Worrying About the Warranty? Protection Against Costly Repairs Is Key to Your Car Budget/ November 7th, 2005
It looks good. It drives great. And, especially important these days, it gets good gas mileage. You're about ready to buy this car, but have you looked at the warranty? What repairs are covered and for how long in your warranty could well determine if you'll wind up happy that you bought that vehicle. New car warranties range from the traditional three years or 36,000 miles to a few brands that extend coverage of the so-called drivetrain--engine, transmission, and driveshaft--to 10 years or 100,000 miles. For some car buyers, a long warranty will be crucial; for others it will matter little. To see where you fit, ask yourself two questions:
- How long will I own the car? If you trade cars often, you don't care much about 10-year warranties. If you like to drive vehicles just as long as you can, you will care a lot.
- How many miles do you drive a year? Remember, expiration of time/mileage warranties is whichever comes first. So if you plan to keep a car for three years but drive 20,000 miles a year, a typical three-year or 36,000-mile warranty won't keep you covered.
You may not need an extended warranty if you believe you can cover repairs out of savings.If you plan to keep your car for long enough that the warranty matters, watch these issues:
Look for a good drivetrain deal.The protection you really care about is against those big, budget-busting repairs. "Power train warranties cover the most expensive jobs like transmission replacement that can run $2,000 or more," points out Philip Reed, consumer advice editor of automotive Web site Edmunds.com and co-author of Edmunds' book
The "bumper-to-bumper" coverage in the basic warranty will pay to repair or replace almost any part that breaks. But there are exceptions.Additionally, sites such as Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book will show you the warranty coverage for any specific model.
Look for reliability.In judging among competing models, you care not only what repairs are covered but how likely they are to be needed. Consumer Reports' annual survey rates the likelihood of problems with specific components for specific models for the previous eight years. These ratings appear in the April issue, often available in libraries or online if you're a subscriber. These details are worth a look since they may or may not match your image of the brands. Most Honda and Toyota models--as they have for many years--continue to rank well. But Hyundai--which initially adopted the long warranty to combat skepticism about its cars' reliability--has shown improvement for models less than two years old.
The protection you really care about is against those big, budget-busting repairs.
Remember the rust coverage.If you pay attention, this warranty provision protects you not only against rusted-through body panels but also unnecessary add-on charges at the dealership. This coverage often extends longer than the basic warranty. (Ford, for example, has a three-year or 36,000-mile warranty, but rust coverage runs for five years or unlimited mileage.) So if dealership employees try to sell you additional rustproofing, just say no. The dealer rust treatment might even lessen the built-in corrosion protection.
Check out the roadside assistance.Some new-car warranties include a service that not only will tow you if your car breaks down but send assistance if you run out of gas or lock yourself out of the car. While your warranty is in effect, you may be able to avoid the expense of an auto club that provides similar service. Talk to the dealer and read your warranty carefully so you know the details of your coverage before you might need it out alongside the interstate.
If dealership employees try to sell you additional rustproofing, just say no.