Car warranties, while not essential for keeping your vehicle on the road, help defray the costs of owning and maintaining a vehicle by providing coverage for repairs due to specific malfunctions. Several warranty types exist through your car’s manufacturer and through third parties. A drivetrain warranty is one option designed to cover a specific part of your car after the manufacturer’s warranty expires.
What Is a Drivetrain? A Powertrain?
To understand drivetrain warranties, first, you need to know what a drivetrain is. People often use the terms drivetrain and powertrain to refer to the same part of the vehicle. While similar, these two terms aren’t interchangeable. The drivetrain refers to parts of the car that move energy from the motor to the wheels, such as:
- CV joints
- U joints
The powertrain includes the entire drivetrain, plus the engine and its seals and gaskets. This difference is important when understanding warranties and extended coverage for your vehicle.
It’s also important to understand what’s not considered part of the drivetrain or the powertrain:
- Shock absorbers
- Fuel pumps
- AC components
- Infotainment systems
This information will help you when considering whether a drivetrain warranty is a good choice for you.
What Does a Warranty Cover?
Each warranty is different. Whether it comes from the manufacturer or a third party, you can expect a warranty to cover repairs caused by failed parts or malfunctions, including the new parts and labor. It may surprise you that a lot of the repairs a car needs over the course of its life aren’t covered under warranty, including:
- Normal wear and tear
- Cosmetic damage
- Damage from accidents
- Damage from weather events
- General maintenance, such as oil changes
- Aftermarket parts and alterations
For example, brakes are expected to wear out and need maintenance after a certain number of miles. Unless a specific part within your brakes fails or malfunctions, even the manufacturer’s bumper-to-bumper warranty won’t cover having your brake pads replaced under normal use.
What Is a Drivetrain Warranty?
A drivetrain warranty offers coverage for the drivetrain of your car. Because the components that make up the drivetrain can be some of the most expensive to fix, warranties on this part of the car, including extended coverage from third parties, are popular among consumers.
Manufacturer Drivetrain Warranty
New cars come with different warranties that last for varying lengths of time and cover the costs of repairs and part replacements. Many vehicle manufacturers offer a separate powertrain warranty, which lasts longer than the typical bumper-to-bumper warranty. The drivetrain is covered under this powertrain warranty because all the components in the drivetrain are also included in the powertrain.
The manufacturer may not honor a vehicle’s warranty if any of the following happen:
- You add aftermarket parts to the powertrain
- You don’t properly perform maintenance and service
- You misuse or damage the vehicle intentionally
- You alter the odometer
To take advantage of your drivetrain warranty for its entire time period, follow the terms of the warranty, which may require that you use name-brand parts or certified repair shops.
Third-Party Drivetrain Warranty
Once the drivetrain warranty expires, some drivers want continued coverage. This is where third-party extended warranties come in. It’s important to read the contract thoroughly, because only what’s listed in the contract will be covered under the extended drivetrain warranty.
Coverage from a third party is more flexible than coverage from the car’s manufacturer. Third parties offer a list of repair shop options instead of requiring you to go to the dealer and won’t limit you to name-brand parts, allowing for more cost-effective repairs.
Many people opt for extended drivetrain warranties over extended general warranties, which offer comprehensive coverage, because they’re cheaper to purchase. However, drivetrain warranties cover some of the most expensive parts of the car to fix, so they can be worthwhile investments in the right circumstances.
How Do You Know if You Need a Drivetrain Warranty?
A drivetrain warranty isn’t the right choice for every vehicle owner. The age of your car, common malfunctions and faults associated with that type of car, and the amount of coverage you want will all factor into whether a drivetrain warranty is the right choice for you.
According to J.D. Power and Associates, the part of a vehicle most likely to require attention is the infotainment system. This isn’t covered under a drivetrain warranty, but may be covered under more comprehensive extended warranties. However, a car will still drive even if the infotainment system no longer connects to your phone’s Bluetooth. It won’t drive with a faulty transmission, which is why some drivers opt only to extend warranties on the essentials, like the drivetrain.
How Is A Warranty Different From Insurance?
Car warranties and vehicle insurance cover problems with your car caused by different eventualities. A warranty covers the labor and parts to repair malfunctions due to faulty parts or defects from manufacturing. Car insurance covers the damage to your car that occurs due to collisions, inclement weather, or theft. They don’t cover the same problems, and neither of them will cover the costs and labor associated with general maintenance or wear and tear.
Additionally, you don’t legally need to have a warranty to drive your car. Once the manufacturer’s warranty is expired, you can keep driving without extending the coverage. It’s illegal in most states to drive a car without some form of car insurance. Most states have laws pertaining to the minimum amount of coverage a driver is required to have.
A drivetrain warranty can be helpful to have in the right circumstances. If you’re someone who does a lot of driving in an older vehicle and wants the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re covered if your transmission malfunctions, consider a drivetrain warranty. While they don’t cover everything that could go wrong with your car, they do cover components that are expensive to fix or replace and can help you keep a reliable and well-loved vehicle on the road longer.
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.