Buying a new set of wheels, especially second hand, can be risky which is why it's often worth getting a warranty to protect yourself from hefty repair costs should something go wrong. Here's how to find a warranty that will pay out when you need it to.
Replacing your existing car or van, can be a laden with pitfalls, especially if you’re going second hand.
Not only do you need to find the right make and model for the lowest price, but many second hand vehicles have a hidden past that could prove costly at a later date.
While most new vehicles come with a warranty as standard, if you want to protect your second hand car in the same way you’ll need to purchase a warranty guarantee separately.
But is paying for a warranty to give you extra piece of mind and financial protection should something go wrong really worthwhile?
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of getting a warranty, and how you can make sure you get the best car vehicle warranty possible for the lowest price.
What is a warranty?
A warranty is a type of insurance policy that covers the cost of repairs and maintenance work on a specified product.
Vehicle warranty policies are the most common and are specifically designed to pay for the upkeep of, and any necessary repair work on the vehicle they cover.
However, a warranty doesn’t usually extend to cover accidental damage or work required as a result of an accident - this would usually be covered by a comprehensive car insurance policy instead.
Why get a warranty?
The main attraction of a warranty is that it protects you from unexpected and sometimes very expensive repair costs should something go wrong with your vehicle.
Most manufacturers now include new car warranties as standard with the sale of brand new cars. However, when you buy a car, van or motorbike second hand you don’t get the same level of protection unless you pay extra for a used vehicle warranty.
If you think you might struggle to cover the cost of something major going wrong with your car then a warranty is likely to be a good idea.
Plus it would also protect you against the cumulative cost of several things going wrong with you vehicle over the years.
There are a number of dedicated car warranty companies on the market that specifically sell extended car warranty, second hand car warranty, bike warranty and van warranty policies to offer financial protection when something goes wrong with your vehicle.
You could also consider purchasing a car extended warranty if the manufacturer’s warranty is set to expire on your existing vehicle – so that you continue to benefit from warranty cover beyond the first few years of owning your car.
However not all these policies are equal and some offer more comprehensive protection than others so you need to be careful about the company and cover you choose so not to end up with a warranty that doesn’t give you the cover you need should something go wrong.
Simply choosing the cheapest policy or getting your warranty from the garage you your car from without shopping around could see you lose out.
Are warranties worth it?
Essentially a warranty provides peace of mind that should something go wrong you won’t have to foot the bill.
For example, if your car needs repair work then having an engine warranty or a parts and labour warranty in place could potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
However, a warranty, like any insurance policy, will only save you money if you have to make a claim. If your car never needs any repair work while you own it then car warranty insurance would be an extra cost which you didn’t benefit from.
Not all warranties are equal, and the only way to be sure that you get the best warranty for your vehicle is to complete a thorough car warranty comparison before you buy. Whether a warranty is worth the paper it’s written on will depend on what it promises to cover, the different exclusions it applies and how much money it costs.
What to look for in a used car warranty?
Choosing car warranty cover that will pay out when you need it too is essential if the policy is going to prove worth the cost. So you need to keep an eye out for sneaky exclusions and clauses that allow the warranty provider to wriggle out of honouring your claim at a later date.
You also need to check if there is anything you need to do to keep within the rules of the warranty or you could find that you’re not covered when you need to make a claim.
Here’s what to check:
What parts are covered & excluded?
Knowing exactly which parts of your vehicle are covered by a warranty is a must.
Most warranties will cover the major parts of your car, like. the engine and brakes. However many parts may be considered disposable items, such as cam belts and brake pads, so would not be covered.
You need to decide exactly what you want to be protected by your warranty and check that each policy meets your needs before you choose which one to buy.
Are labour costs included in the policy?
One of the most substantial costs associated with a repair job is the labour cost levied by a garage.
Subsequently, making sure that any warranty policy you look at provides sufficient cover for labour costs is a must or you could end up having to foot the bill.
