A guide to the most common extended car warranty terms, and what they mean

Common extended car warranty terms, and what they mean
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If you're considering signing up for some motoring protection in the form of the best extended car warranties, ensuring you know precisely what each and every term means is a must. 

Of course, the same advice applies to any type of agreement you enter into. However, if you're not 100% certain what a specific word or phrase means in relation to a car warranty, it could ultimately prove the difference between your warranty provider footing the bill if your car breaks down or you having to pay out for a hefty auto repair bill yourself.

Besides understanding what all the various terms mean, it's also important to appreciate that different warranty providers, and different types of plan, will offer varying degrees of protection - to get things clear in your head, our feature looking at what a car warranty usually covers will help explain more. And if you want all round auto protection, taking out the best roadside assistance services and best auto insurance is a must too. 

In the meantime, if it's the auto warranty wording that you're getting confused by, hopefully the following glossary will be able to help. 


The administrator is the company who approves, denies, processes and pays for the repairs to your vehicle. In most cases, the administrator is not the same company as the service that sold you the contract. You can find the administrator of your extended vehicle warranty on the contract.


A broker is a company consisting mostly of salespeople who market and sell vehicle service contracts. A broker doesn’t have any role in approving, denying, paying or processing repairs.

Bumper-to-bumper coverage

Also referred to as exclusionary coverage, a bumper-to-bumper contract covers most parts of your car. In most cases, manufacturers only provide powertrain warranties to new vehicles, so this is ideal for new vehicles.


This is the amount you are required to pay before the administrator pays the rest of the bill. Almost every vehicle service contract requires a $100 deductible or a percentage deductible where you pay a percentage of the repair bill.

A guide to the most common extended car warranty terms, and what they mean

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Exclusionary coverage

Also referred to as bumper-to-bumper coverage, an exclusionary contract is so comprehensive it’s easier to list what is excluded from coverage than what is covered. These contracts are made specifically for new vehicles with low mileage. In most cases, manufacturer warranties only provide powertrain warranties, covering the most expensive and critical parts of the vehicle. An exclusionary coverage contract is designed to expand the coverage for newer vehicles, which is why these contracts are not typically eligible for used cars or high-mileage cars.

Extended warranty

An extended warranty is another term for vehicle service contract. In fact, it’s a misnomer often used in marketing for vehicle service contracts. A warranty can only be offered by the manufacturer, by definition. And manufacturers don’t extend warranties past the original date. Rather, a vehicle service contract is meant to serve a similar purpose by providing protection against breakdowns.

Gray market vehicle

This is a vehicle not manufactured for sale in the U.S. and is a term often used if a vehicle fails to meet U.S. regulations. As such, gray market vehicles are not eligible for vehicle service contracts.

Powertrain coverage

This is the minimum amount of coverage you can get for a car. The coverage can vary a bit, but it typically covers the most expensive parts to repair – engine, transmission, drive shafts, differentials.

Trip interruption benefits

This element of a vehicle service contract defines the reimbursements for breakdowns when you are more than 100 miles from your destination. Typically, it covers one to three nights in a hotel at a specific rate per day. Some contracts also cover meals.

A guide to the most common extended car warranty terms, and what they mean

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Vehicle Identification Number

This is a number specific to your vehicle. Many vehicle service contract providers require the VIN to provide an accurate quote because this tells them the history of the vehicle. You can typically find your vehicle’s VIN on the dashboard near the windshield on the driver’s side.

Vehicle Service Contract

This is the correct term for an extended car warranty. It’s a contract between you and an administrator to pay or help pay for repairs to your vehicle. The manufacturer of your vehicle has no part in this contract.


This is a promise of performance provided by the manufacturer of a vehicle. While the vehicle is under the warranty, specifics parts covered in the warranty are repaired by the manufacturer at no cost.

Wear and tear

This one of the most common phrases in a vehicle service contract, particularly when describing repairs not covered under the contract. It refers to issues resulting from everyday use of the car. If a repair facility determines your transmission’s breakdown was the result of wear and tear, the administrator won’t cover the repair.  


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Jeph Preece

Jeph is a freelance writer who specializes in automotive subjects, like car stereos, and tech. With a Masters degree in Fiction from San Diego State University, he has written extensively for Top Ten Reviews on subjects ranging from car speakers and Bluetooth devices, all the way through to online file storage and backup software.