Everything You Need to Know About Bumper-to-Bumper vs Powertrain Warranties

Among the most misunderstood things about car buying is the bumper-to-bumper warranty. What's the difference between that and a powertrain warranty?


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Buying a new car can mean great things: knowing the odometer is all yours, enjoying that delicious new car smell, and the thrill of a fresh warranty. Ah, there's nothing like it. But what does that new warranty cover? And what's the difference between a bumper-to-bumper vs. powertrain warranty? Before you get too comfortable with that full-coverage feeling, we'll break down the difference between these two types of warranties and what's viable coverage to expect for each.

What's A Bumper To Bumper Warranty?

In general, a bumper-to-bumper warranty covers the stuff between the bumpers and inside the car. What exactly is covered will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but bumper-to-bumper warranties generally cover manufacturing and design flaws. What it doesn't cover are things that are likely to wear out over the life of a vehicle. So if the wiring for your brake lights is broken, that'll likely fall under the bumper-to-bumper warranty, but if the light bulb itself burns out, it will probably be on you to replace.

What's A Powertrain Warranty?

It's good to think about a powertrain warranty as coverage for the components that keep a vehicle moving. This means the engine, the transmission, the drive axles, etc. This warranty is often longer than the bumper-to-bumper variety and is equally important, as the powertrain often includes the most expensive parts of a vehicle.

It's not that it's bumper-to-bumper vs. powertrain per se, as they go hand-in-hand to shield you from certain defects and problems with your new vehicle. There are just a few differences on what might be covered under each warranty.

Is Electrical and Air Conditioning Covered?

Whether or not your electrical system is covered under your bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranty depends on two things: the car's manufacturer and the type of electrical system that needs repair. If the power locks don't work, that will usually be covered. Power windows will be too. But if something's wrong with your minivan's rear video screen, that may require an investigation into that specific component itself, as entertainment systems often have their own warranty terms.

As for air conditioning, don't sweat it. Air conditioning is usually covered under the bumper-to-bumper warranty.

What About The Engine and Seat Belts?

The engine is more than likely covered by the powertrain warranty. This would also cover all of the elements of an engine block including the cylinder block and heads, the engine's seals and gaskets (yes, the head gasket too), and the fuel injectors.

Typically, neither the bumper to bumper nor the powertrain warranty covers safety systems such as seat belts. These are often covered under a supplemental warranty called the Safety Systems warranty. This coverage usually includes the airbags as well.

What About The Bumpers?

This is the terrific irony of what is already a complicated issue: bumpers are typically not covered under bumper-to-bumper warranties or powertrain warranties, for that matter. But, like everything else, it will depend on the manufacturer and the circumstances. If your bumper fell off after an accident, it's out of warranty. If it cracks in half a week after driving it off the lot, it is certainly worth a conversation with the dealership.

One of the last things to be aware of for any type of warranty is whether it is transferrable, for that will significantly enhance or decrease the value of your vehicle if you decide to sell in the future.

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Amelia Dalgaard
From reading my dad’s car magazines under the covers to writing in the automotive space, my job is a dream come true. I am the woman who took her toddlers to car shows and married the man that thought a test drive was the perfect first date. I love nothing more than helping all consumers find a vehicle that will enhance their lives.