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Extended warranties for used cars

Extended warranties, or vehicle service contracts, offer drivers additional coverage intended for future repairs. Since used cars are often more likely to need repairs due to prior use or age, purchasing an extended warranty may sound like a sensible investment. However, used car buyers should proceed with caution, weighing the pros and cons of an extended warranty against their own personal circumstances before moving forward. While some buyers may benefit from an extended warranty, these investments may end up costing others more than they should. 

To make this decision, first consider the used car warranty cost, how these vehicle service contracts work, and the potential benefits and drawbacks they provide. Read on to learn more about extended warranty for used cars.

What are extended warranties?

Extended warranties are optional plans that buyers can choose to add on to their vehicle purchase. The purpose of extended warranties is to offer coverage for the cost of specified repairs your vehicle may need in the future. Extended warranties typically begin when the manufacturer's warranty expires, but sometimes these plans overlap.

Having this added coverage may come in handy if your used vehicle starts to show signs of an issue later on. However, extended warranties are only beneficial if your extended warranty explicitly covers that issue. Otherwise, you may have to cover those costs yourself. 

All extended warranties can differ in terms of what repairs they cover. To learn more about a particular vehicle's warranty, you should comb through the details of the warranty and pay close attention to what it covers. Typically, extended warranties do not cover the same parts a factory warranty covers, nor do they offer coverage for routine maintenance — things like oil changes, new tires and brakes, tire rotations, air filter replacements, etc. 

When buying a used car, it is possible that the vehicle is no longer covered under the manufacturer's warranty. In this case, it might be a good idea to consider purchasing an extended warranty. However, remember to carefully read through this warranty option before making your decision, as the repairs it covers may not be significant or likely enough to justify the purchase. 

What's the cost of a used car warranty?

Since all extended warranties differ, determining the used car warranty cost for the vehicle you are looking to buy takes a bit of research. As a general guideline, most used vehicles' extended warranty plans cost $1,000–$3,000 upfront and range from $300–$700 a year. If you are rolling these costs into your auto loan, you can also expect to pay interest on these payments, further increasing the cost of your warranty.

While your used car's extended warranty offer may fall within this range, it helps to understand just how these numbers are set. Understanding how these warranty costs are determined, can help you understand the price. While not an exhaustive list, some factors that determine the cost of a used car warranty include:

  • Age and mileage of the vehicle. It is common for older vehicles or vehicles with high mileage to come with more expensive extended warranties.
  • Type of vehicle. The more expensive the brand, make, and model of the used car you are buying, the more you can expect to pay for an extended warranty.
  • Deductible. A lower deductible often translates to a more expensive extended warranty, and vice versa.

Benefits of purchasing an extended warranty on a used car

  • Coverage for needed repairs. The biggest benefit that can come from purchasing an extended warranty is actually needing that coverage down the road. It may be a stress reliever to have your warranty pay for the cost of a repair should it arise, while you only pay the deductible. 
  • Readily available. Extended warranty options are typically not hard to come by, as they are available through dealerships, auto clubs, and insurance companies.
  • Cheaper than paying for your own repairs. It might be worth doing research on the typical repairs needed for the used car you are looking to buy. If the quote you get from the dealer is cheaper than it would be to cover these costs on your own, it might be beneficial to purchase the extended warranty.

Drawbacks to purchasing an extended warranty on a used car

  • May not cover all repairs. It is important to read the fine print on your extended warranty contract. These warranties do not cover all types of repairs and often limit what kind of work can be done on your vehicle and where.  
  • Never used. One of the biggest potential drawbacks of purchasing an extended warranty involves never using it. While it's a good thing to not need repairs, you may be unnecessarily spending money on your unused warranty. Further, if your used car is still covered by the manufacturer's warranty, you may be unnecessarily paying for an additional extended warranty.

Should I buy an extended warranty on a used car?

Ultimately, the decision to purchase an extended warranty on a used car is up to you and should be the result of serious consideration. If your research leads you to believe that an extended warranty could come in handy and save you money in the long run, purchasing one might be the right option for you. If you determine that it is unlikely you would ever use an extended warranty to cover the cost of repairs anyway, or if it would be cheaper to cover them yourself, you may want to reconsider this decision. After all, extended warranties are often expensive, may not cover everything you might need, and may end up going unused altogether. 

Alternatives to extended warranties

If you determine that an extended warranty isn't the best option for you, you may want to explore some alternatives that may be better suited to your needs. For example, you may want to set aside a reasonable amount of money every month to create a pool for future repairs. If you don't end up needing this fund for repairs, you can always spend it on a new vehicle or some other purchase later.

Another alternative is to purchase a vehicle that is still covered by the manufacturer's warranty. This warranty would likely be free, except for transfer fees or other miscellaneous costs, and would likely cover important repairs for the particular vehicle it covers. You could also lease a vehicle, since vehicle leases typically come with their own warranties that cover repairs.

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