Any time you purchase a car, whether it's new or used, you're probably interested in the prospect of a warranty. With a brand-new vehicle purchase, you can pretty much expect a bumper-to-bumper manufacturer warranty that covers all the major components, from the engine and transmission, to the suspension, to electrical and other systems.
In essence, the bumper-to-bumper warranty covers nearly everything needed to make the car function properly, although certain cosmetic and "wear" items are typically excluded. In some cases, a certified pre-owned vehicle will come with a short-term bumper-to-bumper warranty, but many used vehicles include only a powertrain warranty (if any warranty at all). What is a powertrain warranty and how does it differ from the bumper-to-bumper variety?
What is a Powertrain Warranty?
In the simplest terms, a powertrain warranty covers any parts that power your vehicle. This obviously includes the engine and transmission, but it could also include components like the driveshaft, transfer case, and differentials, all of which are involved in the process of transforming power from the engine into torque that turns the wheels. In some cases, parts like the axles, wheel bearings, and even exhaust components are included, but not always.
Internal engine components may be expressly listed in the powertrain warranty, and could include the cylinder block and heads, gaskets and seals, the flywheel, the valvetrain, fuel injectors, pumps (water, fuel, and oil), the oil pan, and more. If a part is involved in powering and propelling your car, it could be covered under a powertrain warranty, but naturally, not everything is included.
Items that are likely to wear during regular usage often aren't covered. Typical components not covered under a powertrain warranty include the battery, the clutch (if your vehicle features a manual transmission), CV joints and boots, and so on. As with any warranty, it's important to understand exactly what is covered under your powertrain warranty, what is excluded, and what types of circumstances or behaviors could void the warranty.
Bumper-to-Bumper vs. Powertrain
The major difference between a bumper-to-bumper and a powertrain warranty, aside from the fact that the former generally comes with a new car and the latter may be offered with used cars, is that the powertrain is included in a bumper-to-bumper warranty, along with a laundry list of other components, while a powertrain warranty exclusively covers powertrain components. Still, the powertrain constitutes the most expensive portion of the car, so covering components is important.
If you're buying a certified pre-owned or other used vehicle that doesn't offer a bumper-to-bumper warranty, at least a powertrain warranty can alleviate anxiety about the most expensive repairs by covering the engine, transmission, driveshaft, and other powertrain components.