What is a Drivetrain Warranty? What Does It Cover?

What is a drivetrain warranty?

A drivetrain warranty is a contract that agrees to pay for unexpected repairs to a list of systems and components defined in the contract as the drivetrain.

The drivetrain in a vehicle is made up of the parts and systems that transfer power from the motor or engine to the wheels. Depending upon what type of drive system your vehicle has the drivetrain could consist of the transmission, transaxle, driveshaft or prop shaft, differential, or differentials, axles, and other related components.

Likely Included In A Drivetrain WarrantyNot Usually Included In A Drivetrain Warranty
TransmissionEngine
DifferentialsStarter
Drive or prop shaftAlternator
Transfer caseAC Compressor

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What’s covered under a drivetrain warranty?

The only way to know what is included in a drivetrain warranty is to read the contract from the company that is offering it. These are all what’s known in the industry as “Exclusionary Coverage” policies, meaning that somewhere in the contract you sign with a provider, there’s a list of exactly what they intend to cover. If it’s not on the list, they don’t cover it.

What is not covered under a drivetrain warranty?

See above: If it’s not on the list of coverages in the contract you signed, they won’t cover it.

Since the term is a narrow list of items, most of the components that are likely to fail in your vehicle would be excluded. J.D. Power and Associates recently concluded its annual dependability study. The most common failure noted by this study was the infotainment system and related electronics. None of these most likely to fail items would be included in a drivetrain warranty.

Extended warranties can make sense for some buyers. However, the list of components covered by drivetrain warranties are so narrow, and so unlikely to fail on most vehicles, it seems like a recipe for disappointment. If you’re looking for protection from an unexpected repair, the “bumper to bumper” warranty makes sense. A drivetrain warranty rarely does.

The only logical scenario we could come up with to justify a drivetrain-only warranty would be a case in which an owner discovers they have a vehicle with a known defect in the drivetrain. Let’s say a constantly variable transmission. Aside from the worry of the transmission failing, that owner loves the vehicle and wants to keep it long-term.

For owners in this scenario, we would advise finding out if an extended warranty already exists. For example, Subaru has had trouble with its CVT transmissions. So much so that it settled a class-action lawsuit over the cost of repairs. Subaru now offers owners of these vehicles an extended warranty on the failing CVT transmissions at no charge.

While researching drivetrain warranties, we came across a statement that caught our attention. Endurance, a popular provider of extended warranties, warns buyers in its section on extended warranties,

“Many tend to confuse drivetrain and powertrain warranties because of how similar they seem, but they both play two different roles when it comes to vehicle protection. We highly recommend familiarizing yourself with your drivetrain warranty to truly understand all the components that are and are not covered. Choosing the wrong coverage plan can lead to uncovered repairs that can cost thousands of dollars!”

We added the bold font to emphasize what we think Endurance is trying to say. Our Car Talk translation of that Endurance statement is “Stop!”

Top providers for drivetrain warranties

Your manufacturer

When you purchase your new vehicle, it comes with coverage of all the items in a drivetrain. That coverage extends through the period of the powertrain warranty. Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis, along with Mitsubishi, offer 10 years or 100,000 miles of coverage for the components in a drivetrain. Volkswagen offers up to 72,000 miles of coverage. Are you sure you need more? If so, check first with your vehicle’s manufacturer to see if they will sell you a powertrain or bumper to bumper warranty extension. The upside is they will repair your vehicle using original parts and their own trained technicians.

Endurance

Endurance is a direct provider of extended warranties. While Endurance will create a warranty for you to cover the drivetrain, you may want to heed its warning noted above and either buy a more comprehensive policy, or opt out.

Carchex

CARCHEX is an extended warranty company that acts as a broker to find you the warranty that most closely meets your specific needs. CARCHEX will find you a drivetrain warranty. Don’t be surprised if the warranty they suggest protects more than just the limited parts in the drivetrain.

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FAQ

What is included in the drivetrain?

Typical drivetrain components include the transmission, driveshafts, differentials, and other power-transfer equipment in a vehicle.

What are typical drivetrain repairs?

Typical drivetrain repairs include replacing a transmission or drive shaft.

Is transmission covered under the drivetrain warranty?

Yes, the transmission is the most recognizable system in a drivetrain.**

Is a starter covered under powertrain warranty?

No. Items like starters, alternators, infotainment systems, and AC compressors are not included in a drivetrain warranty.

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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