Is a vehicle protection plan right for you?

 

Your check engine light came on once before for a loose gas cap – that was an easy fix. But now, it says your car has a cylinder misfire and you’ll have to bring it into the shop. How much will that cost? Will your warranty cover it? How about a vehicle protection plan?

Ideally, you’d have a vehicle protection plan in place before you get hit with a costly repair. In fact, most vehicle protection plans won’t cover existing problems, which is why it’s a good idea to get one ahead of time. 

Vehicle protection plans can be offered by the manufacturer or from independent, third-party providers. There are only about 30 auto manufacturers in the United States, but there are dozens and dozens of vehicle protection plan companies. 

We’ve ranked the best vehicle protection plan providers on characteristics like customer service and plan options. The whole point of a vehicle protection plan is to protect your wallet from costly repairs after your factory warranty has run out. Compare quotes between the best extended warranty providers to see which one can save you the most money if a breakdown occurs.

 

In this article: 

What Is A Vehicle Protection Plan? 

A vehicle protection plan (VPP) agreement is a service contract that covers the mechanical breakdown of specific parts in your car – after your factory warranty has run out. Protection plans range from covering almost everything that a factory warranty covers to just covering the bare essentials.

Vehicle Protection Plan Mileage Comparison

Looking at maximum mileage limits, here are a few factory extended warranties compared to third-party vehicle protection plans:

Company Mileage Limit

Ford

150,000 miles

Toyota

125,000 miles

Kia

120,000 miles

Endurance

200,000 miles

CarShield

200,000 miles

CARCHEX

250,000 miles

 

You can see that third-party providers offer longer coverage windows than these factory extended warranties. Vehicle protection plans from third-party providers are also valid at more repair shops than dealer warranties. Plus, some plans let you go to your favorite dealer for repairs if you want to. 

Why A Vehicle Protection Plan Is Good To Have

When you buy a new car, it comes with a factory warranty. That’s a great thing to have, and many auto brands provide great warranties. However, good things don’t last forever, and many warranties end just before the major recommended service at 60,000 miles.

What do you do after that? That’s where the vehicle protection plan comes into the picture. Third-party plans can offer plenty of coverage for repairs while providing more freedom than a factory warranty. 

Maybe you’re one of those drivers who expect their car to fail eventually and would rather not have any type of coverage on it. When it fails, you’ll just trade your car in and get a new one. But wouldn’t it be better to trade in a car that doesn’t have any major issues? If your car’s transmission needs replacing, that can knock thousands off of the trade-in or resale value. 

Plus, companies like Endurance, CARCHEX, and CarShield offer plans that are fully transferable to secondary buyers. This can help you secure a better price for your vehicle. 

car repair costsIs A Vehicle Protection Plan A Good Value?

The main thing you have to ask yourself is if the cost of the plan is worth it to you. Some auto brands are known for their reliability, while others aren’t. There’s always the chance that you wouldn’t use the plan to the full value, but at the same time, there’s the chance that it could pay for itself many times over. 

It’s also hard to put a dollar value on the peace of mind that a vehicle protection plan can bring. Just knowing that certain systems in your car are covered for a specific time feels good. You don’t have to worry about those systems failing. 

Different people are going to value that security differently. Some may choose to keep a few thousand dollars in the bank instead for a breakdown. But for other people, even the act of saving money might be difficult. In that case, a protection plan helps spread out the cost of repairs over time into a manageable monthly payment. 

So, with a protection plan, you’re paying for two main things: future repairs on your car, and the security that certain repairs on your car are covered. Now, we’re not saying that having a protection plan means you don’t have to have any savings set aside for vehicle repairs. No plan covers 100 percent of your car, and all protection plans have certain requirements for repairs to be covered. But having a plan can definitely ease some of the financial stress of sudden repairs.

Vehicle Protection Plan Requirements

Vehicle protection plans are a bit like health insurance. They can be complex, carry deductibles, and require different conditions to be met before coverage is available. 

Many extended coverage plans require you to wait for a certain period of time before the plan goes into effect. A common waiting period is 30 days long. By requiring a waiting period, the company makes sure that drivers aren’t taking advantage of the protection plan. That means you can’t just buy a plan right after your mechanic says that you have to do $2,000 in repairs. Well, you can buy one, but you can’t use it. 

When you sign up for a plan, you’ll also disclose any issues that your car already has. These can be compared to “pre-existing conditions” on a health plan. Vehicle protection plans usually exclude issues present at the time you buy the plan. That can be disappointing, but from a business perspective, it makes sense. Without this requirement, everyone would just pay $50 or $100 to start a service plan right when they need expensive repairs, and the companies would go out of business. 

