Car Warranties: What you need to know

Guaranteed for three years, the new car advert proclaims. Those glittering words sway several buyers into thinking that either the new car will be in tip-top condition at the end of the third year or someone will fix it up gladly for free. If that is your understanding, then you may be in for a surprise – for example, not all eventualities or car systems are covered by initial warranty periods.

The possibility of having to shell out for a major repair is a bitter reality. And the older cars get, the more likely they are to conk out. Car warranties are, of course, designed to offer reassurance and protect you from huge repair costs, especially if your car suffers from manufacturing defects that lead to frequent electrical or mechanical failures. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But car warranty is not as simple as it looks.

It’s important to compare and evaluate the warranty information in the owner’s manual provided with a car. More often than not, it is quite confusing – many provide a sweeping initial guarantee that is followed by broad exceptions. Ultimately, you could be left with a lot of questions. And unfortunately, the fine print of a carefully worded warranty policy can mislead owners and leave them paying hundreds of pounds for repairs that they expected to be covered. So how can you navigate the minefield?

Before you put your signature on the dotted line, there are several key things you need to know to look for. To help clear up what rights you have as an owner, Perrys has put together a list of questions and answers. Take a look – these tips could help you cut needless time spent debating with dealers or cut repair bills on a vehicle that you recently bought.

What does the warranty cover?

Sometimes it’s not until you bring a faulty auto in for repair that you suss out what’s actually covered by the warranty policy – often leaving car owners dismayed.

Period of cover

A warranty policy applies to a car from the date of registration. The period of cover is crucial to establish initially, and the limitations within that. The cover period varies hugely between new cars: from three to five years, up to seven for certain carmakers. For example, Volkswagen offers warranty only up to three years – and within that, you get two years’ unlimited mileage but the third year capped at 60,000 miles. Toyota similarly cap their warranty at five years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Compare this to Hyundai, who confidently offer a five-year unlimited mileage warranty across their entire range (with the only limitations set for cars used as commercial vehicles or taxis).

Previously, Vauxhall offered what was entitled a ‘lifetime warranty’ on cars bought between 2010 and 2014 – so called because it had no time limit to it, but was capped at 100,000 miles, for the first owner of the car. However, this has now been withdrawn as the car ownership landscape has changed a lot, and new Vauxhalls purchased from January 2015 onwards now have the same three-year, 60,000 mile deal as Volkswagens.

An attention-grabbing seven year cover is offered on all new Kia cars. Like Toyota, this is capped at 100,000 miles – but gives you a much more realistic time period in which to really use that distance. Added bonuses are: the first three years have unlimited mileage, and the policy is fully transferrable to any subsequent owner while still valid.

Always check the smaller details

Look closely at warranties for smaller points, such as how long coverage lasts for paintwork defects (sometimes covered only until the end of the first year), anti-perforation defects (mostly 12 years throughout the industry, but sometimes limited to 6 years), and internals such as the audio system. As they say, all that glitters is not gold. Read between the lines to figure out exactly what the cover is for – check all the major car systems including electrics, exhaust and battery. You might want to consider getting an extended warranty option if it will give you more coverage time on such points. Look also for added bonus offers, such as included breakdown cover within warranties, and how long this lasts for as well.

How does it work?

Car manufacturers will often fix any electrical or mechanical default for free of charge under your original warranty. If you see a defect developing, take your car to the dealer (who’s usually the authorised repairer) and they will look into its suitability. If they will repair it under warranty, you may get a spare car while it’s being fixed. Any new spare parts fitted will be covered for the rest of the actual warranty period.

Figure out when you will get paid

Don’t assume that just because you have taken out a warranty cover, you will be able to claim the day after your car gave up the ghost.

Several warranties have included policies which won’t allow you to make claims in the first month or the first few weeks, whereas some will pay out from the very first day. Make sure you are well aware of the waiting period before you proceed to file a claim.

Work out what you might have to contribute

Many policies state that car owners may have to contribute to spare part costs for higher-mileage or older vehicles, as this helps to keep the premium of the warranty cover down to a minimum. Make sure this is clearly specified in your document. The last thing you want to do (after making a claim) is calculate how much you might have to contribute.

Make sure the warranty cover is insured

Choosing a fully insured warranty policy will give you access to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), just in case you end up having to dispute with the provider. Moreover, you will be eligible for compensation under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the event that an insurer is not able to do business. Keep in mind that buying an uninsured warranty policy will not allow you to enjoy the consumer protection rights offered by FSCS or FOS.

The bottom line

Part of the charm of buying a brand new auto is that it is least likely to go awry – and if anything does go wrong, you should be aware whether it is fully covered by the car warranty issued by the manufacturer. As shown above, though warranties are planned to protect owners from hefty repair bills, their terms and conditions differ significantly, and it is worth poring over the specifics to find out exactly what is and what is not covered – and whether your corresponding insurance will cover any outstanding points.

At Perrys, we want to help make buying a car as easy for you as possible – with no worries! So we always ensure that a generous MOT and warranty is included for every car we sell, and we also sell extended warranties if buyers want extra protection. Ask your local Perrys dealership about the warranty deals we can provide.