Getting one of the best extended car warranties can save you a whole bunch of money on repairs and servicing. Extended auto warranties kick in when the manufacturer's warranty ends - usually between two to three years - and can cover things like services, necessary fixes, and replacement parts. If you're picking up a nearly-new automobile then it's well worth considering an extended warranty, as your car will likely be nearing the end of the manufacturer's period of cover.
Auto Warranty Connect makes it easy to get competitive comparison quotes from the best car warranty providers including CarShield, Autopom and much more.VIEW DEAL ON Auto Warranty Connect
It's worth noting that even the best extended car warranties are not actual insurance policies, so they won't cover accidents or damage to your vehicle that doesn't relate to a faulty component. For this, you need one of the best auto insurance policies, which will often cover mechanical faults too. Extended warranties relate to the internal parts of the car. When picking one up, we recommend shopping around for the best deal, but keeping an eye on exactly what is covered. Some warranties only cover the bare minimum of parts, and these are often the ones least likely to fail. If you decide you want the peace of mind that an extended warranty can bring, we recommend one that encompasses a whole range of features, as you never really know what might go wrong with your car.
Many comparison sites will tell you the best deals on extended car warranties, so we recommend using them, and we also suggest you look at reviews of whatever car you're covering, to see if they mention persistent faults. This will help you decide the level of cover you need.
1. CARCHEX: Best quote process
Flexible car insurance
Overall, CARCHEX comes out well with very attractive pricing options, a good range of choices within their levels of coverage. Its packages are split into Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Titanium, and there are a further 18 kinds of contract offered within each of those levels.
CARCHEX has a notably simple and efficient quote process, with quotes arriving by email very quickly and customers not subjected to a deluge of follow-up calls. The company has good customer satisfaction levels overall and enjoys a solid reputation within the industry. Its contracts are somewhat longer than the industry standard, but there are no problems in terms of clarity and the low prices quotes make CARCHEX well worth approaching for a quote. You'll find CARCHEX quotes via Auto Warranty Connect, which is where you'll go when you hit the link in this guide.
- Read our CARCHEX review
2. Endurance: Best for direct selling
Warranties without the middle man
Endurance has many aspects to recommend it as a warranty provider. The fact that it administers its own services does mean an uptick in customer service levels just because it makes any claims process much more streamlined.
Since Endurance is the one administering any claims, its customer service is a much more seamless experience than with some of its competitors, who merely sell the policies. It has also set itself apart by offering niche products, such as specialized coverage for high-tech components, commercial vehicles and hybrid vehicles.
Customers shopping around will appreciate the low levels of pressure and won’t be deluged with follow-up sales calls or cold calling from the company’s partners. In terms of pricing, the quotes received were average to slightly higher than average but the list of included benefits is extensive and the policies are solid.
- Read our Endurance review
3. CarShield: Most coverage options
A warranty for nearly every vehicle
CarShield’s strength lies in the range of products that it can offer customers looking for extended vehicle warranties. The company’s choice of 37 separate plans is well above most of their peers, and the the customizable choice within each, from its entry-level packages to it more comprehensive plans, stands it in good stead.
There really does seem to be a plan for almost every vehicle (under the 300,000 mile limit). However, its quote process is less impressive, and could be a deterrent to potential customers who have an aversion to sales calls.
- Read our CarShield review
4. Liberty Bell Auto Protect: Best for additional benefits
Coverage for whatever you car you have
Liberty Bell Auto Protect has some good features to recommend its warranty options. The number of car makes covered is above average (46 as opposed to the industry average of 40), though it does have the stipulations of the vehicle having under 140,000 miles and being manufactured after the year 2000.
Its additional benefits are good and have higher limits than some of its competitors. Its rental car coverage, for example, has a maximum of $210 as opposed to the average of $150. Also a big plus point is the option to transfer the warranty twice with no extra fees.
- Read our Liberty Bell Auto Protect review
5. Infinite Auto Protection: Best for high mileage vehicles
Good value for high-mileage cars
Although not as well known nationwide as many of the larger warranty extension companies, Infinite Auto Protection have some notable advantages.
