Differences Between Powertrain & Comprehensive Warranties

by Tim Plaehn
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Luxury Car sportscar from my luxury car series image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com

Auto warranties, both factory warranties and those sold aftermarket, can be dividend into two classifications: comprehensive warranties and powertrain warranties. If the buyer is considering the purchase of an aftermarket warranty, the difference between the two types should be understood before signing the warranty purchase contract.

What's Covered

A powertrain warranty covers the moving parts of the engine, transmission, driveshaft and axles. This warranty usually does not cover parts added to the engine like electronics. A breakdown that would be covered under this warranty is rare, but the repairs would be expensive. A comprehensive warranty, often called "bumper-to-bumper," covers all the part of the car with only a few exclusions like tire wear and windshield wipers.

Term of Warranty

Many new cars come with both a powertrain and comprehensive warranty with different terms. The comprehensive warranty that covers all of the car may be good for three years or 36,000 miles, and the powertrain warranty extends the coverage on the specific powertrain parts out to six years and 100,000 miles. As a car gets older, comprehensive warranty claims occur more often, so the manufacturer wants to limit the time period. Most vehicles can have the engine and transmission run for 100,000 miles without a major problem.

Effect of Vehicle Age

Comprehensive warranties come with new cars and can be purchased for late-model used cars. On older used cars, warranty companies will only offer powertrain warranties. Certified used cars usually come with a powertrain warranty as part of the certification process, and the car dealer will sell a comprehensive warranty that expands the warranty coverage on the certified used car.


Extended warranties can be purchased on both new cars and many used cars. Comprehensive extended warranties cost significantly more than powertrain warranties because the comprehensive ones will cover almost anything that breaks on the car. Powertrain warranties typically cost less than $1,000, while a comprehensive one may be $2,000 or more. The selection of warranty should be based on the items covered as well as cost. A defective engine control computer would be covered under a comprehensive warranty but not a powertrain one, and the comprehensive warranty would pay for itself with that one item.

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