The 30-Second Review
The best extended car warranty will provide a straightforward claims and repair process in the case of a breakdown as well as excellent customer service. To find our top pick, we consulted auto industry experts and compared 42 providers to see which had the strongest history of financial stability and customer satisfaction. In the end, we found two picks that outperformed the rest.
With thorough plans for new and old cars, we like the coverage Endurance provides. Out of all the options we compared, it offered the best mixture of transparency, financial stability, and customer service — meaning you’ll get a warranty you can trust.
Another to Consider
The insurer backing its policies has a higher financial strength rating than the one backing our top pick. But strict eligibility requirements and less transparency kept it from the top spot. That said, it’s still a stable company that can offer reliable protection for new car owners.
- February 2, 2018 – We’ve updated this page to consider new contenders and dig deeper into the terms of our top picks. Two of our top picks, Endurance and Easy Care, remain great choices, but Warranty Direct didn’t stand up to closer scrutiny of its insurer.
The Best Extended Car Warranty
While car insurance protects you from the cost of external damage, such as an accident or hail, an extended car warranty covers the cost of mechanical breakdowns — think: fixing timing belts or transmission mounts. Extended warranty providers tend to get a bad rap, thanks to fly-by-night providers and fraudsters, such as US Fidelis. But not all companies are bad news. A dependable extended car warranty provider offers coverage that can protect you from expensive repairs.
An extended car warranty is not for everyone, though. A study by Consumer Reports revealed that the average cost of these warranties is often more than what you’ll save you on the cost of repairs. But if you plan to own your car for a long time or own a used car, an extended warranty can be a worthwhile investment. Cars like these will be at a higher risk of breakdowns, and an extended car warranty offers the peace of mind that comes from knowing you won’t have to foot a lot of repair bills.
Our pick for the best extended car warranty provider is Endurance. Out of the 42 providers we compared, it had the most reasonable eligibility requirements while also being backed by an insurer with verifiable high financial strength ratings. That means, your claim will be paid even if Endurance goes out of business. However, with 12 years in the market and a history of customer satisfaction, Endurance and its coverage options are here to stay. Some have reported difficulty during the claims process, so you may have to work a little harder for the coverage you paid for. But this is fairly standard in the industry and Endurance is the most reliable option on the market.
With 34 years in business, Easycare is a great and reputable alternative to our top pick for new car owners. Its eligibility requirements are strict and only cars that are under 2 years old or 24,000 miles will qualify for a quote or coverage. Easy Care is also backed by an insurer with a superior financial strength rating, meaning you won’t have to worry about your repairs being paid for if the company goes under. If you qualify, it’s worth getting a comparison quote.
How We Found the Best Extended Car Warranty
We had to pass on USAA.USAA only offers extended car warranties to active and retired members of the military and their families. Since the majority of people won’t be eligible, we didn’t include USAA on our list. But it has a strong reputation for reliable service which makes them worth a look if you’re eligible.
We started our review by rounding up a list of all 42 extended car warranty providers offering coverage in at least 45 states. The best extended car warranty should be widely accessible, so we excluded any with special eligibility requirements, like USAA.
Of course, it takes more than availability to be the top pick. The best extended warranty provider will provide a straightforward claims and repair process that actually delivers on its promise of reliable coverage. According to automotive expert and analyst Lauren Fix, even seemingly reputable providers like dealerships “offer extended warranties that can leave you in the lurch.” She explained that “no matter where you buy an extended warranty, you should do a lot of research on the companies.” So that’s exactly what we did. We took a deep dive into consumer reviews, financial strength ratings, and contracts (especially the fine print) to separate the dependable companies from the rest.
We focused on providers that sell policies directly to consumers.
Not all extended car warranty providers will sell to you directly. Many companies will only sell contracts through a dealership. Dealers offer the convenience of rolling the heavy cost of a warranty into your car loan, which makes it easier to manage payments. However, lumping your warranty into monthly payments can also mask the overall cost — a sneaky tactic that dealers can use to make a profit.
Laws vary by state — CA you’re out.It is illegal to sell extended car warranties directly to consumers in the state of California, so if you live there you have no choice but to buy a contract through a dealership. A similar law exists in Maryland, except residents there can buy directly from providers as long as they administer their own contracts, meaning our top picks are fair game.
Dealers also don’t offer many options when it comes to picking an extended car warranty provider. In most cases, you’ll have the option to buy a manufacturer’s brand-specific warranty or a contract from whichever third-party company the dealer is partnered with. That means there’s a good chance that there exists a better deal with a different provider through another dealership. But with over 16,700 dealerships in the United States, shopping around is easier said than done, and you can’t really know who your provider might be until you visit or ask. Checking what your local dealerships have on offer is still a good idea, but for these reasons, and since we can’t recommend local options to everyone, we excluded dealership-only providers.
