Even car enthusiasts can sometimes confuse the terms like drivetrain warranty and powertrain warranty, which vehicle service contracts use to describe coverage. When you’re buying a new car or choosing extended protection plan for your vehicle, it’s important to know exactly what’s included in your plan.
Here, we’ll discuss the difference between a drivetrain and a powertrain warranty and break down the industry’s leading warranties to determine whether or not you have enough protection for your vehicle’s essential systems. Afterward, you’ll be able to make better informed decisions when it comes to car maintenance and repair coverage.
What Is A Drivetrain?
The drivetrain is the collective term for all vehicle components that transfer power from the transmission to the wheels. In other words, a drivetrain encompasses all moving parts that work in connection with the engine to move a vehicle, which includes the transmission, the driveshaft, the axles, and the wheels. Besides the engine, the drivetrain is the most essential component of any vehicle.
What Does A Drivetrain Warranty Cover?
A drivetrain warranty covers all the parts of the drivetrain that help the vehicle move, which includes:
- Axle shafts
- CV joints
- U joints
Although people often hear the terms drivetrain warranty and powertrain warranty used interchangeably, it’s important to note that these words do not mean the same thing. A powertrain warranty covers all the parts of the drivetrain plus all engine components, which is why people often confuse the two.
Warranties can vary, so we recommend reading the fine print of any warranty contract to ensure you know exactly what is covered.
Types Of Drivetrain Warranties
All vehicles on the market today are built with one of four main types of drivetrains: front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive.
- Front-wheel drivetrains only deliver the engine’s power to the front wheels of your vehicle. These vehicles typically get better fuel economy and emit less carbon dioxide. They also may have better traction in wet or snowy conditions.
- Inversely, rear-wheel drivetrains only deliver power to the rear wheels. This frees the front tires up to freely maneuver the vehicle, which is why most sports cars are built with RWD.
- Four-wheel drivetrains allow the driver to toggle the power between the rear wheels and all four wheels. This provides the versatility to operate with four-wheel power when driving on rough terrain or conserve fuel by operating in RWD.
- Like 4WD, all-wheel drivetrains deliver power to all wheels. However, AWD vehicles employ front, center, and rear differentials and deliver that power to all the wheels all the time.
Do New Vehicle Warranties Include Drivetrain Coverage?
When you purchase a new vehicle, the factory warranty that comes with the vehicle will likely provide coverage with a bumper-to-bumper warranty and a powertrain warranty.
The bumper-to-bumper warranty covers virtually everything on the vehicle except “wear items,” like tires, brake pads, and windshield wipers, and routine maintenance including oil changes and tire rotations. Most bumper-to-bumper warranties last for at least 3 years or 36,000 miles.
The powertrain coverage offered by most manufacturers usually lasts beyond the bumper-to-bumper warranty. As discussed above, this type of coverage includes the drivetrain.
Although a powertrain warranty does not cover as many components as a bumper-to-bumper warranty, it does cover the repair or replacement of everything that moves the car from the engine and transmission to constant velocity joints and axle shafts. Typically, most powertrain warranties last for at least 5 years or 60,000 miles.
Best Factory Drivetrain Warranty Coverage
Although many manufacturers provide similar warranty coverage for new vehicles, a few stand out from the crowd with long term lengths and great added benefits.
|Make||Bumper-to-Bumper Coverage||Powertrain Coverage||Other Perks|
|Hyundai||5 years or 60,000 miles||10 years or 100,000 miles||7-year corrosion warranty|
|Volkswagen||4 years/50,000 miles||6 years or 72,000 miles||Free service for 2 years/24,000 miles|
|Jaguar||5 years or 60,000 miles||5 years or 60,000 miles||Roadside assistance for 5 years|
What Is An Extended Drivetrain Warranty?
Even if you get a long-lasting factory warranty on your drivetrain, the coverage is going to expire eventually. Luckily, both car dealerships and third-party providers offer extended protection to help vehicle owners get the most out of their cars and avoid costly repairs.
An extended powertrain or drivetrain warranty can provide you with peace of mind knowing that your most important systems are covered in the event of a breakdown. It can also add value to your car if you ever decide to sell it and the warranty is transferable.
While an extended drivetrain warranty lacks coverage for the engine, it does include many of the other most essential – and sometimes most costly – repairs. It’s also important to note that an extended drivetrain warranty generally lasts significantly longer than an extended bumper-to-bumper warranty.
