What Is a Bumper to Bumper Warranty? What Does It Cover?

When you purchase a new car, truck, SUV, or crossover, the manufacturer includes warranties for the vehicle. Generally, there are two warranties. The first is called the “bumper-to-bumper warranty.” Another commonly-used name for this warranty is “comprehensive warranty.” It covers everything the manufacturer provides coverage for, and is the one most likely to help you when something goes wrong.

A bumper-to-bumper warranty is generally shorter in duration and miles than the longer drivetrain or powertrain warranty covering limited major systems in the vehicle. Technically, the two overlap, but you need not worry about the other warranty while you are covered under a bumper-to-bumper warranty. Your manufacturer’s dealer will handle the repairs without you needing to know the fine print.

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Bumper-to-bumper-type warranties are also available for purchase from the manufacturer as extended warranties, and third parties also sell them. These would be used when the warranty that came with the vehicle has expired due to miles or years.

Let’s dig in a little more deeply on bumper-to-bumper warranties to see how these valuable warranties work.

What’s covered under a bumper-to-bumper warranty?

Covered By A Bumper-to-Bumper WarrantyNot Covered By A Bumper-To Bumper Warranty
Engine ProblemsTire Failure or Damage
Transmission ProblemsWindshield Damage Caused By Road Debris
Infotainment ProblemsPaint Damage Caused By Mishaps
Electrical ProblemsWiper Blade Inserts
Problems With TPMS SystemsMaintenance Like Oil Changes, Air Filters, & Tire Rotation

Most manufacturers have a very similar list of what is covered by a bumper-to-bumper warranty. A warranty helps you when something unplanned goes wrong. For example, you are driving on the highway in normal conditions and the check engine light illuminates along with the vehicle running poorly. Something has happened, and your vehicle is now in need of a repair that the manufacturer did not expect would happen. You will be covered.

A bumper-to-bumper warranty covers much more than just a classic breakdown as well. The problems can be pretty much anything. A piece of interior trim comes loose. The Bluetooth connection fails to operate as designed. A rattle develops someplace in the vehicle. Your steering wheel shakes, or the vehicle pulls to one side when you apply the brakes. The vehicle develops a rough idle. The transmission becomes reluctant to shift into park or shifts roughly when underway. Even certain paint failures and premature rust are included. In a nutshell, if something goes wrong, breaks, fails, or is problematic, the bumper-to-bumper warranty will almost always cover the repair costs.

During the bumper-to-bumper warranty, automakers also include other perks to make your life a little easier if things do go wrong. Roadside assistance, towing, and some travel insurance are almost always included during the active period of your bumper-to-bumper warranty, though these benefits may not technically be part of it. Many manufacturers and dealers will also offer you a loaner vehicle if yours is in the shop longer than a few hours being repaired under the terms of your bumper-to-bumper warranty.

What is not covered under a bumper-to-bumper warranty?

Warranties kick in to protect you only when something unplanned happens. With that in mind, be aware that a bumper-to-bumper warranty has nothing to do with the maintenance your vehicle requires, and every vehicle requires maintenance.

If you own a vehicle that uses a gasoline engine, the cost of oil change services is not included in your warranty. Nor are any tire-related services such as rotation, repair from damage, or alignment if you hit a monstah pothole in front of Fenway Park. The fine print will also exclude a few more items like cabin and engine air filters, needed inspections and adjustments, and items like wiper blades.

One good illustration of how warranties differ from maintenance is if you have a TPMS problem that doesn’t go away by re-inflating the tires to the proper pressure. If that system fails, the manufacturer will take responsibility and fix the safety system. However, if you replace your standard tires with winter tires and the TPMS system needs to be recalibrated, that service would not be included because nothing is defective.

We should note that some manufactures do include routine maintenance for a period of ownership. For example, Toyota includes two years or 24K miles of maintenance with its new vehicles. BMW offers three years or 36K miles. Jaguar offers five years or 60K miles. These included maintenance programs run in parallel to your bumper-to-bumper warranty. They are not part of it.

Also, some manufacturers’ dealers will sell you tire and rim damage insurance. In fact, they practically assault you with the sales pitch for these policies when you buy a new vehicle. Again, these agreements are in parallel to your bumper-to-bumper warranty, not part of it.

One last note. Glass repair is not covered by a warranty. However, most insurance companies do offer coverage for glass, and they sometimes have a $0 deductible. In some states, for example, Massachusetts, glass coverage is the default by state regulations. Be sure you know if you have glass coverage. One small stone could cause you a lot of pain. Today’s windshields, Subaru’s in particular, are now linked to the driver-assist sensors mounted just behind them.

Bumper to Bumper Warranty Tips

During your bumper-to-bumper warranty period you may sense something is not right with your vehicle. However, the vehicle still runs OK, and you are a busy person. Your instinct or circumstances may lead you to just ignore the problem and see if it goes away. Resist that urge.

It is important to properly alert your dealer if something is up. Either do it in person during your next scheduled service if the warranty will still be in effect, or make a special trip. Describe the problem to the dealer in as much detail as you can. Be sure that the dealer documents the problem description on a work order with the date and mileage that you get to keep. The problem may be minor while the warranty is in effect but could become much worse later. By properly alerting your dealer, you ensure that if the problem does get worse or returns after the warranty period is up, you will still be covered.

You can also help yourself by documenting a problem with a smartphone video and audio recording of it happening. If you need to drive to make the sound or problem manifest itself, have a passenger help you out.