Many warranty companies will cover labour costs but cap the amount they are willing to pay.
This means you need to check the maximum hourly rate that the warranty company will pay, and whether a maximum claim applies - either on a single repair job, or as an annual cap.
You'll also need to double check that this limit is sufficient to cover repair work at your preferred garage, otherwise you'll need to make up the difference.
Finding out exactly what is wrong with a car can also take considerable time and many warranty policies don't extend their cover to pay for the labour costs involved with diagnostic testing.
As a result you need to check that this would be covered by the garage completing the repair work, or make sure it is covered by your warranty or you could face having to pay for several hours of labour costs before the repair work even begins.
Where can you take your car for repairs?
Some warranty companies restrict where you can take your car for repair work. This is usually due to business agreements warranty companies have with certain garage networks that means they get discount repair rates. However, more importantly it can restrict which garage you can take your car to get fixed.
For this reason you must check whether you get to choose which garage you take your car to, or whether you are only able to use a garage that forms part of the warranty company's restricted network of garages. If the latter applies then you'll need to check that there is an approved garage near you, and that the cover for labour charges provided by the warranty company you are looking at is sufficient.
If you are unhappy with the choice of garages available through a warranty policy consider looking elsewhere for a more flexible policy.
How much excess will you need to pay?
As with any insurance policy, warranties often stipulate an excess that you will need to pay each time you claim. The amount you'll need to cough up will vary significantly from provider to provider and will ultimately affect whether a policy is worth having.
For example, if you have to pay the first £250 of any warranty claim, then you are unlikely to see any real financial benefit should something go wrong, even if it is cheap in the first place.
Instead you need to look for a policy that offers suitable cover at an affordable price with the lowest excess; £25 or less is commonplace to make the cost of making a claim worthwhile.
You also need to check if a policy has staggered mileage excess contribution limits where you pay more towards repairs the greater your car's mileage. If you rack up the miles in your car quickly then this could be a less attractive option but if you only use your car on an infrequent basis it could be a good way to reduce you excess.
Most warranties will also set different levels of excess for different claims, so make sure to check you are happy with all of these before you purchase the policy.
Are there any mileage restrictions?
If you commute to work or drive on a daily basis there’s a good chance you will soon start to rack up the miles in your vehicle.
Most warranties place a limit on the number of miles you can drive each year so you need to check that you won’t exceed this limit before purchasing a policy.
Some warranty providers also offer tiered levels of cover where the amount of benefits you receive or the amount you would have to contribute to repairs depends on the number of miles you drive.
While some car manufacturers now promise ‘lifetime’ warranties with their new cars, even these policies are usually limited to a certain number of miles, often around 60,000-100,000.
This is also the same for used car warranties, which can limit the total miles covered in a year or in total by your car.
If your vehicle already has thousands of miles of the clock, you may find that some warranties will apply restrictions to the total mileage both when the policy starts and before their cover will expire.
As a result, the mileage restrictions are something that you need to check before purchasing a warranty.
If you are unhappy with the mileage restrictions issued by the warranty provider you may be able to increase the limits, however, if you do this then you can expect to pay more for your policy as a result, as the further a car drives the more likely that something will go wrong.
Alternatively if the mileage allowance isn’t sufficient simply look elsewhere for a warranty that includes a mileage allowance you are happy with.
What do you need to do to maintain your vehicle?
Most warranties will stipulate minimum care criteria for your vehicle and you'll need to meet these in order for the warranty provider to provide cover.
It’s likely that any warranty you take out will only be valid if you have an up to date MOT (something that’s necessary anyway) and a full service every year or after a set number of miles.
Some warranty providers, usually franchised dealers, will require you to have your MOT and service completed at a listed garage, rather than your choice of independent garage, for the duration of the warranty. This is often a good way for the warranty provider to guarantee repeat business but can mean that you pay more for these services than you would ordinarily.
Check if this is the case and whether you’re happy with the servicing arrangements before you buy.