Enter direct providers. A convenient alternative that sell direct to consumers, meaning you can shop around and pick a company and policy you like. In addition, you’ll know from the beginning what it’s like to work with your provider and how they’re going to serve you (not serve the dealership).
Manufacturer-backed warranties ensure that your repairs include original parts and are in the hands of factory-trained technicians. Lauren Fix explained “I prefer going with an extended warranty from the vehicle brand, because there are no third-party parts or services that put you at risk for low quality repairs. Third-party companies can also go bankrupt, taking your money and leaving you without coverage.”
So why does our review focus on third-party providers? Manufacturer-backed warranties are heavily dependent on the brand of your car and the dealership you go to. Rather than recommend a provider that will only serve a select few, we shifted our attention to finding the most trustworthy third-party provider that can serve most people.
A manufacturer-backed warranty is certainly worth a look, but it’s always a good idea to see which alternative options are available before you commit. Our top pick had to have a tried and true reputation for high-quality repairs and financial stability (read on to learn more).
Alpha Warranty Services
American Auto Shield
Omega Auto Care
Route 66 Extended Warranty
Providers had to administer their own policies.
When it comes to extended car warranties, there are two types of direct providers: ones that sell and administer their own contracts and brokers who sell another company’s contracts. Similar to dealers, brokers act as intermediaries between you and extended warranty providers. Brokers, like CarChex, compare plans from a range of partner companies on your behalf to find a plan that provides the coverage you need at the most affordable rate possible. While convenient, many brokers contract with the same administrators, so just like going through a dealership will limit your options, so will going through a broker. In addition, the broker is not the administrator of the policies it sells, which means it won’t be the one responsible for paying your claim — you’ll have to file with a completely different company that you have no experience working with.
Working directly with the company who administers your claim also gives you the opportunity to negotiate a lower price that fits your budget (check out our How to Get The Best Extended Car Warranty section for negotiating tips). Rather than waiting to be told what price you’ll pay or who your administrator will be, we like going into our claims and repairs process knowing exactly what to expect. To remove any uncertainty about your coverage, we chose to only recommend providers you’d be doing business with from beginning to end.
Ally Protection Plan
Atlas Auto Protection
Auto Warranty Value
Complete Car Warranty
National Vehicle Protection Services
Repair Defense Network
Vehicle Protection Headquarters
We only considered providers backed by an insurance company.
The history of extended car warranties is full of providers that promised reliable coverage, only to go belly up, leaving customers with costly repairs and useless contracts. These fly-by-night operations are why some states require backing by insurance companies. The reason? In the case that a provider goes under, the insurer will step in to pay your claim, meaning better protection for your car and wallet.
“Reputable providers purchase insurance from heavily regulated insurance companies to guarantee the performance of all of their service contracts. If the provider was to go out of business or refuse to pay a claim unjustly, the customer would have recourse with the insurance company.”
Backing by an insurance company adds a few additional benefits, too. According to the Federal Trade Commission, insurance regulations provide extra protection by often requiring providers to:
- Maintain an adequate financial reserve and enough assets to pay claims
- Base fees on expected claims rather than inflating fees to exceed the cost of potential repairs or services
- Seek approval from state insurance offices for premiums or contract fees
Even if it’s not required by law in every state, backing by an insurance company is the most dependable way to have your claim paid — no matter what happens to the original provider or their assets. So we cut any extended car warranty providers that didn’t have an insurer backing their policies.
Delta Auto Protect
While searching for each company’s insurer, we also explored their websites and looked to customer reviews for any reports of untrustworthy coverage. We cut any that did not live up to their claims of reliable coverage. For example, National Repair Solutions holds a D- rating by the Better Business Bureau for misleading advertising and any reviews we could find were negative. Only three providers had the credibility to make it to our final test.
AA Auto Protection
ASAP (American Standard Auto Protection
Concord Auto Protect
Key Vehicle Resources
National Repair Solutions
Nationwide Auto Guard
Then we verified the financial strength of the insurer.
At this point, we were left with only three extended car warranty providers: Endurance, Easy Care, and Warranty Direct. While all three guaranteed backing by a top-rated insurance company, we wanted to verify the financial strength ratings of each insurer.
For verification, we turned to the financial strength ratings of A.M. Best, a ratings agency that focuses on the insurance industry. A high A.M. Best rating indicates that the insurer has enough financial stability to back the claims of the provider it insures. Warranty Direct’s website claims it has backing by an A-rated insurer, but our research showed that its insurer, National Service Contract Insurance Company (NSCIC), does not currently have any A.M. Best rating at all, let alone an A. Since their insurer failed our financial strength confirmation (not to mention their misleading claim) Warranty Direct was out of the running.
