It’s a surprisingly common—and avoidable—scenario: you submit a claim for an automotive repair you’ve had done, but it turns out you’ll have to bear the costs, as your cover has been denied or deemed void.
Whether you’re still within the manufacturer warranty period, or you’ve taken out an extended warranty, the last thing you want is to inadvertently invalidate your cover and end up paying twice.
We want to make this information more accessible so as vehicle owners we’re in control and able to make a claim on a valid warranty when we need it most. Learn more about the different ways you can protect your vehicle and their pros and cons, or read on to find common examples of what would void a car warranty.
What Kind of Coverage Do You Have and What Does It Actually Cover?
Not all warranties are made equal—extended warranty coverage varies depending on your vehicle, driving habits, budget, and more. Knowing each level of coverage can help you understand what’s covered, as well as what’s not.
There are two main types of warranty coverage:
New cars come with these, and they cover replacements or repairs on almost every part of the car, usually for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles. They’re included in the price of the car and covers the components like the engine, transmission, and drivetrain.
While some manufacturers offer these as an add-on, most are from third-party providers, either administrators or resellers, as noted by Edmunds. An extended warranty can be purchased when your manufacturer’s warranty expires.
Protection from sudden breakdowns is commonly referred to as warranties, but federal law has a specific definition for warranties, and these are officially considered vehicle service contracts (vsc). They’re similar to insurance policies (although not exactly the same and the distinctions are important to bear in mind), in that they provide cover for different scenarios, but also in that it’s possible to render them void if you don’t follow the terms of the cover.
If you’re unsure on the basics of an extended auto warranty, auto protection providers can happily explain the difference between each level to find the perfect match for you. You can also read reviews on the top ten extended warranty providers here—ones we’ve personally tested so we can give you an accurate and fair assessment of their cover, customer service, and more.
Depending on whether or not you decide to go with a manufacturer warranty or the alternative, there are various levels of coverage to choose from:
- Bumper-to-bumper warranty: This is the sort of warranty some manufacturers provide for a brand-new car and covers pretty much everything from, yes, bumper to bumper… except not always the bumpers themselves. Go figure.
- Powertrain warranty: Cover for the basic mechanical parts your car needs to function.
- Stated component warranty: A step above powertrain warranties, these cover the basics plus a number of other components such as brakes and suspension.
- Exclusionary coverage warranty: These warranties offer a higher level of coverage and only exclude the components explicitly exempted in the terms.
As well as knowing what your warranty does and does not cover, you should take careful note of any actions, lack of actions, or other circumstances that would result in your warranty cover being disregarded by the provider.
Below are five of the most common reasons.
What Voids a Car Warranty?
The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act is the legislation that specifies what voids a warranty on a car, wholly or partially. Extended warranties are legally considered vehicle service contracts and as such they’re not subject to the same law. You should check the terms and conditions to understand what could void the cover, but below are some of the more common examples.
#1 Getting Work Done in an Unauthorized Repair Shop
Warranty: While your warranty cannot usually become void if you get someone other than your dealer to carry out work on your vehicle, if your manufacturer or dealer provides for free repairs under the terms of the warranty, they may specify where these need to be done.
Extended warranty/VSC: This is a common cause of claims being denied. Note also that some extended warranties will specify the area within which cover applies.
#2 Doing Your Own Repairs
Warranty: According to the Federal Trade Commission, the consumer protection agency, cover can be denied if you carry out your own repair incorrectly and this leads to a fault, although the warranty provider would have to demonstrate this. The warranty provider cannot void the cover simply because you performed the job, though, and all other car components covered under the terms of the warranty would remain covered regardless.
Extended warranty/ VSC: This is highly likely to invalidate a claim should you have to make one.
#3 Not Sticking to the Routine Maintenance Schedule
Warranty: Your owner’s manual details the routine maintenance schedule for your vehicle, which usually includes jobs such as tire rotation, fluid level checks, and oil changes. If you don’t keep up with this schedule, you risk voiding your warranty.
Extended warranty/VSC: In the same way, neglecting the essential upkeep jobs that keep you and your vehicle safe can invalidate an extended warranty.
#4 No Paperwork
Warranty: The Federal Trade Commission recommends keeping detailed records and receipts of all work carried out on your vehicle. Even if you’ve rigorously stuck to the routine maintenance schedule, if you don’t have the paperwork—meaning receipts and invoices detailing the work carried out and who’s done it—you could risk voiding your cover.
Extended warranty/VSC: You should always keep thorough records of work done, as otherwise the provider will not know if you’ve respected the maintenance schedule, and cover may be refused.
#5 Modifying Your Car with Aftermarket or Recycled Parts
Warranty: Manufacturers may deny cover if you use either recycled or aftermarket parts that are faulty or incorrectly installed, and this results in damage to your vehicle. This would only apply to the parts damaged, however, and the manufacturer would need to demonstrate the aftermarket or recycled parts, or their installation, caused the problem.
The manufacturer can also specify that certain parts must be used if they provide them for free as part of the warranty cover.
Extended warranty/VSC: A common cause of claims being denied, modifying your vehicle should be approached with caution.
What car mods void your warranty? These could include anything from installing turbochargers to upgrading the suspension. Safer modifications that are unlikely to void your coverage include manufacturer upgrades and those installed by approved dealers. But we’d still recommend being careful and doublechecking the terms of your cover.
Knowledge Can Be the Best Protection
Taking out warranty cover is the best way to protect yourself against the costs of a sudden breakdown, but it’s important to study the details and stick to the terms. Otherwise, you could end up having to pay thousands out of pocket to get you back on the road. Anyone who has a warranty claim rejected and feels it was unfair can seek help from the FTC. Understand more about the basics of extended auto warranties and learn how you can find the best deal here.
The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act: https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid%3AUSC-prelim-title15-chapter50&edition=prelim
The FTC: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/