Some Late-Model Used Cars May Not Actually Come With a Warranty

Make sure to check the fine print to ensure your new-to-you ride has the warranty coverage you expect.

Red 2023 Cadillac Escalade driving down highwayCadillac

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There are lots of things to keep in mind when you're buying a used car. Whether it's checking the fine print on your loan or looking the vehicle over to make sure there aren't any dings or scratches you didn't know about, minding the details is always a good practice.

You might not think about whether the factory warranty is still in effect. However, if you're buying a late-model car that's only a few years old, you should be aware of the original factory warranty's status and whether the automaker will transfer it over to you as a used car buyer.

Expired Factory Warranties

Even if you’re buying a newer car, it's possible that some of the factory warranties have already expired. These warranties are generally spelled out on the new car window sticker (officially called a Monroney, after the U.S. Senator who spearheaded the legislation mandating such stickers) with top-level information about expiration—usually time and/or mileage based.

Many cars, like the Toyota Camry, come with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. That means that, even if you buy a car that’s only a year or two old, the coverage might have expired already if it was driven beyond the warranty’s mileage limit.

Along that same line, a car might seem like a terrific low-mileage option if it's three years old and only has 15,000 miles on the odometer. But if it’s been more than three years since the car’s in-service date (when it was first delivered), that new car warranty might have expired.

A dealership for the make of your car, like your local Toyota dealer in the Camry example, should be able to tell you the status of any factory warranties in their computer system.

Non-Transferable Factory Warranties

Not all factory warranties are transferable to a second owner, which is another thing you must watch out for.

Hyundai, for example, offers a terrific 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on powertrain components like the engine and transmission. However, the company notes in the fine print that second and subsequent owners of Hyundai vehicles do not get the 10-year warranty, but receive powertrain coverage only under the shorter 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Double-check that the original vehicle’s factory coverage will transfer if you rely on a new car warranty when making a used car purchase.

Canceled Warranties

The new car market is hot right now, and carmakers are struggling to keep buyers of high-demand vehicles from flipping their new cars for a profit.

That’s why General Motors recently declared that, if sold in the first 12 months of ownership, new car warranties are not transferable to second owners of its Cadillac Escalade-V, GMC Hummer EV, and Chevrolet Corvette Z06 models.

Of course, a canceled warranty may be of little concern to someone paying a significant markup on a used Corvette, but the possibility is something to watch out for and be aware of.

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Jordan Golson
Jordan Golson is a transportation reporter covering cars, trains, planes, future cities, mobility and more — basically, if it moves and doesn’t go to space, he's on it. He is especially interested in the intersection of transportation and technology, and that means he goes deep into electric cars, autonomous vehicle tech, sensors, safety, connectivity, and similar topics.