Will you be covered for wear & tear?
Many car warranty policies include a clause in their terms and conditions which specifically exclude claims deemed to be caused by wear and tear. As this can be applied to such a wide range of problems, this is often used by warranty providers to get out of paying out for repairs.
However, in response to complaints about rejected claims received in the past, several of the UK’s leading warranty providers have now started to incorporate warranty parts protection for wear and tear-related damage into their policies.
That said, you still need to carefully check each warranty policy for conditions relating to wear and tear before you buy. If you are unsure exactly what would be covered contact the company directly to check so you know exactly where you stand before you make your choice.
Is the warranty worth the cost?
Many warranties, especially from franchised dealers, can be quite expensive and sometimes cost more than many standard repair jobs.
Before making a decision, you need to consider if you are willing to pay upfront for repair work that your car may never actually need, and whether the warranty price is close to the cost of the most common faults associated with your car.
It also makes sense to compare car warranty costs from a number of different companies by getting a warranty quote for your vehicle with each.
Although the cost of the warranty is an important consideration, you shouldn't base your decision on price alone, regardless of how cheap a policy is there is point having a warranty if you can never successfully claim on it.
How to choose the best car warranty
Getting the best warranty for your car isn’t simply a matter of choosing the cheapest car warranty or most comprehensive policy. Instead you need to consider what you need from your warranty and how long you need cover for.
You shouldn't just buy it from the garage that sells you the car, instead you need to compare the warranty they offer with those available from independent warranty providers.
Research common problems
Although you hope that you won’t encounter any problems when you purchase a car, it makes sense to do a bit of research on the model you’re buying. This research can be particularly useful when you come to compare car warranties.
Try to find out what the most common problem other car owners have encountered in the past and at roughly what mileage they start to occur. This way you can list the most common faults that your new motor is susceptible to and check that warranty repairs would cover the costs should you encounter the same problems.
The only sure fire way to get the best warranty policy for your needs is to compare the different levels of cover from each warranty provider.
Consider all the above factors when searching for your warranty and look to find a policy that cover you for what you need at the best possible price.
Aside from repairing faults and paying for work needed for your car, many warranty policies now include a number of other benefits designed to ‘sweeten the deal’.
While these added extras can be beneficial and often make your life that little bit easier, you should avoid picking a warranty solely on the additional features it offers.
Instead you need to focus on what the warranty covers, it’s costs and any exclusions, only looking at the following additional benefits as the final piece of the puzzle.
Several independent car warranty companies include a breakdown service with their policies. This is designed to extent the cover offered by a warranty from the garage forecourt to the roadside, and covers the costs of transporting your car to a garage for repairs.
As with other features, however, you need to check exactly what’s included and whether it truly stacks up to dedicated breakdown cover offered by mainstream providers.
You also need to be happy that the extra you have to pay for the cover actually represents value for money or whether you would save money by getting the extra cover elsewhere.
Car hire in the event that you car is off the road is now available with some car warranty policies. While this may be a nice extra, ask yourself if this is a benefit you would realistically need to use and whether it’s worth any extra costs.
Some warranty providers have extended their cover to include accommodation costs should your vehicle fail and you have to check into a hotel as a result. As with other extras you need to ask whether you are ever likely to use this feature or whether you would simply prefer to pay for a hotel room if and when you need to.
What other items can be protected by a warranty?
It’s not just cars and vans that can be protected by a warranty.
Many white goods and electrical items, including washing machines, TVs and laptops are all sold with optional appliance warranties designed to offer protection should something go wrong.
However, many of these types of extended warranty, typically offered by high street retailers when they sell a product, offer little more protection than what is already afforded to you by existing consumer rights.
They also often cost almost as much as the products themselves, which again reduces their benefit even if you do successfully claim so make sure you are happy with the price before you buy.
If you shop around for an independent policy then they can offer extra protection which can be more worthwhile, especially beyond the first 12 months of owning an item when they would no longer be covered by consumer rights.