How To Get The Most Out Of A Protection Plan

The best thing you can do when you have a vehicle protection plan is to follow your car’s recommended maintenance schedule. In fact, this is a condition that many extended coverage plans require. 

Having a vehicle protection plan isn’t an excuse to sit back and let your car deteriorate. If you don’t take good care of your car, there’s a higher chance that things can go wrong and fail. If a coverage provider finds out that you didn’t follow standard maintenance procedures, they can deny your repair claim. 

Standard maintenance includes regular oil changes, tire rotations, fluid checks, and larger services at intervals like 60,000 and 90,000 miles. Most vehicle protection plans won’t cover wear items like filters and hoses, either. 

Vehicle Protection Plan Cost

What you pay for a plan is directly tied to the car you drive, its mileage, and the type of coverage you want. Do you just want to cover the engine, transmission, and drivetrain? Or do you want to cover the entire vehicle? 

You’ll pay more for luxury cars and cars with high-tech options. You can also affect the cost by choosing a deductible. If you go with a $0 deductible, you’ll pay more for the plan. The opposite would be true if you picked a $200 deductible. In the end, the only way to know exactly what you’ll pay is to get a quote. 

What’s The Best Vehicle Protection Plan?

It sounds corny, but the best vehicle protection plan is the one that’s best for you. It’s true. Our top three recommendations are Endurance, CARCHEX, CarShield, but you might find that only one of these works for your unique situation. 

All of these options offer roadside assistance, affordable payment plans, and rental car coverage. They also let you choose your own repair facility within large networks of certified shops, plus they can pay repair shops directly – not all third-party providers do that.

 

Endurance

We named Endurance the Best Overall provider. It's a direct provider, meaning you work with Endurance when you shop for plans and submit claims for repairs. Endurance also has a 4.5-star rating on Trustpilot. One nice thing about Endurance is that all plans come with one year of Endurance Elite for free. That includes key fob replacement, ID theft recovery, repair financing, tire replacement, roadside assistance, and more. Here are the plans that Endurance has available: 

Plan What It Covers

Supreme

Exclusionary coverage comparable to a factory warranty

Superior

Covers hundreds of components stated on the contract

Secure Plus

Mid-level coverage option with shortest wait time

Select Premier

Powertrain and a few vital systems are covered

Secure

Basic coverage for the powertrain

 

CARCHEX

CARCHEX has been in business for 20 years and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with accreditation. We rated CARCHEX as the Best Service provider for its customer care and reputation. The customer service agents at the company take pride in helping people find the best plan, and they take time in explaining all the points of each contract. Here are the plans you can get with CARCHEX:

Plan What It Covers

Titanium

The most comprehensive plan that’s comparable to a factory warranty

Platinum

Highest stated-coverage plan with hundreds of covered parts

Gold

Coverage for all of the major systems on the vehicle

Silver

Powertrain plus coverage for many essential systems

Bronze

Basic coverage for the powertrain and engine

 
 

CarShield

CarShield is the Best Value provider we came across. Its month-to-month contracts can be canceled at any time, and there is a money-back guarantee for contracts canceled within the first 30 days. The company has over 7,000 reviews on Trustpilot, where it has a 4.2-star rating. CarShield is known for its high-tech plan that can cover luxury vehicles and advanced equipment. Here’s what you can get from CarShield:

Plan What It Covers

New Car Diamond

Exclusionary coverage that is similar to a factory vehicle warranty (bumper-to-bumper plus powertrain)

Platinum

Covers many parts in different systems like air conditioning, transmission, the electrical system, and more

Gold

Covers the powertrain plus some essential electronics

Silver

Basic coverage for the powertrain

High Tech

Covers things like instrument clusters, touchscreens, communication devices, and more

Specialty

Coverage for ATVs, RVs, motorcycles, and other specialty vehicles

 

While there are definitely some extended warranty companies you want to avoid, we think any of these three would make a great choice. Plus, they all offer free quotes. Visit their websites or call to see what a vehicle protection plan would cost. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are vehicle protection plans worth it?

Yes, vehicle protection plans are worth it if you find the right company and you understand exactly what the contract covers. Endurance, CARCHEX, CarShield, and autopom! are all good options. Take the time to read the contract when you shop, and don’t be afraid to tell the salesperson you need to sleep on it. 

How much does CarShield cost per month?

CarShield plans are based on your car and the coverage level that you want. To get an exact price, you’ll have to get a quote. Typical plans can range from under $100 to $150 per month. 

Is it worth getting an extended warranty on a car?

Strictly speaking, an extended warranty is only offered by your car’s manufacturer. Factory extended warranties can offer good coverage, but the time/mileage limits are usually short and the warranties require you to go to a dealer for any covered repair. Another option to consider is a third-party vehicle protection plan. These types of plans offer more flexibility and can be worth it – if provided by a reputable company