What every informed consumer needs to know...
Vehicle owners know that even the most common mechanical repairs can cost you thousands of dollars. When these repairs are unexpected, the financial strain can be crippling if you don’t have money in savings as a safety net for these kinds of expenses. With an extended car warranty, you can be protected from these costly repairs that can happen when you least expect it.
When you purchase an extended warranty from a car warranty provider, you are signing an agreement wherein the warranty company will pay for your vehicle repairs over a specific period of time, as long as it’s covered by the terms of the contract. Some companies are direct providers, meaning the warranty is issued by that company. Other companies are simply a matching service to assist you in finding warranty coverage. Before choosing a company or signing a contract, as a consumer there are some important things to know.
The coverage plans that are offered will vary from company to company, but by and large there are three main types of plans that companies offer. The first, and most basic plan, is commonly referred to as a powertrain warranty. The term powertrain refers to the main components that generate power in a car, which includes the engine, transmission, drive shafts, etc. With a powertrain plan, should any of these critical parts fail, the cost for repair will be covered under the warranty terms. However, this includes less than 30 parts, and these are the parts that are least likely to fail. The average vehicle contains thousands of parts, so the powertrain warranty is by far the least comprehensive plan offered.
Then there’s the inclusionary warranty, or named parts warranty. Under this plan, all of the covered parts are listed in the terms of the contract. If a part that is not listed in the contract fails, then the consumer is responsible for the cost of those repairs. With these types of warranties, it’s incredibly important to read the contract closely before signing to make sure that all of the parts you need and want covered specifically are listed.
The most comprehensive plan that companies offer is an exclusionary warranty, commonly, but inaccurately, referred to as a “bumper-to-bumper” warranty. Under this plan, there are so many parts and systems covered that it’s much easier for the contract to state which parts are NOT covered, hence the term “exclusionary” being used. If you’re looking for the best and most complete warranty plan, this is the plan to choose.
Many companies also offer additional benefits, which are included in most extended warranty plans, for example: Roadside assistance, rental car coverage, towing, lockout benefits, and fuel delivery. When shopping around for a car warranty provider, ask about what kind of additional benefits are offered under specific plans to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
When it comes to extended car warranties, there’s a lot of information to take into consideration. For example, most extended car warranty providers are going to have strict mileage and year restrictions in place. Your premium and deductible will be reliant upon the make and model of your vehicle, as well as the mileage on the car when service goes into effect. Be sure to provide completely accurate information about your vehicle, because erroneous information could void your warranty. You can generally receive coverage on vehicles out of their original manufacturer warranty with less than 100,000 miles driven. Beyond that, it’s up to the discretion of the warranty provider, and coverage can be costly.
The length of the contract is dependent upon two factors: maximum number of years, and maximum number of miles. The warranty is void when you hit one of those, so make sure you’re aware of the contract length. Contract renewal is not automatic, nor guaranteed. If you want to renew your contract after it expires, most companies require the same eligibility requirements for renewals as they do for new policies. So if your vehicle no longer meets one of the requirements, you may be out of luck.
Many companies offer a full refund within the first 30-days, this is often referred to as the policy review period. Most companies have sample policies available on their sites, which is helpful when shopping, but no matter what anyone tells you, and despite anything you have read before, the policy you receive after signing up is where your guarantees can be found. The most common complaint from car warranty customers are about claims being denied, and sadly, most of these complaints could have been avoided if the customer understood their policy from the beginning. This is why it is so important to use the policy review period to make sure you are getting what you think you bought, make any changes necessary, and ask any questions you may have.
Before submitting a claim, make sure you’re aware of the enrollment waiting period. With most warranty providers, there’s a waiting period between when you sign the contract, and when coverage actually begins. This period is usually 30 days, though it varies based on the company. There is also usually a miles driven clause, meaning that in addition to waiting 30 days, you also have to drive a certain number of miles before coverage begins. This number is usually 1,000 miles, but some companies do have a lower threshold.
