If you’ve ever purchased a vehicle, especially from a dealership, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of an extended warranty. Almost all dealerships will try to sell you one, and you’ve likely heard from somebody at one point in your life that they’re a waste of money. That said, those staunchly negative opinions often stem from someone not knowing their policy and being upset that something that needed fixing wasn’t covered. This is precisely the biggest stumbling block when it comes to these warranties—knowing what needs covering and ensuring the warranty you’re looking at covers those bases. Yes, extended warranties are a controversial and divisive subject among car owners, and like insurance policies, there’s a lot to weigh out when it comes to whether or not they’re worth purchasing.
In this article, we’ll cover what a vehicle extended warranty is, help you answer the question of whether or not you need one, and things to look for if you decide to shop for one. We’ve also extensively researched many of the providers available today, picking out the top 5 for this list.
Truth be told, it’s rather difficult to properly and legitimately review a company that provides an extended warranty for your vehicle. That’s because it’s not really feasible to test several different companies to see how they handle claims and just how flexible they are when it comes to paying for repairs on your vehicle. Even if we were able to delve that far into the topic, this still would not paint a complete picture. These companies have adjusters that at times need to assess the repair request first-hand, and as with any industry there are good ones and bad ones. A former automotive technician on our editorial team was quick to note that in past experience with these warranties, some adjusters would quickly approve things based on an established and trusting relationships with technicians, whereas others would push back and debate how bad something was leaking and whether or not it justified a failure requiring replacement.
Because of this, our angle of approach here is different. We took a look at a wide variety of providers and their coverage plans, along with sample contracts to determine which companies will likely be worth your time and money, if you decide to purchase an extended warranty. We also checked for actual user and customer reviews to see which have the most positive feedback over an extended period.
One thing you need to know is that many of the providers of extended warranty services are actually third-party companies that serve as a middle man for getting you coverage. You’ll notice that some of the companies on our list actually have sample contracts from the same service provider. We do however, also take a look at one company that provides direct coverage. It’s something to keep in mind if you decide to research extended warranties on your own, as you could be paying a higher price for the exact same coverage.
To learn more about vehicle extended warranties, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: CARCHEX
- Sample Contracts
- 2. Best for Direct Coverage: Endurance
- Sample Contracts
- 3. Best for a Variety of Plan Options: CarShield
- Sample Contracts
- 4. Best for Wide Range of Price Options: AA Auto Protection
- Sample Contracts
- 5. Best for Most Straightforward Coverage: Protect My Car
- Sample Contracts
- What is an Extended Warranty?
- Do I Need an Extended Warranty?
- What to Look for When Shopping for an Extended Warranty
1. Editor's Pick: CARCHEX
CARCHEX is one of the most highly rated extended warranty providers around, with plenty of satisfied customers who have been happy with their service. It also carries plenty of accolades and seems extremely reputable. While it does boast an A+ Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating, we don’t put much weight into that since most extended warranty providers will carry the same.
So what makes CARCHEX our Editor’s Pick? Along with the overwhelming number of positive reviews, it has a fairly straightforward and simple quote process and the company’s website details many of its offerings while being more transparent than other companies. As we mentioned before, it’s quite difficult to legitimately review an extended warranty provider, but CARCHEX provides a lot of the information up front, even before you hand over any of your information.
For starters, the company’s plans include 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, rental cars, gas delivery, and even trip interruption service. It says its extended warranties can be used at any licensed repair facility in the U.S., including dealerships and nationwide stores such as Pep Boys, Goodyear, and Firestone. Claims made through CARCHEX are paid directly to the repair facility.
Now, CARCHEX is one of those companies that use a third-party provider for your extended warranty. That means you’re not signing a contract with CARCHEX directly, but rather another company that is providing the warranty. What CARCHEX does however, is work with those providers to present a wide selection of options for the best extended warranty for you and your vehicle.
The company offers a wide selection of plan coverages: Titanium, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Titanium coverage is the highest level of coverage and is similar to what you would expect from a “bumper-to-bumper” warranty. These extended warranty contracts are most similar to your factory coverage but do have a short list of excluded items, which you should pay close attention to.
Below, you can see some of the sample contracts from CARCHEX and its third-party providers, giving you a good idea of what you can expect from each tier of coverage. Naturally, your specific contract could be different, but at the very least, you can see what’s going on before getting on the phone.
- CARCHEX Care by AAS Titanium Plus
- CARCHEX Care by AAS Titanium
- American Auto Shield Diamond
- CARCHEX Care by Royal Titanium
- Royal Administration Services Ultimate
- American Auto Shield Powertrain Plus
- CARCHEX Care by Royal Silver
- Royal Administration Services Centennial
2. Best for Direct Coverage: Endurance
Most of Endurance’s plans are administered directly by Endurance, which means you won’t be tossed aside to a third-party company once you start paying the bills. This company is an A.M. Best A-rated insurance company and includes a 30-day money-back guarantee, 24-hour roadside assistance, and is accepted at your dealership or any ASE-licensed mechanic.