Firstly, it is one of the few companies, along with Endurance, to administer its own contracts, resulting in a more cohesive, seamless claims process. It also has some industry-leading limits, namely the low limit of offering coverage to 19 year old drivers, and the high limit of 300,000 miles for a covered vehicle.
Its prices are average, as are their benefits, but its website has impressive detailing of their levels of coverage and it’s worth looking at the company especially for an older, high-mileage vehicle.
- Read our Infinite Auto Protection review
6. Autopom: Best for value and choice
Some of the lowest prices on the market
Autopom has a lot to recommend it as a warranty broker. For one thing, the prices that they quoted during our research are among the lowest on the market, though there is a slightly higher ten per cent down payment (as opposed to the industry average of around five per cent).
The range of policies on offer with Autopom is good, though for its most comprehensive coverage, cars do already need to be in good mechanical and electrical shape. It’s the quote process, and lack of hard selling, that really had them standing out, though, as well as the ability for customers to choose their own mechanics instead of complying to an existing network.
- Read our Autopom Extended Warranty review
- Extended car warranty terms and what they mean
- What does an extended car warranty cover?
- Best car insurance
- Best roadside assistance services
- Best car loans
What is an extended car warranty?
While most people use the term Extended Car Warranty Services, it's a little misleading as none of the services we reviewed actually sell warranties. In fact, the only reason we use these terms is they are what people often search for when looking for additional coverage for their vehicle. In addition, the services use these terms frequently for the same reason. But it’s not accurate.
This is because a car warranty can only be offered and administered by the car manufacturer, and it is included in the price of the vehicle.
An extended car warranty is only offered by new-car dealerships to make the manufacturer’s warranty more comprehensive or to extend the terms of the warranty, and often to sweeten the deal. However, even these are not warranties. Rather, they are service contracts administered by a third-party service partnered with the dealership, not the manufacturer.
A vehicle service contract has a similar purpose to a manufacturer’s warranty but is sold independently by a third-party administrator or broker. The advantage of a vehicle service contract is you can buy one at any time for any vehicle, new or used.
So why the confusion?
Unfortunately, some services in the vehicle protection industry prey on this confusion. We explain these issues in greater detail later in this article, but some services contact consumers under the pretence of representing manufacturers or dealerships. These predatory services scare consumers by saying their car’s warranty has expired or is about to expire. As a result, many people are tricked into buying vehicle service contracts from third-party administrators they’ve never heard of. And this has become such a big problem, the FCC and BBB have web-pages devoted to making complaints.
To be clear though, while some of the services we reviewed can be very aggressive in their sales approach once you’ve submitted a quote, none of them have been involved in those deceptive marketing tactics, as far as we're aware. For more information on how vehicle service contract companies should conduct themselves, visit the Vehicle Protection Association – a non-profit watchdog association.
How much does an extended car warranty cost?
You could easily pay upwards of $4,000 for a plan, adding a $200 monthly payment to your budget, and still have expensive repairs denied because you failed to pay close attention to the contract. Conversely, if you follow the strict maintenance guidelines and your car never needs repairs, you've spent $4,000 on peace of mind. Such complaints are common in this industry.
The price you pay though will be dependent on your circumstances though, with factors like car age, mileage of the car, model and the distance you're planning to cover all playing a part in what you end up paying.
Are extended car warranties worth it?
Clark Howard, a consumer expert who specializes in financial advice and tips, says studies have shown most people who have purchased an extended warranty never use it and the ones who do typically pay more for the warranty than the repairs would cost.
He doesn't think it's worth it. Instead, he recommends putting the money you would have paid each month on a vehicle service contract into a savings account. So, if a plan costs $3,000 over two years, then you'd put $125 into a savings account each month. This way, you have money set aside for repairs and if your car doesn't need repairs, you have money set aside for the down payment on a new car. This method ensures your money doesn't go to waste. That said, it won't cover expensive repairs early on, before you've saved much.
These plans do come with additional services, and this adds value to the contract. Every contract has 24-hour roadside assistance and reimbursement for vehicle rentals while your car is in the shop. You can get reimbursed for towing, rental vehicles and hotel rooms. If your car breaks down 100 miles from your destination, you can get reimbursed for hotel rooms.
