When you buy a new car you’re investing a lot of money into a very complex piece of equipment. You expect it to work efficiently for years to come, and the last thing anyone can afford to happen is that their new car proves temperamental and costs a small fortune in repair bills from the moment it’s parked outside their home. That’s where the manufacturer’s warranty comes in. There to protect you in the event of problems, a new car warranty should guard against repair bills for the first few years of ownership.
The warranty puts in place protection additional to that afforded by the Sale of Goods Act, a consumer law set in 1979 that says goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
Most new cars come with a three-year guarantee, typically lasting for either 60,000 or 100,000 miles. The warranty gives peace of mind until the three years is up or you reach the mileage limit. In an effort to stand out of the crowd and, perhaps, attract drivers of a prudent disposition, some car makers go one step further and offer a five year warranty, including Hyundai, Toyota and SsangYong. The latter doesn’t place a mileage restriction on its policy; with a warranty like that and ever-improving new cars, it’s little wonder sales are accelerating.
For anyone who places a long warranty at the top of their must-have list when buying a new car, a trip to the local Kia dealer is needed. The Korean car maker, which has boomed in popularity with British drivers over the past 10 years, offers a seven-year warranty, which has a 100,000-mile cap on it – although there’s no limit for the first three years. If you don’t tend to keep your cars this long you can still benefit, because as with most new-car warranties, the Kia’s is transferable, so the next owner will benefit too.
For a handy guide to the best cars by type with the longest warranties, read The Sunday Times Driving’s comprehensive breakdown.
What’s covered by a new car warranty?
Not all components on a new car will be covered by a warranty, so as with everything, it pays to check the small print and compare between manufacturers. The engine, gearbox, electrics, steering and suspension should all be covered for the duration of the warranty, but it’s likely that wear and tear items won’t be, such as the brake discs and pads, tyres or parts of the clutch. Other exclusions might include the battery and the audio system.
Because cars are now so well protected against the elements, most manufacturers provide a separate warranty for the bodywork, which is often much longer than the main guarantee. With 12 years’ cover fairly typical, this anti-corrosion cover sounds great – but to maintain it your car will probably have to be inspected regularly by a franchised dealer. Few car makers will allow independent garages to make these inspections.
What to do if you need to make a claim on a new car warranty
Should something go wrong, it will be a dealer’s responsibility to get to the root of the problem, and it turn submit their findings to the car maker for permission to make repairs under warranty. Having a car serviced by a franchised dealer may help smooth the process, but remember that under European law drivers don’t have to have their car serviced or inspected within the franchised dealer network for the warranty to be honoured. As long as good-quality parts are fitted, the car is serviced according to the manufacturer’s schedule and the garage you use is VAT registered, the warranty should be honoured. But the onus is on you to prove that the vehicle has been maintained correctly.
If you do have problems making a claim under warranty, there are several things you can do to strengthen your case. Make sure your car’s service book has been correctly filled out and explain clearly in writing what the problem is, as quickly as possible, to the relevant manufacturer’s customer services department – and give them a deadline to respond. Then, pin down exactly why your claim is being rejected, and consider taking the matter up with Motor Codes, which is a self-regulating body for the car industry and operates with the approval of the Office of Fair Trading.
Alternatively, contact Trading Standards for free advice, or – if the car is bought on a finance scheme – take the matter up with the finance company, as the 1974 Consumer Credit Act puts in place rights for consumers buying items with finance.
Keep copies of all correspondence and if you’re offered a goodwill gesture give careful thought to accepting it. The dealer must be given a reasonable opportunity to put things right, but if your car is riddled with faults or there’s a fundamental problem, you must reject it as soon as possible. For full details of how to do this read our blog on the subject. Hopefully, however, you’ll enjoy year’s of trouble-free motoring.