An extended drivetrain warranty typically covers the repair or replacement of components like:
- Axle shafts
- Constant velocity joints
- Axle seals
- Axle housing
- Transfer case
- U joints
Common Drivetrain Warranty Repairs
Many people wonder if an upfront or monthly payment toward a drivetrain warranty is a cost-effective choice. After evaluating some of the most common drivetrain repairs based on RepairPal.com and CarTreaments.com, we think the numbers speak for themselves.
|Transfer case replacement||$2,588–$2,688|
|Axle shaft replacement||$1,160–$1,540|
|Constant velocity joint replacement||$260–$1,180|
|Axle shaft seal replacement||$286–$341|
|Transmission mount replacement||$100–$650|
Where Can I Purchase An Extended Drivetrain Warranty?
As you can see in the above table, an extended drivetrain warranty makes a lot of sense from a financial perspective. When considering any extended auto warranty, you have two options: dealer-backed or third-party.
Dealer Extended Protection
An OEM-backed extended warranty, which is purchased from the original equipment manufacturer, typically provides similar coverage to the factory warranty. While some companies like General Motors allow customers to simply extend their existing factory warranty, most extended warranties are separate plans meant to protect the vehicle after the original warranty expires. These vehicle service contracts sometimes include added perks like roadside assistance and towing coverage.
Dealer warranties almost always require that you perform all repairs and part replacements at a dealership repair facility with name brand parts. This may mean higher costs and, in some cases, long wait times for repairs. Additionally, some dealer vehicle service contracts request proof of regular maintenance performed at an authorized dealership facility before performing covered repairs.
Third-Party Extended Protection
Third-party warranties make up a large portion of the extended car warranty market today. Like dealer warranties, they provide coverage for mechanical issues after the factory warranty expires. Although vehicle service contracts vary between third-party providers, most include coverage for anywhere from 5 to 10 years.
Third-party vehicle service contracts typically offer car owners more flexibility. You can generally choose your own repair shop from a network of local mechanics and national chains. The contracts also don’t require brand name parts, which allows the repair facility to use the most cost-effective options. Finally, most third-party warranty companies offer benefits like 24/7 roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement, and trip interruption coverage as a standard part of the contract.
Best Warranty Companies for Extended Drivetrain Protection
We recently researched the most popular extended car warranty companies and rated them on reputation, coverage, customer service, and extra benefits. Based on our findings, we think it’s important to consider the following companies when making a decision about an extended drivetrain warranty.
When comparing options for coverage, it’s important to note which plans provide the best protection for your drivetrain. A drivetrain warranty can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on some of the most costly auto repairs. We recommend that you compare the extended warranty providers we discussed and obtain a few free quotes before selecting drivetrain coverage that will best fit your needs and your budget.
Use the tool below to start getting quotes from our top choices:
Best Coverage: Endurance
Endurance, which offers direct-to-consumer extended service plans, received a 4.6-star rating from Motor1. Endurance stands out among its competitors in the following ways:
- Repair options: Endurance allows automobile owners to choose from any repair shop certified by Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) to complete their covered repairs.
- Covers automobiles with high mileage: Endurance offers extended service plans to automobiles with up to 200,000+ miles. This mileage rate is much higher than many other providers.
- Gold level certification from the Vehicle Protection Association: The Vehicle Protection Association (VPA) is a non-profit organization that ensures that member companies are using the best business practices. Few companies hold a gold level certification from the VPA, so this accomplishment by Endurance is very impressive.
Here’s a closer look at the plans:
|Supreme||Bumper-to-bumper coverage with only a few listed exclusions|
|Superior||Highest level of stated component coverage, including hundreds of listed parts|
|Secure Plus||Comprehensive coverage for all major vehicle parts, including steering, brakes, and suspension|
|Secure||Basic powertrain coverage, including the engine and drivetrain|
|Select Premier||Plan for high-mileage vehicles with an extensive inclusion list that focuses on the powertrain|
|EnduranceAdvantage™||Covers mechanical breakdowns as well as maintenance|
In an effort to provide accurate and unbiased information to consumers, our expert review team collects data from dozens of extended auto warranty companies to formulate rankings of the best providers. Companies receive a score in each of the following categories, as well as an overall weighted score out of 5.0 stars.
- Industry Standing: Warranty providers with a history of strong business practices and endorsements from experts receive the highest scores in this category.
- Coverage: This rating is based on types of extended warranty plans available, coverage terms, and added benefits like roadside assistance.
- Cost: Our research team reviews sample quotes for a variety of plans and vehicles. Companies with lower prices per year of coverage receive the best scores.
- Transparency: This score takes into account contract transparency and the availability of a money-back guarantee.
- Customer Service: We comb through customer reviews and perform our own shopper analysis to get a sense of the responsiveness and helpfulness of each warranty company.