The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) defines manufacturer warranties as "voluntary promises offered by the manufacturer about what they will do if something goes wrong with a new car".
"Manufacturer warranties apply for a specified time and may add to consumers’ automatic rights under the Australian Consumer Law guarantees," the ACCC explains.
"Manufacturer warranties come with conditions that limit the coverage and what consumers can claim for."
But while the basic principle may be the same across the board, what a warranty looks like can vary dramatically from brand to brand.
Generally speaking, manufacturers' warranties can range from three years or 100,000 kilometres of coverage (whichever comes first), up to seven years or unlimited kilometres.
Luxury brands tend to have shorter warranty periods, but a move from Mercedes-Benz to up its warranty period from three to five years has placed pressure on its peers to follow suit. Indeed, two days before this story was filed, Volvo did.
But, when it comes to warranties, there's no getting around the fact a little research may be required in order to confirm you're getting the best possible deal.
According to the 2016 Lemon Car Report by consumer advocacy publisher Choice, 66 per cent of new car buyers face problems with their new cars in the first five years of owning them – with 14 per cent of new car buyers facing what they'd classify as a major problem.
So, how long is long enough? And what kinds of things are covered?
For guidance, we turned to Graham Cooke, Insights Manager at financial comparison site Finder.com.au, for his take on some commonly asked questions.
What length of warranty should I be looking for at a minimum?
"Under consumer law it’s as long as you’d expect the product to last and you’d expect a car to run for 3-4 years without any extensive issues," Mr Cooke says.
Australian Consumer Law applies to vehicle purchases, just as it would any other goods or services. In addition to the manufacturer's warranty your vehicle must "be of acceptable quality (including that it is safe, durable and free from defects)" this protection extends "for an unspecified but reasonable time".
Like your new car warranty, ACL protection doesn't cover wear and tear, user damage, neglect, or scheduled replacement items. It can take time and effort on your behalf to pursue a claim, but the ACCC is able to offer advice if you think you may have an out-of-warranty claim.
What kinds of things should my car warranty cover?
Warranties typically cover any mechanical failures resulting from faulty or defective design or parts. Roadside assistance, towing costs or a loan car may also be covered if your car breaks down due to a warranty issue.
However, Mr Cooke says the key is checking if there are "payment limits" set in the warranty.
"There will be maximum payments covered on things that can go wrong," he says – adding that checking the fine print is always advisable. If towing or accommodation form part of a warranty offer there may be a cap on distance or a price cap for accommodation.
What doesn't my car warranty cover?
"Anything to do with human error will not be covered, wear and tear won’t be covered, and coverage may disappear if you drive over a certain distance," Mr Cooke explains, urging consumers to clarify these details with their manufacturer before committing to a car.
Mr Cooke says some issues outside of specified warranty coverage terms could instead be covered by insurance, contingent on what the issue is, and the terms of your warranty policy.
Can I void my warranty by skipping a scheduled service?
We've elaborated on that topic here, but Mr Cooke says that in some cases, skipping scheduled servicing could put your warranty in doubt.
"In some cases that can be true. There’s a minimum level of care you have to demonstrate – you can just ask the dealer, most dealers will be happy to let you know the repercussions," he says.
Do used cars come with warranties too?
According to Mr Cooke, a longer warranty is "definitely something you sacrifice for the reduced price of used cars".
"They’ll typically have shorter warranties from dealers than new cars. Often they will come with the dealer warranty, not the manufacturer warranty."
When buying a used car from a dealer that's out of its manufacturer warranty period, you will receive a statutory warranty.
Typically, a statutory warranty is a three-month or 5000km (whichever comes first) warranty available if a car is less than 10 years old and hasn't travelled more than 120,000-160,000km.
The time period and criteria of the statutory warranty will vary from state to state, so contact your state's consumer body for more detailed information.
Are extended warranties worth it?
"You’ve got to pay attention to the details to find out," Mr Cooke explains.