When it comes to filing claims for repairs, your warranty provider may have requirements on who completes the work. Almost all companies allow you to choose your own service provider, as long as it’s a licensed repair facility. However, before you take your car into the shop, it’s always a good idea to check with your car warranty provider first. Then, take your vehicle or have it towed to an approved licensed facility, and present your warranty service agreement. Once the problem has been diagnosed, the repair facility will call the claims administrator and receive repair authorization from your warranty provider.
Most companies will pay the repair facility directly for approved claims, so you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket and wait to be reimbursed. If this is the case, never pay for your repairs and assume your warranty provider to reimburse you later, unless you have a guarantee in writing. Many consumers have made this mistake and found out after the fact that the repairs or parts were not covered, or that the company will only reimburse for a portion of the total cost.
Car warranties oftentimes have deductibles, or an amount you pay out of pocket before coverage begin, which you pay directly to the mechanic or repair shop. If there are any necessary repairs not covered by your warranty, you will be responsible for paying those expenses out-of-pocket. It’s important to know whether your deductible is per-visit or per-repair. With a per-visit deductible, each visit to the shop will cost a fixed amount; with a per-repair deductible, you’ll be charged a separate fee that applies to each serviced part. This can have a major difference on the amount you pay, and other restrictions may apply so be sure to read the terms of the contract closely.
A huge indicator of overall quality is how a warranty company treats its customers. As mentioned earlier, all major warranty providers offer a money-back guaranteed policy review period, typically for the first 30 days after signing up. If at any point during this trial period, you are unhappy, you can cancel your plan and receive a full reimbursement (as long as no claims have been submitted).
After the policy review period has ended, cancellation is a bit more complicated. Most companies will issue a pro-rated refund that is based on time covered, mileage driven, and any claims you have submitted. Additionally, most companies will charge a flat administration fee, usually around $50. Cancellation information should always be outlined in your policy.
If you should decide to sell your vehicle while it’s covered by a car warranty, most companies are happy to transfer the policy over to the new owner. Transfer charges do apply however, and are usually around $50.
One complaint we’ve seen is that car warranty companies take a long time to send the policy to customers. This should take about 5-7 business days to get to you, but every company is different. If you have not received your policy a week after you sign up, we suggest calling to follow up. While many may find this unnecessary or trivial, we see this as the perfect opportunity to test how a company will treat you as a customer. If you experience long holds, unfriendly representatives, or other negative interactions (Common Complaint #2), perhaps it may be worth considering another company. After all, if this is what you encounter before the company has secured your business, then what preventing this from happening once you’ve paid and need help?
The cost of a warranty plan varies greatly based on your plan, the warranty provider, and the vehicle being protected.
Premiums, or the amount of money you pay for coverage, are the largest expense, and are usually paid upfront and in full. However, some companies do offer payment plans for the premiums, so if you’re unable to pay the premium right away, you can make installment payments instead. The actual amount of the premium varies based on the type of vehicle, the year it was produced, current mileage, and the plan you select. However, the average cost for extended car warranties is between $350-$700.
As mentioned earlier, deductibles are also important to consider. Deductibles are either per-part or per-visit, as outlined in the contract. Deductible amounts also vary, but they tend to fall somewhere between $0 and $100. These are paid directly to the repair facility.
Another thing to consider is that some policies have maximum yearly or lifetime payout caps. If there are any, yearly maximum payouts usually fall between $12,000 and $15,000 per year, and lifetime payouts are often limited to the total purchase price of the vehicle. Every plan is different, and not all plans have benefit limits, which is just another reason why it’s worthwhile to review your policy early on.
To get a better idea of how much a car warranty will cost you, we suggest reaching out to a few companies to get quotes.
Buying an extended car warranty will allow you to avoid paying larger expenses down the line, but it’s important to weight the cost and benefits against your own financial situation. For some consumers, car warranties are an added unnecessary expense, but to others they provide that peace of mind protection that’s worth the overall cost.
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