How we evaluated auto car warranty
To find the best car warranty, we evaluated the three most important parts critical to the purchasing decision – the quoting process, the coverage options and the contracts. We used multiple vehicles of varying age, mileage and model to gauge each part of this process.
Every service customizes the price and coverage terms of their plans according to the vehicle's specific history. This means they don't have a standard cost for each plan. The same plan costs significantly different for a sedan with 140,000 miles and a minivan with 50,000 miles.
To find out what coverage your vehicle is approved for and how much it costs, you enter the year, make, model, mileage and your personal information into the service's quote form. What happens next varies greatly. In most cases, your information is given to a salesperson. Either way, getting the information necessary to make a purchasing decision is not as easy as it seems like it should be. The sales people are aggressive and most refuse to provide a quote without having a conversation first. In a few cases, the sales contact put an expiration date on the quote. With two services, it took nearly a week to get the quotes we needed. Some services have very aggressive salespeople who called me repeatedly every day, even after providing a quote.
It's difficult to compare pricing because the quotes varied significantly, in terms of miles covered and cost. Some plans covered just 12,000 miles but were very affordable. Other plans for the same vehicle covered 100,000 miles but were very expensive. To find an appropriate comparison, we calculated the price per mile covered for each quote we received. For example, if a car received a quote for a 100,000-mile plan at $4,000, the cost per mile is about $0.04. We did this with multiple vehicles to find an average cost per mile covered for each service.
Just getting approved for coverage is a challenge. Every service has restrictions for how old and how many miles a vehicle can have to be eligible. However, you have the best chance of finding the coverage you need with services with many plans available and a good mileage restriction. For example, Autopom sells 21 service contracts and covers any vehicle with under 225,000 miles, so you have a better chance of finding a plan to fit your needs.
You should carefully read any contract you sign, but this goes double for vehicle service contracts, as it makes all the difference in determining whether your repairs are covered or denied. The contracts stipulate what your responsibilities are, what records you need to keep and what type of maintenance is required to receive coverage. There is also a lot of language allowing them to deny coverage for a wide variety of issues. You need to understand the risks before you sign.
We read contracts from each service – 130 pages of legalese in total. In this process, we evaluated the average words per page, the font size, formatting and overall clarity. Legalese is not easy to read in the best of circumstances, but the best contracts aren't too long, don't fit more than 600 words on each page and make clear delineations between sections. The worst contracts averaged 1,200 words or more per page with excessive bold text and a lack of logical formatting. These contracts were difficult to follow.
Does AAA offer extended auto warranties?
AAA offers many benefits to drivers, but it doesn’t sell extended auto warranties. However, AAA provides benefits similar to what is included in an extended car warranty. For many, membership could be the better option.
With 58 million members, AAA is the most widely used roadside service in North America, and for good reason - membership covers you with emergency road services everywhere you go, at all times of the day, regardless of the vehicle you’re driving. You could be in your friend’s car when the tire blows, and your AAA membership will cover the towing or flat tire repair. It also includes locksmith service for when you lock your keys in your car, emergency fuel delivery and battery service.
Similar roadside assistance is included in the contracts of all the extended car warranty services we reviewed, but the stipulations of the emergency assistance applies only to the vehicle the extended warranty covers, and the contracts often only stipulate what is reimbursed. This means you have to pay for the service and go through a reimbursement process.
AAA also helps lower repair costs, though not to the same degree as a vehicle service contract. AAA members who take their vehicles to a AAA-approved shop get a 10-percent discount on repairs, and the repairs are backed with a 24-month and 24,000-mile guarantee. With vehicle service contracts, you typically either pay nothing on repairs or only have a $100 co-pay. However, vehicle service contracts can easily deny your repair claims because of how some contracts are structured in favor of the services, but AAA’s discount doesn’t have the same risk. Your repair discount can’t be denied, for example, because you failed to keep receipts from every oil change.
How to find your vehicle’s recommended maintenance specifications?
If you’re going to purchase a vehicle service contract, you need to become familiar with your vehicle’s owner's manual. Since every extended car warranty service can deny repairs if you fail to prove you’ve followed the vehicle’s specific maintenance requirements, found in the owner’s manual, it’s critical to know what is expected for your vehicle. Every car is different, so you can’t rely on following common maintenance recommendations and expect your vehicle service contract administrators to approve your repairs.
