Want to Protect a Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty? Here's What to Watch For

A new car warranty is pretty much as satisfying as new car smell. But many consumers void their bumper-to-bumper warranty without even knowing it.

Insurance agent with driver of broken car.Shutterstock

Article QuickTakes

Next to that new car smell, there's nothing quite like a new car warranty. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that, whatever happens, the dealership is responsible, can be priceless.

Unfortunately, the bumper-to-bumper warranty can often give the automaker an "out" if the vehicle isn't cared for or driven properly. This is part of the reason it's recommended that you read—and fully understand—the contract.

Here are five of the most common ways consumers often unknowingly void their car warranties.

1. Environmental Damage

If your car or truck is involved in a flood, earthquake, or fire, your bumper-to-bumper warranty could potentially be voided. Given the number of forest fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters on record, this could impact many vehicles nationwide. Thus, if you're shopping for a used car, be sure the vehicle hasn't been affected by such a disaster.

2. Vehicle Misuse

Most warranties specify that vehicles are covered for "normal everyday use." Driving behaviors like improper towing and overloading are common offenders, as is off-roading. So, the next time your teenager asks to borrow your car for a camping trip, be sure to lay out the ground rules before anyone gets behind the wheel.

3. Tires and Wheels

The wrong size and type of tire or wheel can result in damage to the suspension, steering, or even drivetrain. Accordingly, it's often best to stick to the manufacturer's specifications, even if those huge wheels do look cool.

4. Salvage Titles

If a vehicle is in a significant accident, it can be declared a total loss and given a salvaged title. This can become an issue when buying a used car if the seller neglects to disclose a salvage title. Be sure to get the vehicle's ownership report—or buy one certified pre-owned—to avoid unwittingly purchasing a car with a salvaged title.

5. Modifications

Lifting. Lowering. Adding a performance ECU (electronic control unit) tune. There are endless ways car and truck owners love to make their rides stand out in a crowd. Sadly, these modifications also stand out to the dealership as clear violations of a car warranty, and are likely to get a claim denied in a flash.

How to Avoid Voiding Your Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty

So how do you avoid making these mistakes? Most of the best practices are obvious, with a few caveats. Consider these strategies:

  • Get your vehicle serviced regularly. By law, you're not required to get your car serviced at the dealership, but it can often make record-keeping easier, and it ensures your vehicle receives approved parts
  • Use the proper fluids. Changing your oil? Great. Topping off that low coolant? Fantastic. Just make sure to check your owner's manual. A simple pour of the wrong fluid type can make your warranty a mess
  • Keep your service records. Staying on good terms with your dealership can be as simple as reminding them of the time, care, and money you've spent maintaining your vehicle. Also, it leaves little wiggle room for claiming neglect
  • Be your own best advocate. Warranty claim denials aren't always set in stone. Most of the time, you're dealing with people who are just trying to avoid having automakers reject reimbursement. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and your car. If the denial is based on an aftermarket part, you're protected by law. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 states that the dealer must prove the parts were the cause of the damage before denying your claim. Thus, the burden of proof is on them. However, you may be stuck paying for the inspection process, which can add up

Follow the tips above to protect your wallet while maintaining your bumper-to-bumper warranty.

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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.