Endurance offers four different coverage plan tiers: Select Premiere, Secure, Superior, and Supreme. Select Premiere is designed for high-mileage vehicles, with contracts focused on protecting the vital components of high-mileage vehicles. Secure is the most affordable offering of the four, while Superior has the highest level of stated component coverage. At the top of the range is Supreme, which are contracts that are similar to your factory warranty and is referred to as “bumper-to-bumper” coverage.
While Endurance does list out the general components that are covered and aren’t covered in each coverage, details are found in their contracts, which you can view below.
Again, Endurance is a direct provider, which means there’s no middle man involved and will work with you for the entire process, from quote to claim. This also means that the company may be more affordable than other providers, since no commission is being paid on the contract. As for claims, they’re all paid up front for covered repairs, which means no waiting for reimbursement or high out-of-pocket expenses.
3. Best for a Variety of Plan Options: CarShield
If you’re willing to comb through a huge variety of plan options, take a closer look at CarShield. The company offers multiple plan options including New Car Diamond (total new car coverage), Platinum (comprehensive), Gold (power train plus), Silver (power train), High Tech (specialty coverage), and Specialty (other coverage). CarShield provides plenty of sample policies, across its coverage tiers, giving you a real good idea of what to expect with each type of contract.
Depending on the type of contract you choose, you’ll benefit from low or no deductibles, and all claims are paid directly to a U.S. or Canadian ASE-certified repair facility of your choice. Like other providers, CarShield also offers 24/7 roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement on some contracts, courtesy towing (all contracts), and flexible payment plans. The company also allows the service contract to be transferred if you decide to sell the vehicle.
CarShield works with A.M. Best A-rated carriers such as American Auto Shield and United Car Care to provide coverage, which you can see from the sample contracts below.
Keep in mind if you decide to go with CarShield, you’ll want to pay very close attention to everything the contract entails. With such a wide breadth of options and coverage offerings, you’ll want to make sure the policy you’re getting is one you’ll be happy with down the road.
New Car Diamond
- United Car Care New Car
- United Car Care New Car (Florida)
- American Auto Shield New Car
- American Auto Shield New Car Monthly
- American Auto Shield New Car (Florida)
- United Car Care Comprehensive
- United Car Care Comprehensive (Florida)
- American Auto Shield Comprehensive
- American Auto Shield Comprehensive Monthly
- American Auto Shield Comprehensive (Florida)
- United Car Care Enhanced Power Train
- United Car Care Enhanced Power Train (Florida)
- American Auto Shield Enhanced Power Train
- American Auto Shield Enhanced Power Train Monthly
- American Auto Shield Enhanced Power Train (Florida)
- United Car Care Power Train
- United Car Care Power Train (Florida)
- American Auto Shield Power Train
- American Auto Shield Power Train Monthly
- American Auto Shield Power Train (Florida)
- American Auto Shield High Tech
- American Auto Shield High Tech Monthly
- American Auto Shield High Tech Monthly (Florida)
4. Best for Wide Range of Price Options: AA Auto Protection
Similar to CarShield, AA Auto Protection has a wide range of coverage offerings for you to consider, but it has partnered with more providers than CarShield so there’s a wider range of price options. Insured by A-rated companies, AA Auto Protection includes 24-hour roadside assistance, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and easy-to-qualify payment plans. You can take your vehicle to any ASE-licensed mechanic for service.
Again, opting to go with AA Auto Protection will require several hours of your time, so that you can go through the service contracts and their every detail to make sure you’re being covered thoroughly. The company does offer plenty of sample policies for viewing, which you can see below. Coverage tiers include Full, Premium Stated Component, Stated Component, Premium Powertrain Plus, and Premium Powertrain.
With so many options from this broker of service contracts, you’ll want to pay close attention to the deductible a specific contract has, and exactly which components each contract covers. More importantly, find out what it excludes before you make a decision.
Full Coverage Plans
- DOWC Level 4
- Dealers Alliance Exclusionary
- NASC Ultimate
- NASC Ultimate Wrap
- Royal Protect Ultimate
- United Car Care Platinum
Premium Stated Component Coverage Plans
Stated Component Coverage Plans
- AA Auto Protection Titanium
- DOWC Level 2
- Dealers Alliance Enhanced
- NASC Car Guard Select Elite
- NASC Gold
- Royal Protect Preferred
- United Car Care Gold
Premium Powertrain Plus Coverage Plans
Premium Powertrain Coverage Plans
5. Best for Most Straightforward Coverage: Protect My Car
If you believe simpler is better, Protect My Car offers the most straightforward coverages with three different plans: Driveline, Select, and Supreme. This helps making decisions easier, but that also means you don’t have a wide variety of options to choose from.
The Driveline tier provides protection for vehicles that are 4 to 10 years of age and have more than 80,000 miles on the odometer. Customers who opt for this contract will receive a full 5-year and/or 125,000-mile extended warranty against unexpected mechanical failures.
