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Edmunds: Some things you might not know about new car warranties

Did you know "bumper-to-bumper" warranty coverage doesn't actually apply to the bumpers?

The Volkswagen Atlas at the New York International

The Volkswagen Atlas at the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center on March 29. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Most of us know the new-car basic warranty, often referred to as the "bumper-to-bumper warranty," is designed to protect the owner against any factory defects during the first few years of ownership. But did you know this coverage doesn't actually apply to the bumpers? The vehicle's bumpers are considered body panels and so aren't covered.

The basic warranty is just one kind of coverage that comes standard on a new car. Here's an overview of new-car warranties and some things you might not know about them:

Warranty basics

A new car comes with a basic or limited warranty, which covers everything except body panels, drivetrain components and wear-and-tear items such as brake pads, oil filters and wiper blades.

It also comes with a drivetrain warranty, which covers most of the parts that make the car move, such as the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft. Most carmakers provide roadside assistance. Some also offer free maintenance for a period of time.

Fine print on 10-year powertrain warranties

Automakers Hyundai, Kia and Mitsubishi tout their decade-long powertrain warranties, and that's great for new-car buyers who plan to hold on to their car for a while. But if you plan on buying one of those cars used, that 10-year warranty doesn't apply to you. You'll only get a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty dating from when the vehicle was first sold. A partial way around this issue is to buy the car as a certified pre-owned vehicle from a dealership. If there was a 10-year powertrain warranty, you'll get the remainder of that term.

Tires have a separate warranty

New-car tires are not covered by the vehicle's basic warranty. Instead, the warranty comes from the tiremaker, and it's outlined in a booklet you should find in your new car's glove box. Make sure you keep the tires properly inflated and hold onto receipts from any tire rotations you have done, just in case you need to file a warranty claim and are asked to prove that the tires were properly maintained.

Range of coverage 

Starting with the 2018 model year, Volkswagen offers a six-year or 72,000-mile basic warranty. This coverage effectively doubled the warranty from the prior model years and is the longest-lasting among all brands. The shortest basic warranty currently is three years or 36,000 miles, and you'll find it on vehicles from Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota, for example. Makers including Acura, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz and Mini offer four-year or 50,000-mile basic warranties. A handful, including Genesis, Hyundai, Jaguar and Kia, offer five-year or 60,000-mile basic coverage.

Extra coverage for EV and hybrid batteries 

Batteries are critical to the operation of electric vehicles or hybrid cars and are expensive to replace. A Nissan Leaf battery costs $5,000, for example. Battery components are not part of the basic warranty, but there's good news: Under federal emissions regulations, EV and hybrid batteries must be warrantied for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. This coverage is fully transferable to all subsequent owners.

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