause. Where wear and tear is an issue then a good company will request a percentage contribution to the parts and labour costs. Most warranties exclude normal wear and tear to wheels, tyres, exhausts, catalytic converter, clutch and brakes, as well as damage to bodywork, paintwork, glass or headlights. There are also exclusions for certain electronic or electrical items such as CDs and Bluetooth systems. Air conditioning and climate control can be excluded, but as it is increasingly common, more companies are offering cover.

Validity

A warranty is only likely to be valid if the car is looked after properly. This means that in some cases an approved dealer must service the car and it must be in accordance with the manufacturer’s schedule. That also means that the car must not miss its due servicing date by a certain number of days or miles. The obligation is on you to keep careful records and receipts in order to make a claim. With older cars though it is important to have some flexibility as you may not want to take a five year old car to a main agent, when an independent garage has significantly lower labour rates.

Claims

The total of all claims can be limited to the value of the car or a specific limit for each item. That limit may be too low especially if your car is usually expensive to repair. So it is important to check limits for individual claims and also the total claim limit in any one year. The warranty company may also have a stipulation as to the maximum labour rate they are prepared to pay for repairs. Plus if a new part is fitted which is better than the old one (upgraded engine part), this is referred to as ‘Betterment’ and will mean that you are expected to make a contribution to its cost.

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