What is a Powertrain Warranty?
  • Buying Guides

What is a Powertrain Warranty?

By Autolist Editorial | April 18, 2021

A powertrain warranty is a type of limited warranty that covers the parts of a vehicle that are directly involved in moving it forward or backward. These parts include the engine, transmission, and drivetrain. Powertrain warranties are usually provided by car manufacturers on new vehicles, but they can also be purchased from dealerships or third-party warranty companies.

Many new vehicles come with a manufacturer’s warranty or factory warranty of around five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. If any of the powertrain components fail, the manufacturer pays for most, if not all, of the costs for repairing or replacing it. A powertrain warranty is different from a bumper-to-bumper warranty because the powertrain warranty does not cover the cost of repairing non-powertrain parts like the brakes, suspension, electrical system or any other component outside the powertrain.

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What does a Powertrain Warranty Cover?

The parts covered by a powertrain warranty vary depending on the manufacturer, make, and model of a vehicle. Most protection plans cover the engine and its internal parts and the transmission, transfer case, drive systems, driveshaft, control module and differentials. Engine coverage typically includes the cylinder block and heads, seals and gaskets, fuel injectors, and water and oil pumps.

A car warranty may also cover the engine mount, valvetrain, flywheel, timing belt, and even the four-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive components. In vehicles with a turbocharger or supercharger component, these parts may also be covered. Some warranties cover axle shafts, exhaust and intake manifolds, catalytic converters, and wheel bearings and hubs.

All the components of a powertrain connect in such a way that none can function without the others. The engine creates the raw power that propels a vehicle; the transmission, or gearbox, adapts the engine’s output to the drive wheels; the drivetrain delivers power to the wheels and the differentials allow wheels to rotate at different speeds so that the vehicle can navigate corners. The transfer case moves power from the transmission to the rear axles in four-wheel and all-drive vehicles.

A powertrain warranty comes in handy because repairing or replacing any of these components can cost anything between several hundred and several thousand dollars.

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What is not Included in a Powertrain Warranty?

As a general rule, a powertrain warranty does not cover any component that does not help a vehicle move forward or backward. This includes body panels, suspensions, air conditioners, as well as the brake, safety, electrical, and entertainment systems. Most plans also exclude auxiliary components of the powertrain such as the hoses, sensors, cooling lines, and electrical connectors. Parts that easily degrade due to wear — such as clutches, oil filter tires, and windshield wipers — are not covered either.

Additionally, a powertrain warranty does not cover third-party and aftermarket parts or any defects caused by these parts. A car manufacturer cannot cover the cost of repairing a failing powertrain if the failure can be traced back to bolt-on engine modifications or other alterations it did not sanction.

It is important to note that the only defects a powertrain warranty covers are those that arise out of faulty materials, workmanship, or design. It does not cover defects caused by normal wear and tear, accidents, contaminated fuel, or insufficient maintenance. Vehicle owners are not just responsible for things like oil changes and engine tune-ups; they are also responsible for any engine or transmission defects that may occur if they neglect to service their vehicles. Powertrain coverage also excludes problems customarily covered by insurance such as vandalism, theft, fire, flooding, and other environment-related damages.

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How Long does a Powertrain Warranty Last?

The length of coverage usually varies depending on the make, model, and type of vehicle. A general standard is usually five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some heavy-duty pickups and commercial fleet vehicles usually get more mileage. A line of Chevrolet’s heavy-duty pickups with 6.6-liter V8 engines, for example, has a powertrain warranty of five years or 100,000 miles.

A powertrain warranty shows the level of trust a manufacturer has in the quality of its vehicles. The longer the coverage, the more committed a carmaker is to its vehicles and, by extension, to its customers.

Is a Powertrain Warranty Transferable?

Some manufacturers base powertrain warranties on vehicle identification numbers and consider these warranties valid regardless of changes in ownership of covered vehicles. In most cases, if you buy a used car that is still under warranty, the warranty will remain valid until the specified time interval or mileage has passed. However, this can vary depending on the automaker and the model, so be sure to check if such a warranty is transferrable, regardless of whether you’re buying new or used. Buying a new car with a transferable warranty means that when you sell it, you could potentially use the transferable warranty as a selling point, too.