Always phone ahead to a dealer when you plan to bring a vehicle in for repairs. Give the dealer’s service department the best chance possible to make you happy. By calling ahead, you can save yourself waiting time, and possibly reserve a loaner vehicle or a ride to work. You may also be able to do much of the check-in process by phone and get in and out more quickly. Helpful when social distancing mandates are in place.

One last tip; Every manufacturer requires that you closely follow its recommended maintenance program for your warranty to remain in effect. Do all of the required service steps and keep every receipt.

Bumper to Bumper Warranties vs. Other Types of Warranties

Your new car limited warranty is just one type of warranty. Here are two other common types and a comparison of them to the bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Powertrain Warranty

A powertrain warranty usually kicks in after the expiration of a bumper-to-bumper warranty. It covers the engine, transmission, and systems that deliver power to the wheels.

Drivetrain Warranty

Similarly, a drivetrain warranty is often defined as a warranty which covers just those items related to power delivery but minus the engine. We feel this term is outdated and basically meaningless. Who needs a warranty only on the transmission, transaxles, and differentials that specifically excludes the engine?

How long does bumper-to-bumper warranty coverage last?

ManufacturerBumper-To-Bumper Warranty Period
Volkswagen*6-Years or 72,000 Miles (Whichever Comes First)
Hyundai / Kia / Genesis / Jaguar5-Years or 60,000 Miles
BMW / Mercedes / Audi / Cadillac / Tesla4-Years or 50,000 Miles
Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Buick & Many Others3-Years or 36K (Whichever Comes First)
Certified Pre-owned VehiclesCheck with your manufacturer’s dealer when buying pre-owned.
*VW for MY 2018 and newer.

The new-vehicle bumper-to-bumper warranty period varies widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Interestingly, many mainstream brands have longer warranties than luxury and premium brands. For example, the mainstream Volkswagen brand now has a longer warranty than the performance Porsche brand or luxury Audi brand. Yet, all three are owned by the same parent company. Our research shows that model year 2018 and newer Volkswagens have the industry’s best bumper-to-bumper warranty of six years or 72,000 miles, whichever comes first.

The second best bumper-to-bumper warranty is offered by Hyundai/Kia/Genesis. It lasts five years or 60,000 miles. We should note that overall these three brands seem to have the best warranty in total, with the powertrain warranty lasting as long as 10 years or 100,000 miles for the original owner of the vehicle. If you plan to keep your vehicle that long, these three brands are worth a close look.

The luxury brands generally do warranties differently than the mainstream brands. Many offer a single warranty, just the bumper to bumper. After it ends, there is no longer-in-duration limited powertrain warranty. BMW is a good example of this. There is just the four year, 50,000-mile warranty.

By federal law, all manufacturers have longer warranties that cover emissions control systems, and many brands also offer longer hybrid and electric vehicle limited warranties on the electrical-drive systems.

Is it worth it to buy an aftermarket bumper-to-bumper warranty?

While one’s vehicle is still covered under the new car bumper-to-bumper warranty, most manufacturers will sell the owner (any owner, not just the first owner) an extension of the bumper-to-bumper warranty. For example, if you own a Subaru that is 30 months old and has 35,000 miles on the odometer you can contact your local dealers and get quotes to extend the warranty. This is how most brands work.

We feel that it is worth considering for certain types of owners and certain vehicles. For example, if you budget week to week or month to month and feel that a large repair would upset your finances, an extended bumper-to-bumper warranty may work well for you. One other scenario is if you know that you own a vehicle with many reports of trouble. Let’s say you own a brand that has glitchy infotainment, but you want to keep the vehicle. Buying an extended warranty allows you to hedge your bets a bit.

Top providers for bumper-to-bumper warranties

Aftermarket, third party companies like CARCHEX and Endurance also sell owners warranties designed to mimic the manufacturer’s bumper-to-bumper warranty. We like these better than partial powertrain or drivetrain warranties. The chances that your problem will fall into one of the baskets of lesser warranties is worrisome. If you are going to protect your car, why not protect all of it? These brands will sell you a comprehensive warranty at any time during your ownership. Pricing will depend on your specific vehicle, its mileage, and its age.

  • Endurance is one brand that earned a spot on Car Talk’s list of best extended warranty companies. Our detailed analysis of Endurance revealed that it is the best direct service contract provider.
  • CARCHEX also made our list of best extended warranty providers. Our research revealed that CARCHEX has the broadest range of offerings and is the most likely to find you one well-suited to your needs.

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FAQ

Does bumper to bumper warranty cover maintenance?

No, a warranty of any type does not cover maintenance. Automakers offer such plans, but they are separate.

Does bumper to bumper cover body damage?

No, damage caused by an accident is not covered by a bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Does a bumper to bumper warranty cover an air conditioner?

Absolutely. Air conditioning systems can be very expensive to repair, and a bumper-to-bumper warranty will cover such repairs if needed.

Is extended bumper to bumper warranty worth it?

The value of a new-car bumper-to-bumper warranty is quite high. We suggest considering it carefully as part of your overall value analysis when shopping. When buying an extended bumper-to-bumper warranty, Car Talk suggests comparing the cost of one from the vehicle’s manufacturer to highly-rated third-party providers like Endurance and CARCHEX.

Editor's note and disclaimer: Car Talk is supported by our fans, readers and listeners. When you click on some of the links on our website, we may receive referral compensation. However, you should know that the recommendations we make are based on our independent editorial review and analyses.

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