When you buy a new car (or a low-mileage pre-owned vehicle), your car is protected by a factory warranty, but many people wonder if they are required to return to the dealership where they bought the vehicle in order to have it serviced under the factory warranty or can you take a car under warranty to any dealership? The short answer is that you aren’t required to return to your purchasing dealership, but sometimes it does help in certain circumstances such as repair assistance or priority appointment scheduling. That being said, you do need to take your vehicle to a dealership authorized by the automaker; for example, you can take a Chevrolet Silverado to a Buick-GMC dealership or a Jeep Wrangler to a Dodge dealership, but you can’t take a Ford Mustang to a Kia dealership. Keep in mind that this only applies to a factory warranty, as most aftermarket warranties are accepted by any ASE-certified shop (whether it’s a dealership or an independent repair shop).
What Does “Under Warranty” Mean?
An auto warranty is a contract between you and your car’s manufacturer. With this agreement, the automaker promises to fix certain vehicle defects and malfunctions, thereby reducing your financial risk if the car breaks down. This protection lasts for a specific amount of time after you buy the vehicle, and each company has a different term. For example, Hyundai offers a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, while Jaguar covers those same components on its luxury automobiles for just five years or 60,000 miles.
The manufacturer’s warranty is included in the sticker price when you buy a new car. However, an extended warranty for a used car will likely cost you extra. That’s not to say that a used car won’t come with coverage, too. If you purchase last year’s model, the manufacturer’s warranty is presumably still valid. You’ll need to confirm that it’s transferrable to reap the benefits, though. Ask your sales agent for the vehicle’s warranty documents to find out what’s covered and for how long.
Can You Take a Car Under Warranty to Any Dealership?
Yes, you can take a car under warranty to any dealership, and no, you are not required to use any specific shop or mechanic to keep your coverage in effect. The 1970s Magnuson Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvements Act states that it’s unlawful for a company to require you to use a specific manufacturer’s part or service to validate your warranty.
A provider cannot deny your warranty claim simply because you had routine maintenance or repairs done by another technician. Whether you can get a better deal elsewhere or the dealership’s not convenient, you can schedule regular maintenance at any shop of your choosing. You can even do it yourself, especially when you take advantage of our car scanning tools that instantly troubleshoot various car engine issues right at home.
What Does a New Car Warranty Cover?
It’s a good idea to know what your vehicle’s warranty includes and how long the protection will last. This coverage typically safeguards you from mechanical defects. It will also pay for the labor and parts to fix covered components that break during normal driving conditions. For example, a hybrid battery is costly to replace, and having a warranty could save you thousands. The most common types of new car warranties include:
- Comprehensive or bumper-to-bumper: Covers all parts and components of a new car
- Powertrain: Protects the mechanical parts that move the vehicle, like the engine and transmission
- Corrosion: Pays to replace rust-damaged body panels
- Emissions: Covers a car’s emissions parts, and warranties vary significantly by state
- Restraint systems: Replaces and repairs damage to the seat belts and air bags, usually after an accident
What Doesn’t a Warranty Cover?
Many car warranties don’t cover parts the manufacturer designed to wear out with regular use, as well as services for routine maintenance. That means you can get new brake pads installed by just about any mechanic of your choice. Just make sure to keep copies of all your vehicle maintenance records, regardless of where you take it for service. Saving a file of these documents will come in handy if you have to file a claim, including:
- Oil changes
- Belt replacement
- Brake pads
- Tire rotations
What Can Void Your Car’s Warranty?
A manufacturer can void your warranty and deny any claims if you don’t abide by the contract’s terms. There are some circumstances that can void your car’s coverage, including:
Incorrect Maintenance/Non-Authorized Repairs
An automaker could have legal cause to void your new car’s warranty if you fail to properly maintain your vehicle, if maintenance is performed incorrectly at an independent shop, and or a non-authorized mechanic makes a mistake that causes damage to a component. For example, if your technician forgets to replace the oil after an oil change and the engine seizes, your warranty likely won’t cover replacement parts. In that case, you’ll have to file a claim with the service shop that performed the work.
On the other hand, skipping out on routine services can severely damage your vehicle. If you file a claim to have this damage repaired, the manufacturer could deny you because of neglect. Therefore, following the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual is always the best practice.
Using aftermarket or recycled parts won’t automatically void your car’s warranty. However, if a mechanic installs a defective aftermarket or recycled part or doesn’t install it properly, it could damage other vital components that are under warranty. When this happens, the manufacturer can deny coverage if they can prove the part your technician used was the culprit and caused the damage.
Even some aftermarket modifications can void your warranty, such as suspension lifts. If you customize your car and the dealership doesn’t install the upgrades, these modifications can damage parts of your vehicle, and those components won’t be covered.
If you drive your vehicle in any situation other than day-to-day driving, such as racing, your dealership could have cause to void your warranty. A collision that totals your car would be another reason for canceled coverage, even if you managed to obtain a salvage title. Likewise, your automobile could lose its protection if an insurance adjuster deems it a total loss because of a natural disaster, like a flood.
An altered odometer reading, while rare, could also cause concern. Your service provider’s warranty department won’t know how many miles are on your vehicle and whether or not your coverage has already expired.
For most of us, a car is one of the most expensive purchases we will make. Unfortunately, vehicles break down as they age — a warranty can give you peace of mind, even if you choose not to take it to a dealership. Make sure you take full advantage of this protection and get your car serviced as soon as you notice a problem.
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.