By Adi Desai

New vehicle warranties are not as straightforward as they may seem. There are many categories of warranties, things that are covered and not covered, and certain owner responsibilities that every vehicle owner needs to be aware of.

New vehicle warranties can be broken down into a few subcategories, such as a comprehensive warranty, powertrain warranty, and a rust perforation warranty, among others. The comprehensive warranty typical last for 3 years or 60,000km, even up to 5 years or 100,000km in some cases. It covers defects in materials, workmanship, and premature failure of components, such as the air conditioning or a turbocharger. The powertrain warranty typically lasts longer than the comprehensive coverage, covering most drivetrain components such as the engine and transmission. Rust perforation covers rust damage for certain components of the vehicle. This usually excludes surface/body rust caused by daily wear and tear such as stone chips. The Rust perforation coverage can last anywhere from 5 years for as long as 10 years depending on the manufacturer.

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of knowing your vehicle and staying ahead of the curve to ensure it’s always in the best mechanical shape possible. Not only does this sort of preemptive care ensure longevity, it can also prevent catastrophic failures that could render your pride and joy a lawn ornament. Just as important though, proper maintenance with documented service records goes hand in hand with maintaining warranty coverage. Every new vehicle sold today comes with a warranty that’s terminated at the end of a certain time period (it could be four or five years) or at a specific mileage interval (perhaps 80,000km), whichever comes first.

It is important to know your responsibilities as an owner, what is covered and not covered, which is why the owner’s manual is valuable resource. As a vehicle owner, you are expected to do your part and maintain your vehicle in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. In other words, if the manufacturer recommends that you perform oil changes every 6 months or 8,000km, whichever comes first, then you better make sure you follow that schedule. Failure to do so could give the manufacturer ammunition to deny you warranty coverage on a claim.

Now it is important to mention here that an auto manufacturer cannot simply render your entire warranty void if you don’t follow their maintenance schedule, modify your vehicle, or deviate from their recommendations in any other way. If they can demonstrate, however, that a particular problem with your vehicle was caused by a lack of proper maintenance or a modification that you performed, then they can deny you coverage for that problem.

Manufacturer’s offer the option of purchasing extended warranty coverage when purchasing a vehicle. They typically offer plans that last for an additional 2-3 years and come in the form of both powertrain and comprehensive extended warranties. Prices can vary widely anywhere from $1,000 up to $7,000 or more depending on the type and length of coverage and the manufacturer. Of course, like other retail products, the price of extended warranties can be negotiated.

Extended warranties are not for everyone, but there are instances where we do recommend them. For example, they do make sense for someone who plans to own their vehicle for the long-haul, 6 years or longer, and do a lot of driving, upwards of 25,000km per year or more. Parts typically wear and fail due to mileage, so anyone who does a lot of driving is more likely to benefit from an extended warranty than anyone who drives very little. Extended warranties also make sense for vehicles that have a history of average to below average reliability or a high repair costs. Most European brands fall into this category. It is important, to keep in mind, however, that warranties for vehicles such as these will cost more money.

The bottom line here is make sure your vehicle is maintained properly in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, or better. The last thing you want is to have a major component of your vehicle fail, such as the engine, and then learn that the manufacturer is not going to cover it under warranty because you skipped your oil changes. Do your maintenance on schedule, and keep a record of every service document as evidence in the event of a warranty claim.