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Powertrain Warranty vs. Bumper to Bumper: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2015

If you're looking to buy a car, you'll notice that most new -- or certified pre-owned -- vehicles offer two major types of warranties: a powertrain warranty and a bumper-to-bumper warranty. Of course, there are a few other warranties, such as a corrosion warranty, among others, but these are the two most important because they cover the most components in your car. So what makes powertrain warranties different from bumper-to-bumper warranties? Here's everything you need to know.

What's Covered Under a Powertrain Warranty?

Simply put, this is a warranty on components of the vehicle's propulsion system, such as the engine, transmission and other related pieces such as the differential. Powertrain warranties also often cover just about anything involved in bringing power to the wheels, including a car's driveshaft and constant velocity joints.

It's important to note, however, that not everything under the hood is covered by a powertrain warranty. Some parts are considered "wear items," which means that they're designed to wear, so a warranty won't pay for their replacement. Examples include the battery, clutch and certain drive belts and fluids.

What's Covered Under a Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty?

A bumper-to-bumper warranty, also called a comprehensive warranty, covers just about everything from the front bumper to the back bumper -- excluding the bumpers themselves, which are considered body panels and aren't covered. Additional coverage beyond the powertrain warranty includes items such as the vehicle's electronics, its audio system, its air-conditioning system, many suspension components and more. Since bumper-to-bumper warranties cover far more than powertrain warranties, they often don't last as long.

But don't think a warranty covers everything just because it advertises itself as "bumper to bumper." Many wear items are also excluded from bumper-to-bumper warranties, including glass, interior trim, seating fabrics, cabin surfaces and more.

What's the Difference?

In essence, a powertrain warranty is designed to cover only the vehicle's powertrain, which is typically a car's largest and most expensive component. Meanwhile, the bumper-to-bumper warranty covers everything -- the powertrain, the electronics, the suspension, vehicle systems and more. As a result, a bumper-to-bumper warranty is what you'll want more than anything, but if your bumper-to-bumper warranty expires or your certified pre-owned program only offers powertrain protection, you can at least rest assured knowing the majority of your car's most expensive systems are covered by the powertrain warranty.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Powertrain Warranty vs. Bumper to Bumper: What's the Difference? - Autotrader