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Buying a Car: Is the Factory Warranty Transferable?

If you’re interested in selling or buying a car, you might be thinking about the car’s warranty. If you’re a buyer, you might be wondering if a used car’s warranty will transfer to you or if it’s only valid for the original owner. And if you’re a seller, you might be curious whether you can advertise your car for sale with the remaining factory warranty — which could help you get a little more money or sell it quicker. How does it work? Does the warranty transfer to a new buyer? We’ll explain.

The devil is in the details but when buying or selling a car, one key question is: Does the new car warranty that comes with every new car transfer to the next owner? In general, the answer is yes.

The Warranty Usually Transfers

In nearly every case, automotive warranties are based on the vehicle identification number (VIN), and the new car warranty will be valid for the full term regardless of ownership. In other words, if you buy a new car and later sell it to someone else, the warranty will still remain valid for the new owner until the end of the original warranty period.

As a result, buying a used car with the remaining factory warranty means it’s covered for whatever portion of the warranty remains as if you were the original owner.  There’s one important catch, however; the warranty is based on the in-service date and not the model year. If you buy a 2019 model-year car with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty in November of 2018, the clock begins ticking the minute you take possession. No matter the mileage, that warranty expires in November of 2021, three years from the date you bought the car new. Likewise, if the new car dealership puts a new car into service as a demo or a loaner, the warranty clock begins on the day that happens.

If holding on to the remaining factory warranty is important to you, we suggest that you call a dealership and provide the service department with the VIN so you can find out exactly how much warranty is left.

The Exceptions

For years Hyundai and Kia have been well known for offering the best powertrain warranties in the industry:10 years or 100,000 miles. What most consumers don’t realize is that these legendary warranties aren’t transferable to a new owner in many cases. Fortunately, the warranty doesn’t become completely invalid when a new owner buys the car as a used vehicle; it just changes to 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage. This is also true of Mitsubishi’s 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

The change is an important one for used car shoppers to know; many drivers interested in a reliable car will likely choose a vehicle from one of these carmakers based solely on the outstanding powertrain warranty coverage. Sadly, the bulk of that excellent coverage is only available to the first owner. However, there are some exceptions for certified pre-owned buyers. Customers who buy a certified Hyundai will get the full coverage and certified pre-owned Kia buyers get the full powertrain warranty but not the full bumper-to-bumper limited warranty.

Certified Pre-owned?

When it comes to selling a car you first purchased as a certified pre-owned vehicle (CPO), the rules are similar. In most cases, we’ve found that manufacturer CPO warranties transfer to a second owner. If you buy a car with a CPO warranty and resell it, the person who buys it will be covered with the balance of the extended CPO warranty that you originally received, in most cases. Many automakers charge a small fee (about $50-$100) to transfer the CPO warranty and that process is not automatic. If you buy a used car that has time or miles left on the CPO warranty, contact the automaker to be sure it transfers to you.

Some certified pre-owned warranties (Mercedes-Benz warranties, for example) make one important exception, though: They’re only transferable in a private sale. In other words, if you trade in your certified pre-owned car to a dealership, the CPO warranty is no longer valid. For the warranty to stay valid, you have to sell it privately to a new owner.

Verify First

Although we’ve checked each manufacturer’s warranty terms, we strongly suggest that you call a local dealership and provide them with the VIN to verify that the warranty is still valid before signing any papers. After all, automakers often change policies. If you’re interested in buying a car with warranty coverage, you won’t want to leave it to chance.

Related Warranty Articles:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.

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