What’s the deal with car warranties?

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You can bag yourself a brand new 63-plate car from tomorrow (September 1), and one of the best things about a brand new car is that it comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, protecting you and your wallet against any problems the car might develop.

Some manufacturers offer a three-year warranty, while others boast of seven-year and even ‘lifetime’ warranties – but what exactly do they cover you against?

Here’s what you need to know about new car warranties.

What’s covered?

The finer details of what a manufacturer’s warranty covers will vary from one car maker to the next, but generally-speaking, it should cover the following:

  • Engine and gearbox
  • Running gear (wheels, steering, chassis etc.
  • Suspension
  • Fuel systems
  • Cooling systems
  • Electrics
  • Interior fittings
  • Controls.

What’s not covered?

On the whole, manufacturers’ warranties don’t cover you against damage caused by the ‘wear and tear’ that comes with running a car.

Again, the small print will vary from one manufacturer to the next, but generally it’s these kinds of components that fall under ‘wear and tear’ and won’t be covered:

  • Brake linings and disc pads
  • Tyres
  • Wiper blades
  • Seat covers
  • Floor coverings
  • Spark plugs (petrol engines)
  • Bulbs
  • Shock absorbers
  • Clutch plates and release bearings.

That’s not to say you’ll be left with a bill if your brand new car’s spark plugs give out within the first week, as things like this should be relatively rare and a dealer would most likely cover the cost.

How long does a warranty last?

A fairly common manufacturer’s warranty is three years or 60,000 miles – whichever comes first.

However, the gap between the stingiest and most generous new car warranties can be quite significant.

Volkswagen, for example, will give you a three-year/60,000 mile warranty. After the first two years, you’ll only get the third year of cover if your mileage hasn’t exceeded 60,000. If you exceed that mileage limit in the first two years, you’ll still get the first two years’ cover, but not the third.

Korean car maker Kia, on the other hand, offers a seven-year/100,000 mile (whichever comes first) warranty on its new cars.

Wear and tear restrictions apply – for example, the battery only has a two-year warranty and the audio system is warranted for three years or 60,000 miles - but otherwise, Kia says its warranty works just like a standard three-year warranty, only longer. For the first three years, there’s no mileage limit either.

Vauxhall has gone even further, introducing a 100,000 mile ‘lifetime’ warranty on its new cars.

For the first year you’ll get an unlimited mileage warranty. In years two and three you’ll get up to 60,000 miles and after that you’ll be covered until the car’s done 100,000 miles, regardless of how long that takes.

But don’t go signing up for anything yet, as there are some catches you need to watch out for.

What are the catches?

Firstly, and most importantly, most warranties are only valid for as long as you stick to the manufacturer’s servicing schedule – which you’ll get in a little wallet along with the owner’s manual and other useful information.

Service periods vary from car to car, but are typically around every 10,000 miles or once a year (whichever comes first).

Some people think you have to get your new car serviced by the dealer you bought the car from to preserve the car’s warranty, but that’s not true and hasn’t been since October 2003.

What you must do, however, is get it serviced at a garage which uses genuine parts, including specified lubricants.

It’s worth studying the terms of your warranty to be absolutely sure, but it’s possible to invalidate your manufacturer’s warranty if third party parts are used on the car, or you fail to stick to the recommended servicing schedule.

If you do plan to get your new car serviced by an independent garage, you can find one which uses genuine parts by using the Good Garage Guide scheme.

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