The company’s Select tier is the best option for level of coverage on vehicles with more than 50,000 miles. This policy provides complete protection for those vehicles that are just outside the requirements of the Supreme policy.
At the top of the range is the Supreme, which is similar to a manufacturer’s new car warranty. It’s designed for car owners who need additional coverage since they intend to keep their vehicles past the manufacturer’s warranty.
Like most of the other options on our list, Protect My Car offers 24/7 roadside assistance, flexible payment terms, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. With any of the company’s policies, owners pay a $100 deductible and Protect My Car handles the rest.
What is an Extended Warranty?
Simply put, an extended warranty is coverage for vehicle repairs and service once your manufacturer’s warranty has expired. Oftentimes, a dealership will try to sell you an extended warranty at the time of purchase, but they can also be added on at a later date. Some extended warranties are offered straight from the manufacturer, while most are through third-party companies—the same companies you see on this list.
What makes shopping for an extended warranty tricky is the fact that you really have to read the fine text. There’s a bit of truth in that some extended warranty providers will do their best to not honor a claim, and much of that will be laid out in your service contract. With so many different coverage plans offered by all the companies out there, it’s hard to compare apples to apples. You’ll find that most extended warranty contracts have very little consistency, although they’ll all touch on the “broad” components that are covered. You’ll have to really read all the legalese in the contracts to see what will actually be covered by your policy.
Extended warranties are also called service contracts, since they come into effect after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.
Do I Need an Extended Warranty?
Unfortunately this question has no clear cut answer. The most important aspect in determining whether or not you need an extended warranty is the vehicle you own. Do you expect it to have reliability or mechanical issues? How much care are you taking to maintain all the moving parts? Most modern vehicles are fairly reliable and there’s a good chance you won’t run into a major issue during the life of the vehicle. That being said, if you intend to keep your car for over 10 years or you’re on pace to rack up well over 100,000 miles on the odometer, an extended warranty may over you peace of mind.
And that’s really what an extended warranty is at the end of the day, peace of mind. Like many insurance policies, you’ll only be thankful that you own one when you need it, otherwise it may seem like you’re wasting money. You’ll often hear some expert opinions saying that you’re better off putting aside that same amount of money in case you actually need it for repairs, rather than paying monthly towards a contract that you may never even use. Or worse, when you need to use it, it doesn’t fulfill its obligations due to some fine print you missed on the contract.
Realistically, there are a lot of unknowns with extended warranties, and there’s a good chance you end up paying quite a bit of money for something that’s difficult to understand and even harder to receive benefit from.
Now, if you own a vehicle that you expect will have issues, it may make financial sense to purchase an extended warranty. Just make sure you pay close attention to the contract and that you’ll get support and payment when you need it.
What to Look for When Shopping for an Extended Warranty
If you’ve decided you want to purchase an extended warranty, there are a few things to look for. Unlike a tangible, physical product you can hold, you’ll never really know the quality of your extended warranty contract until you need it. That’s why it’s extremely important to do thorough research before deciding which company to go with. Here are a few things you should pay close attention to prior to making a decision.
If the company you’re working with a direct provider?
As we mentioned before, many extended warranty companies are selling contracts that are from a third-party provider. That means when it comes to getting something covered, you may not necessarily be dealing with the original company you purchased the contract from. Sometimes it may be easier to go directly to the source. Keep in mind, just because a dealership sells you an extended warranty, it doesn’t mean that warranty is actually provided by the automaker. Figure out who is ultimately your carrier with a specific contract, and do research on that exact carrier.
What does your extended warranty really cover?
In short, most warranty contracts are designed to deny coverage for almost any reason. Make sure you go through all the legal jargon with a close eye, or consult a professional before making a decision. Nothing is worse than thinking something is covered, but it really isn’t.
Where will your warranty be honored?
Most companies claim that your warranty will be honored at any ASE-certified mechanic/shop, or the dealership. You’ll want to find out if there any conditions that need to be met, before a claim can be paid. Make sure your contract also covers a broad network of dealers near you.
How is the payment process handled?
Make sure to ask your specific provider how the coverage process is handled. Some companies will not authorize any form of service until they grant you approval, which could mean days or even weeks. You should also pay attention to the hours that you can call in for a claim. If your car breaks down at night and you need it serviced right away, some extended warranty providers won’t even be accessible for approval.
What other services do they offer?
Sometimes you like to know you’re paying for something even if you can’t fully utilize your contract. Most extended warranty providers offer a suite of other services including 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, rental car reimbursement, and even gasoline delivery. Look for a company that has you covered outside of major repairs.
Look for a warranty that closely matches your original manufacturer’s warranty.
It may take some effort and a lot of back-and-forth to find a contract that fulfills your needs, but finding one that closely matches your original warranty’s terms is the best way to go. Ideally you get an extended warranty that is provided by the automaker, a true extended warranty. But that sometimes isn’t even available depending on how old your vehicle is, which means you’ll have to turn to third-party providers.
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