A warranty is like a guarantee when you buy a TV or washing machine – an assurance that a car is fit for purpose and contractually obliges the manufacturer to fix faults within a given period.
Warranties differ between car makers in terms of length (between three and seven years). There may also be restrictions on mileage, and the parts and components covered may vary.
Broadly speaking, a warranty covers all major mechanical components, including:
Manufacturer warranties don’t tend to cover damage or deterioration of parts caused by normal wear and tear.
However, if they have worn prematurely as a result of a fault with the car the warranty should cover replacement of these parts:
Most cars come with a standard three-year warranty, but an increasing number of brands are switching to five and even seven-year warranties.
These are great for those buying a used car because they’re transferable, meaning it’s possible to buy a five-year-old car and still have two years of protection left (assuming the mileage limit hasn’t been met).
For high-mileage motorists, it might make more sense to buy a car with a three-year warranty and unlimited miles (see below).
If you’re looking for a van or pick-up with a long warranty, take a look at our guide: Commercial vehicle brands with the best warranties. There are a number of subtle differences between car and van warranties, even in the same brand.
7 years – SsangYong, Kia, MG
SsangYong currently offers the longest warranty – seven years or 150,000 miles. It covers the brand’s SUVs including the Tivoli, Korando and Rexton, plus the Musso pick-up.
South Korean rival Kia caps its warranty at 100,000 miles, while Chinese-owned MG pitches its just below with a maximum of 80,000 miles.
5 years – Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Subaru, Renault, Isuzu, Alfa Romeo, Jeep
Hyundai was alone in this category a few years ago, but it’s now been joined by other big names who clearly think it’s a sweet spot for buyers. However, there are significantly different mileage limits. For instance, Mitsubishi caps its warranty at just 62,500 miles, while Toyota offers 100,000 miles and Hyundai has unlimited mileage.
4 years – Tesla
The basic Tesla warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, the sophisticated battery and drive unit are covered for eight years with mileage limits of 100,000-150,000 miles.
3 years – Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Vauxhall, Citroen, Dacia, Peugeot, Mazda, Nissan, Fiat, Honda, Lexus, Seat, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Suzuki
Most of the best-known manufacturers offer three-year warranties. However, some are more generous than others when it comes to mileage. For instance, Mercedes-Benz offers unlimited miles within three years, while Citroen's warranty is capped at 100,000 miles and Nissan’s is just 60,000 miles.
If you buy a new car with a less generous warranty period, there’s often the option to extend the cover during or at the end of the original standard term.
The cost of this can vary between brands, so it’s also worth getting a quote from one of the many third-party warranty providers. Make sure you check the level cover because some of these policies aren’t as comprehensive as those provided by manufacturers.
I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.