When you choose a product to purchase, the warranty can be a deciding factor. While you may never use it, the peace of mind it offers makes the purchase easier to make. This is especially true when buying a new or pre-owned vehicle

Automobile warranties can be confusing, though. There are so many different types of warranties with a range of coverage and exceptions. One of the more confusing is the powertrain warranty, which is included on most new vehicles and available as an option on some pre-owned cars.

To help you make a more informed buying decision, we'll go over what a powertrain warranty is, what it covers, how it compares to a comprehensive warranty, and more.

What Does a Powertrain Warranty Cover?

A powertrain warranty covers a vehicle's basic drivetrain and powertrain components, including: 

  • Engine, including the cylinder block and internal parts
  • Transmission
  • Axle shafts
  • All-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive components
  • Transfer cases
  • Universal joints
  • Torque converter
  • Front or rear differential
  • Oil pump
  • Certain powertrain-related electronics and sensors

It covers these components against early failure due to manufacturer defects, so it offers peace of mind, but it isn't carte blanche to drive your vehicle aggressively or ignore maintenance under the assumption the warranty will cover everything. More on this later.

The covered components are often some of the most expensive parts of the vehicle, making powertrain coverage a strong selling point. 

What Components Aren't Covered Under a Powertrain Warranty?

A powertrain warranty doesn't cover all the powertrain components under all circumstances. Some reasons a powertrain warranty won't cover you include: 

  • Poor maintenance: All vehicles have specific maintenance requirements. If you fail to follow these requirements to the letter, the manufacturer can deny any powertrain warranty claims related to that maintenance item. 
  • Abuse: If there is evidence you abused the vehicle — by racing, driving too aggressively, or intentionally causing harm to the vehicle — the manufacturer can deny any claims related to the abuse. 
  • Wear-and-tear: Items that wear out by design, like belts, hoses, brake pads, batteries, spark plugs, clutches, and more, aren't covered under the powertrain warranty. They also don't cover basic maintenance, like oil changes and transmission flushes. Although, some warranties will make exceptions for wearable items that fail prematurely due to manufacturer defects.
  • Alterations: Alterations to your vehicle, including custom fabrication and aftermarket performance parts, aren't covered under warranty. Any damage these alterations cause to the powertrain isn't covered either. 
  • Damage from accidents or other outside forces: If you're in an accident that causes powertrain damage, the manufacturer won't cover the repairs. This includes events that cause environmental damages, such as vehicle flooding. 
  • Installation of the wrong parts: While under warranty, the manufacturer requires all repairs be completed using only original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. Using aftermarket replacements could nullify the warranty for that part of the powertrain. 

What Powertrain Warranties Do the Major Automakers Offer?

Most major automakers offer a collection of limited warranties, including bumper-to-bumper or comprehensive warranties, emissions warranties, rust and corrosion warranties, and powertrain warranties. Here are the major manufacturer warranties on powertrains in Canada: 

  • Buick: Six years or 110,000 km
  • Chevrolet: Five years or 100,000 km (with the exception of commercial vehicles)
  • Chrysler: Five years or 100,000 km
  • Ford: Five years or 100,000 km
  • GMC: Five years or 160,000 km
  • Honda: Five years or 100,000 km 
  • Hyundai: Five years or 100,000 km
  • Jeep: Five years or 100,000 km
  • Kia: Five years or 100,000 km
  • Mitsubishi: 10 years or 160,000 km
  • Nissan: Five years or 100,000 km
  • Subaru: (packaged as "Major Component Warranty") Five years or 100,000 km 
  • Toyota: Five years or 100,000 km

How Is a Powertrain Warranty Different From a Comprehensive Warranty?

A powertrain warranty is only one of several warranties available on a vehicle. Another common warranty type is the comprehensive warranty, which is sometimes called the bumper-to-bumper warranty. 

While a powertrain warranty covers the major powertrain components, the comprehensive warranty covers virtually the entire vehicle. The only excluded items are wearable components, like brakes, clutches, belts, and fluids. 

So, not only is the powertrain included under comprehensive coverage, it also includes electronics, like the infotainment system, touchscreen, speakers, fan motor, and more. It'll also cover large systems, like your heating and air conditioning units and power steering. 

