If you want to avoid paying thousands for the most expensive repairs, you’ll want to have the right protection plan in place.
But with various coverage options available and terminologies to figure out, finding the right one can be difficult, especially if you’re new to car ownership. (Some of us have been car owners for years and could still use some help navigating it all!)
We’re here to help drivers like you make the best choices so you can find the right extended warranty. After your factory warranty expires, you run the risk of paying out-of-pocket for sudden repairs.
Below we’ll give you a top-level overview of this type of coverage and layout our advice on when is the best time to buy an extended car warranty. You can find out more here about the different ways you can protect your car.
Extended Warranties: 101
When you buy a new car, the manufacturer includes a warranty that says they’ll cover repair or replacement costs if something goes wrong. They’re like guarantees and referred to as manufacturer or factory warranties. Each manufacturer offers its warranty, so the terms differ from one to another.
Extended warranties, also known as vehicle service contracts, rather than being included in a car’s price, are an add-on. They provide additional coverage from repair costs and give you ongoing peace of mind even when your factory warranty expires. Extended warranties are available from manufacturers or third-party providers.
They usually cover your vehicle for several years or up to a set mileage (whichever you reach first is when it expires). Better plans can come with added benefits such as breakdown roadside assistance and rental car provision.
What are the different ways you can protect your car?
How Can I Check If I’m Already Covered?
Do I already have a factory warranty?
If you’ve only had your car for a few years and you haven’t done many miles, it may still be under warranty with the manufacturer. Here’s how to check.
Check the terms of the warranty in the paperwork or with the dealership. Then, compare with the number of years since the original purchase, performing a brief history, if necessary, on the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System website. Check the mileage against it too. There can be other terms you’ll need to check.
Do I already have an extended warranty?
If you think you might already have extended cover, you can do a quick check.
Find the paperwork that came with the car. If you no longer have it, you can check with the dealership or the finance company if you used one. Then compare the mileage limit and years covered to find out if it’s expired.
Whether or not you have cover in place, you might want to consider extended cover now. Read on to find out why.
When to Buy an Extended Car Warranty
There are various reasons why every driver should have an extended car warranty in place. Here are the top times to buy:
When You’re Buying a New Car
Dealerships will often ask you if you’d like to purchase an extended warranty when you’re buying a new car. For some, this can save you time and give you peace of mind for longer.
Ask yourself the following questions, though:
- Are you planning on keeping the car longer than the period covered by the manufacturer warranty? If not, it’s better to wait and see if you do end up keeping the car longer.
- Does it go beyond the factory warranty? Some manufacturers include powertrain warranties that follow on from the initial bumper-to-bumper cover. Are you doubling up unnecessarily?
- Is it transferable? If you decide to change cars, will you be able to take the cover with you?
- Are you buying the car on finance? It doesn’t make sense to pay interest on something you won’t be using for a few years, so you might be better off waiting.
Before Your Manufacturer Warranty Runs Out
If you want an extended warranty from the manufacturer of your car, you’ll almost definitely need to purchase it before the original warranty expires.
After Your Manufacturer Warranty Runs Out
If you aren’t set on a manufacturer-issued extended warranty, you’ll be able to buy third-party extended warranties at any time, giving you more flexibility.
When You’re Buying a Used Car
If you buy a used car from a dealership, you may be offered an extended warranty. If the used car is outside the original factory warranty, an extended warranty can give you welcome peace of mind and make any repairs you end up needing a lot less painful.
If you’re satisfied, an extended warranty makes sense for you, this is an excellent time to buy one. But first, make sure you check the terms of the cover carefully and consider shopping around to find a better deal.
Our Verdict: The Best Time
For new cars the best time to buy an extended warranty is when the factory warranty is about to run out. This means you won’t spend money on it until you’re going to use it. You can also sometimes save money and qualify for a higher level of cover.
Consumer advice website NerdWallet points out you’ll know your car better after a few years of ownership: “You’ll know two things by then that you didn’t when you bought the car new: how much you like it and how troublesome it’s been.” You’ll also have a better idea of how much longer you’ll want to keep it.
Avoid leaving it too late, though, as you don’t want to be left with a coverage gap.
For used cars out of the factory warranty period the best time is when you’re buying the car to make sure you’re always covered, although we do suggest comparing different providers.
I have insurance. Do I need a warranty too?
It’s up to you, but we’d recommend it. Your insurance policy generally won’t provide any protection against the costs of routine maintenance and repairs. While it certainly isn’t compulsory to have a valid warranty, it can combine with your insurance to provide you with complete cover for your car. Learn more about the difference between car insurance and extended warranties.
Is it worth getting an extended warranty on a new car?
It can be. If you’re planning on keeping the car beyond the age or mileage covered by the manufacturer warranty, you can get a good deal by taking out an extended warranty at the time of purchase. You can also get cover and other benefits beyond those offered by your factory warranty.
Remember, it’s best to shop around and find the best extended warranty cover for your vehicle. It can also make more sense to wait until your manufacturer warranty is about to expire.
Read our reviews of the big extended warranty providers – all tried, tested, and honestly reviewed to help you get the best deal.
Should I wait until my current warranty expires before getting new cover?
No. We recommend taking out an extended warranty before your current cover expires. By doing this, you make sure you aren’t left without cover at any point and you can also take advantage of the best offers.