Some automotive manufacturers specify that the terms of their powertrain warranties change when the vehicle’s ownership changes. For some Hyundai and Kia models, for example, the original 10-year/100,000 miles warranty changes to a basic five-year/60,000 miles powertrain coverage when the car transfers to a new owner.

Note that the warranty is based on the date of the original purchase and not on the model year. A five-year warranty on a 2021 model might expire in 2025 if the first owner bought the car when it was released in the fall of 2020.

How is a Powertrain Warranty Different from a Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty?

A powertrain warranty only covers parts related to the propulsion system of a vehicle. A bumper-to-bumper warranty is more comprehensive. It covers the cost of repairs for nearly everything between the front and rear bumper of a vehicle. Some new cars come with a bumper-to-bumper cover of at least three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first; others offer even longer warranties.

Since powertrain warranties tend to be longer than bumper-to-bumper warranties, you still get coverage for the critical components of your vehicle when your comprehensive warranty expires.

A bumper-to-bumper warranty, like a powertrain warranty, has its limits. It does not cover body panels (including the bumpers themselves), interior trims, brakes and brake pads, tires, and other wear items. Some warranties also exclude the powertrain because it is covered by a separate warranty. Everything else—from the air-conditioning system to suspension parts—is covered, but only if it fails due to manufacturing defects in materials or factory workmanship. In some cases, a bumper-to-bumper plan may even cover towing and roadside assistance.

Should You Buy a Powertrain Warranty?

When the powertrain warranty on your car expires, you may consider purchasing warranty coverage from a dealership or third-party warranty company. Some third-party plans offer coverage of up to 10 years or even 150,000 miles — whichever comes first — and allow subscribers to take their vehicles to any ASE-certified mechanic when a powertrain component fails.

An extended warranty plan or service contract can pay for costly repairs and increase your car’s resale value. Getting one is also a good idea because powertrain components tend to fail outside the warranty given by the manufacturer.

If you intend to keep your car for a long time, or if your car model is known to have powertrain problems past a certain mileage, getting a new powertrain plan can give you peace of mind and potentially save you thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs. If you would rather have more coverage for your car, consider getting a bumper-to-bumper warranty instead.

What is the Cost of a Powertrain Warranty?

If you buy a new vehicle, chances are good that it comes with a powertrain warranty at no extra cost. The same holds true of certified preowned vehicles that come with factory certification. Still, any powertrain coverage provided by the dealership or manufacturer will eventually expire, and when it does, you are on your own to pay for things like blown engines or slipping transmissions. This can really add up. According to NADA Guides, the cost of just rebuilding an engine can run from $2,500 to $4,500, including parts and labor.

When you opt to extend your powertrain warranty with the manufacturer or to purchase a warranty from a third-party warranty provider, there is no specific one-size-fits-all price point for this type of coverage. Instead, the cost of the powertrain warranty is based on a combination of factors that vary from driver-to-driver and vehicle-to-vehicle, including:

  • The type of vehicle (plan to pay more for luxury vehicles or those with high-tech parts)

  • Your vehicle’s age (warranties cost more on older cars since they are more subject to powertrain issues)

  • The mileage of your vehicle (vehicles with high miles will cost more to cover, again, due to the increased likelihood of powertrain problems)

  • Whether the warranty is aftermarket or provided through the car manufacturer (aftermarket is usually less expensive)

  • The plan chosen and the benefits it offers (most plans have tiers of service for you to choose from)

  • The deductible selected (the lower the deductible, the more your warranty costs and the higher the deductible, the more affordable your warranty)

Prices can range from less than $100 to more than $200 per month depending on a mix of the above factors.

Read the Fine Print

Before you buy a new or used vehicle, find out what the powertrain warranty of the vehicle covers, what it excludes, and under what conditions the manufacturer assumes responsibility for repairs so that you can dodge those expensive repair bills. A powertrain warranty is a contract between you — the buyer — and your vehicle’s manufacturer. Like many legal agreements, it contains many “ifs” and “buts” that limit the manufacturer’s liability. Most of these stipulations are hidden in small print. Unfortunately, like many car owners find out only much later when something breaks down, the small print can take away the implied promises of the large print.