"A lot of new cars come with quite long manufacturer warranties, so if you’re going to look for an extended warranty it would need to extend into the period where the car would be more susceptible to break down."
If you do opt for a manufacturer warranty, Mr Cooke says: "Be cautious that if it’s one that’s been offered by the dealership, that's often not as good as manufacturer or third party because dealerships are incentivised to sell them. It's the same with car loans."
Extended warranties, unlike new car warranties, are often structured like an insurance policy. Certain terms and conditions regarding vehicle usage and servicing may have to be met, there may be exclusions, claim limits may apply and an excess could be payable. Careful scrutiny of the terms and conditions is essential.
Are extended warranties transferable?
Be aware that extended warranties, unlike manufacturer warranties, are not usually transferable when it comes time to sell your car.
"Generally, if you sell your car while it is still under the manufacturer's warranty, the remaining warranty period automatically passes onto the new owner (unless the warranty states otherwise)," says Consumer Affairs Victoria.
"However, an extended warranty does not normally pass onto the new owner. In such cases, you may be able to cancel the extended warranty and get a refund for any coverage you had left. You may have to pay an early cancellation fee, but this should be limited to a reasonable amount."
Again, arm yourself with info before you sign up. If you don't intend to keep a vehicle for longer than the extended warranty term, a shorter policy might be a more cost-effective option.
What if I have an issue outside of my warranty period?
Mr Cooke says building a relationship with a service centre or manufacturer could come in handy in this instance.
"That’s where building that relationship with a dealer or brand really comes in handy," he explains, adding that under those circumstances, some dealers or manufacturers will be willing to stretch the warranty as a show of good grace.
If you do experience a warranty issue outside of your warranty period, you still have protection under Australian Consumer Law.
What does every manufacturer offer?
Below, a breakdown of each manufacturer's standard warranty for new, privately-owned cars. Please note, some of these warranties may differ due to limited-time offers on certain models.
Alfa Romeo: 3-year/150,000km
Alpine: 3-year/unlimited km for the first 2 years, limited to 100,000km for the third year.
Aston Martin: 3-year/unlimited km
Audi: 3-year/unlimited km (with a current limited-time trial of a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty – more here)
Bentley: 3-year/unlimited km
BMW: 3-year/unlimited km
Citroen: 5-year/unlimited km
Fiat: 3-year, 150,000km
Ferrari: 3-year/unlimited km
Ford: 5-year/unlimited km
Genesis: 5-year/unlimited km
Great Wall: 5-year/150,000km
Haval: 7-year/unlimited km
Honda: 5-year/unlimited km
Hyundai: 5-year/unlimited km
Jaguar: 3-year/100,000km (with a limited-time offer of 5-year/unlimited km until June 30, 2020)
Kia: 7-year/unlimited km
Lamborghini: 3-year/unlimited km
Land Rover: 3-year/100,000km (with a limited-time offer of 5-year/unlimited km until June 30, 2020)
Lotus: 3-year/unlimited km
Maserati: 3-year/unlimited km
Mazda: 5-year/unlimited km
McLaren: 3-year/unlimited km
Mercedes-Benz: 5-year/unlimited km
MG: 7-year/unlimited km
Nissan: 5-year/unlimited km
Peugeot: 5-year/unlimited km
Porsche: 3-year/unlimited km
Ram: 3-year/unlimited km
Rolls-Royce: 4-year/unlimited km
Renault: 3-year/unlimited km for new Kangoo, Trafic, Master and Clio RS, 5-year/unlimited km for Megane, Clio, Captur, Latitude and Renault Sport (more information here) with a 7-year/unlimited km warranty for Koleos models sold in April 2020 (more information here).
SsangYong: 7-year/unlimited km
Subaru: 5-year/unlimited km
Suzuki: 5-year/unlimited km
Tesla: 4-year/80,000km (battery and drive unit warranty varies according to model – more info here)
Toyota: 5-year/unlimited km
Volkswagen: 5-year/unlimited km
Volvo: 3-year/unlimited km, moving to a 5-year/unlimited km warranty shortly – more here.