Because they cover so much, new-car manufacturers' comprehensive warranties are often significantly shorter than their powertrain warranties. 

Why Should You Be Skeptical of Extended Powertrain Warranties?

When you buy a new vehicle or a used one, the dealership may offer you an extended powertrain warranty that goes beyond the manufacturer's warranty or the warranty the dealership offers on a used car. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are good reasons to think twice before paying upward of $1,200 for an extended warranty on your powertrain. 

Many People Never Use Them

Consumer Reports performed a study on extended powertrain warranties and found that of those who bought one, 55% of them never used it. On average, these buyers spent $1,214 on a service they never needed. 

They Often Don't Save You Money

In the same Consumer Reports study, researchers found those who used their extended powertrain warranties saved an average of $837 on repairs. Considering the average extended powertrain warranty in the survey cost $1,214, they ended up spending $377 more on the warranty than they would have paid out of pocket for the repairs. 

Modern Powertrains Are More Reliable Than Ever

Today's engines, transmissions, and other powertrain components are more reliable than ever. It's not like the 1970s when a car was essentially scrap metal at 160,000 km. 

If you maintain them properly, today's more reliable brand cars, like Honda and Toyota, can easily last 320,000 km or longer with no major issues. That's generally well beyond their powertrain warranties. 

All the Catches and Exceptions

Read the fine print on any extended powertrain warranty, and the exceptions and "not covered" items are extensive. This gives the powertrain warranty company a lot of freedom to rule that your powertrain claim is uncovered. 

Too Many Car Warranty Scams and Bad Apples

We've all gotten the call. "Hi, I'm calling about your car's factory warranty that's about to expire," as you look out at your 10-year-old Honda with a warranty that expired five years ago. They are frustrating and, generally, an outright scam

These companies hope to catch someone who actually has a car with an expiring factory warranty and convince them to buy an extended warranty. They'll have a surprising amount of information, which may lead you to believe they're trustworthy, so you shell out a few grand for a new warranty. 

Down the line, when you need service, you learn the warranty never existed or had so many exceptions it covers nothing. That's several thousand dollars wasted. 

On the other side, there are legit warranty companies that simply offer terrible customer service — the ones that would rather find a reason to deny your claim than help you fix your vehicle. These companies are so numerous, they've overshadowed some of the more reputable extended warranty companies. 

How Extended Comprehensive Warranties Can Offer Peace of Mind

While factory powertrain warranties offer some peace of mind, they are extremely limited in what they cover. They generally exclude sensitive electrical components and other important systems, like your air conditioning and power steering. 

This is where extended comprehensive warranties, which cover your vehicle's powertrain and most of the same components as the manufacturer's bumper-to-bumper warranty. This gives you years of driving without the fear of a pricey repair bill. 

At Clutch, we offer the Clutch Protection Plan, which is backed by First Canadian Protection Products. This extended comprehensive warranty covers a wide range of components, including the: 

  • Engine
  • Turbocharger and supercharger
  • Transmission
  • Drive axles
  • Transfer case
  • Steering
  • Brakes (non-wearable items only)
  • Electronics
  • Air conditioning
  • Fuel system
  • Fuel delivery
  • Suspension
  • Heating and cooling
  • Emissions systems

Get a Great Pre-Owned Vehicle and Warranty With Clutch

Put all the stress of finding a great preowned vehicle and reputable extended warranty behind you by shopping for your next car with Clutch, Canada's first 100% online car-buying experience. 

All Clutch vehicles have been through an intensive 210-point inspection and reconditioning process to ensure they're top-notch. Plus, all vehicles purchased online come with a 90-day or 6,000-km limited warranty. 

Want more coverage? We can offer you the Clutch Protection Plan to give you years of care-free driving, knowing that virtually every major component on your vehicle is covered. 

Plus, after purchasing a Clutch pre-owned vehicle, you get a 10-day risk-free evaluation period. If within those 10 days you don't love your Clutch vehicle for any reason, you can return it for a full refund or exchange it for a different vehicle, giving you short-term peace of mind to go with the long-term assurance our Clutch Protection Plan offers.