Now, if you’re wondering where your owner’s manual is, you’re not alone. Most used cars aren’t going to have the manual in the glove-box. And even many new cars don’t include owner’s manuals. As such, you need to find the manual online, download the file and become intimately familiar with the maintenance schedule.
Fortunately, automobile manufacturers provide owner’s manuals on their websites. You simply have to enter the car’s year, make and model. In a few cases you may have to create a log-in to download the manual and you may have to provide the VIN of your vehicle, the vehicle identification number typically found on the dash near the windshield on the driver’s side.
However, most auto manufacturers don’t include a full library of owner’s manuals, choosing only to list the most recent vehicles. For example, Infiniti only provides access to manuals for vehicles made after 2009. If you can’t find your vehicle’s manual, there are some archive websites worth checking out to see if it’s available:
How do you know if your mechanic is ripping you off?
Most mechanics aren’t out to fleece you. Their goal is to gain your trust so you’ll return to their shop for your car needs. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some dishonest mechanics out there. It also doesn’t make it less stressful when your mechanic approaches you with the need to replace the wheel bearings to the tune of $1,200 per wheel.
The easiest way to avoid being scammed is to ask the mechanic to explain why you need the repair and to show you the issue. This often exposes their intent, especially if they refuse to take you into the shop to show you why your car needs the repair.
According to Aaron Miller from the Thrillist, you should also be suspicious if the mechanic:
Urges you to replace the the brake rotors
If the rotors have never been serviced, ask them to “turn the rotors” on a lathe instead. It’s a lot cheaper.
Says the spark plugs need replacing
Automobiles with under 100,000 miles likely don’t need spark plugs replaced. Ask for an explanation.
If the mechanic says things like, “it would be against the law to let you drive away,” you should leave immediately and get a second opinion.
Additives are usually not harmful to an engine, but they’re not miracle cures either. Mostly, they’re just a way to add $20 to your bill.
Advertises free services
The purpose of any free service is to get your car into the shop so the mechanics can recommend repairs and servicing you probably don’t need.
Charges full price for re-manufactured parts
Compare the price of the re-manufactured part with the cost of the new part (via an online auto store).
Perpetually chases down your problem
Any time your mechanic’s suggested repair doesn’t work, don’t let them continue with their trial and error method of repair.
Charges labor separately for parts replaced at the same time
If you’re replacing multiple parts in the same vicinity, make sure the mechanic doesn’t charge labor separately for each part.
Do you have to buy a vehicle service contract?
According to the FTC, deceptive auto dealers are claiming you need a vehicle service contract to be approved for an auto loan. However, in most cases, banks and financial institutions don’t require this. It’s certainly not required by law.
The deception usually works by adding the sale of the contract into the purchase contract, often as a box you check, agreeing to the contract. For example, let’s say you want to buy a car for $10,000, but you need financing. As you fill out the paperwork in the salesman’s office, he’ll casually mention how you’ll need to add a vehicle service contract for the bank to approve the loan. He usually doesn’t disclose how much the vehicle service contract costs and only vaguely describes what it is.
Once the salesman returns with the good news of the approved loan, he tells you the monthly payment and the interest rate, but not that the vehicle service contract added several thousand dollars to the overall loan amount. So, rather than applying for a $10,000 loan, he got you approved for a $14,000 loan. And as long as you don’t shudder at the monthly payment, he won’t disclose the loan amount until the very end when you’re ready to sign the contract, take the keys and go for a ride in your new car. He knows you’re eager to leave in your new car, which is why he waits until the very end to breakdown the overall contract - $10,000 for the car, $1,000 for taxes and $3,000 for the vehicle service contract.
If an auto dealer tries to slip a vehicle service contract past you, make sure you contact the bank issuing the loan to confirm whether it’s required. In most cases, only full-coverage insurance is required. Many auto dealerships have partnerships with vehicle service contract administrators, and the salesperson gets a commission from each contract sold, so it’s not in their interest to be transparent, but they can remove it from the contract. Always make sure you’re confident with the conditions of the loan approval before you commit to it.