What is an Extended Car Warranty?

An extended car warranty, also known as a vehicle service contract, is an optional plan that extends the coverage period for repairs and replacements beyond the original manufacturer’s warranty. Unlike the factory warranty that comes with a new car, an extended warranty takes over once the initial warranty expires, covering the costs associated with specific types of repairs and potentially other services such as dent repair or key replacement.

extended car warranty

How Do Extended Warranties Work?

Extended warranties function similarly to insurance policies. For instance, when your car experiences a covered mechanical issue, the warranty helps cover the cost of repairs. Depending on the terms, this may include parts, labor, and sometimes additional benefits like towing or roadside assistance. Notably, the specifics of what is covered can vary widely based on the warranty provider, the type of plan, and any additional options you might select.

Are Extended Warranties Useful?

Extended warranties can be quite beneficial, particularly for those who intend to keep their vehicle for an extended period. Here are some ways they can be useful:

1. Financial Protection: They help avoid substantial out-of-pocket expenses for major repairs, which can prove financially burdensome.

2. Predictable Costs: They offer more predictable maintenance costs, making budgeting easier.

3. Additional Services: Some plans include extras like rental car coverage, roadside assistance, or trip interruption coverage.

Are They Costly and Worth It?

The cost of extended warranties varies based on factors such as the vehicle’s make, model, age, mileage, and the extent of coverage. Typically, prices range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Whether they are worth the cost is a nuanced question:

Survey Insights: According to a Consumer Reports survey, 65 percent of respondents spent more on the warranty than they saved on repairs. The average cost was $1,000, with an average benefit of $700, resulting in a $300 loss for many.

Usage: About 42 percent of extended warranties went unused, and only a third covered a significant repair.

Savings: Some car owners, particularly those with less reliable vehicles, found extended warranties more beneficial. For instance, owners of cars with lower reliability ratings like certain Mercedes-Benz models saw better value.

Where to Buy an Extended Warranty?

Extended warranties can be purchased from several sources:

Car Dealerships: Most offer extended warranties at the time of vehicle purchase.

Third-Party Providers: Companies specializing in extended warranties often provide more flexible options.

Manufacturers: Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programs from manufacturers may offer extended warranties as part of their package.

When is an Extended Warranty Helpful?

Extended warranties are particularly helpful in the following scenarios:

Long-Term Ownership: If you plan to keep your car beyond the manufacturer’s warranty period.

High Repair Costs: For vehicles with a history of expensive repairs.

Peace of Mind: If you prefer the certainty of fixed maintenance costs and the comfort of being covered for unexpected issues.

Key Questions to Ask

When considering an extended warranty, it’s important to ask the following:

1. What Types of Repairs are Covered? Coverage varies significantly, so it’s crucial to understand the specifics.

2. How Much of the Repair Cost is Covered? Some plans require a deductible or copay, and it’s important to know if you pay upfront or if the service department bills the warranty company directly.

3. Duration of Coverage: Understand whether the warranty lasts for a set number of years or until a certain mileage is reached.

4. Provider Reputation: Ensure the warranty provider has a good track record for customer service and paying out claims.

5. Cancellation and Refunds: Know your rights regarding cancellations and any potential refunds.

6. Usage Limits: Check for caps on benefits or restrictions after a single use.

Deciding to Purchase an Extended Warranty

Before purchasing an extended warranty, consider your financial situation and the potential cost of repairs. It’s wise to research the vehicle’s reliability and read reviews from other owners. Additionally, extended warranties can often be negotiated, so factor them into your overall car-buying negotiation.

If you prefer not to purchase at the dealership, you can explore other providers, though you won’t be able to finance it as part of your car loan. In any case, we DO NOT recommend purchasing an extended warranty when buying a new car. The reason? You won’t see the benefit of the warranty until years later – when the manufacturer’s warranties end. Further, you’ll pay financing costs on that warranty.

Extended Car Warranty Decision

Extended warranties can provide valuable coverage for those looking to protect themselves from unexpected repair costs. However, their worth depends on individual circumstances, including the car’s reliability, your financial situation, and personal preferences for peace of mind versus potential savings. Careful consideration and thorough research are essential to making an informed decision.


Bartlett, J. (2018, December 27). Should You Get an Extended Warranty for Your Car?. Consumer Reports.

(2024, March 8). What are the differences between a manufacturer’s warranty and an extended vehicle warranty or service contract?. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

See AlsoEverything You Need to Know About Extended Car Warranties

Images under license from Adobe Stock Photos.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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