Endurance and Easy Care on the other hand, delivered on their claims of financial stability. Endurance is insured by Wesco Insurance, which currently holds an A rating from A.M. Best, while Easy Care is insured by Universal Underwriters Insurance Company, which has an A+. Now that we were down to two financially reliable companies, we took a look at the fine print to see what a contract with each would be like and found that Endurance came out on top.
Our Top Pick for the Best Extended Car Warranty
EnduranceTransparent coverage and dependable customer service
Out of the 42 extended car warranty providers we compared, Endurance is the option we feel most confident recommending. The company stands out for having verifiable financial stability and easily accessible sample contracts for customers to review. If you need help understanding the coverage options, exceptional customer service representatives will also walk you through the purchasing process.
Endurance impressed us with their transparency. Unlike many of its competitors, the company’s website provides direct links to sample contracts for each of its four plans. Each of the contracts also clearly state who the insurer (Wesco Insurance) will be on the first page. Its top competitor, Easy Care, only provides sample contracts if you send them an email request, and the identity of their insurer is buried in the terms and conditions on the second to last page — we also found no mention of the insurer on their website. While you can still get access to the contracts and insurer information for Easy Care, we like that Endurance makes it easy to compare the actual ins and outs of its contracts for confident shopping.
More importantly, Endurance makes it clear that contracts will cover cars both old and new. On our call with Easy Care we learned that the company does not offer coverage for cars older than two years or over 24,000 miles. This stood in sharp contrast with Endurance, which not only provided a quote for a four year old car with 50,000 miles but also eligibility for its most thorough plan, Supreme Coverage.
The exact Endurance plan you qualify for will depend on the make, model, and mileage of your car. If your car is fairly old, or has high miles, you likely won’t qualify for the company’s top-level Supreme Coverage (a standard practice in the industry). But Endurance offers three other coverage plans with more lenient requirements, so most will be able to find a plan that suits their needs. It is important to note that these other plans won’t cover as many parts as the Supreme plan. That said, they will still cover the most vital components of your car such as the engine, transmission, and drive axle assembly — all for a cheaper price. Protection of vital parts is especially key for old and well-traveled cars which are more likely to breakdown and often excluded from any coverage at all. The good news? Endurance’s plans include protection for both new and high-mileage vehicles which means reliable coverage whether your car is new or over the hill.
Unlike the other plans, Endurance’s Supreme Coverage offers exclusionary coverage — a form of coverage that covers so many parts that it’s easier to list the parts it doesn’t cover. Exclusionary plans are the most thorough extended warranty policies available, which means more protection and less out of pocket repairs for uncovered parts.
A word of caution: exclusionary coverage will be more expensive and is not to be confused with wear and tear coverage. Wear and tear typically includes coverage for parts including door handles, tires, and upholstery. Most extended warranty providers, including our top picks, don’t offer this type of coverage.
When it comes time to file a claim for repairs, Endurance allows you to take your vehicle to your dealership or any repair facility licensed by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), a professional group that certifies automotive repair mechanics and shops. Not only does this ensure your repairs will be completed by an experienced professional, but with over 300,000 ASE certified mechanics in the US and Canada, you’ll be able to perform repairs no matter where you are. Better still, every Endurance plan includes 24/7 roadside assistance and rental car benefits so you won’t be without transportation as you wait for repairs.
There’s currently a cloud over Wesco Insurance.Wesco Insurance is currently under review with A.M. Best. According to A.M. Best, they still have at least $2 billion in financial surplus which means they will be able to pay off claims. But the implications of a review are negative and their financial strength ratings may take a hit. We’re keeping a close eye on the situation and will update this review in the event of any changes.
Endurance does have a few flaws though. For one, customers have filed complaints about difficulty getting claims accepted on sites like the Better Business Bureau. While the company has many positive reviews, most only mention exceptional customer service. Common complaints include Endurance refusing to cover a part it led customers to believe was covered and using misleading advertising. Unfortunately, experiences like these are common throughout the third-party extended warranty industry — Easy Care also suffers from the same issues. Fortunately, there are also reports of Endurance customer service representatives solving such problems. In any case, we recommend thoroughly reviewing your contract on your own and with a customer service representative to make sure you understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t.
If you’re looking for a reputable third-party extended car warranty provider, Endurance is hard to beat. It has all the makings of a great provider including transferable coverage (in the chance you get a new car while your coverage is still ongoing). With reasonable eligibility requirements, excellent customer service, and a high level of transparency, it is a dependable alternative to dealership offerings.
EasyCareReliable for new car owners but strict eligibility requirements
Like our top pick, Easy Care is a direct provider of extended car warranties that is also backed by a financially stable insurance company. But the eligibility requirements are far stricter. If your car is older than two years or over 24,000 miles, you’re out of luck.
Easy Care does have a few perks. For one, the company has been in business for 34 years, compared to Endurance’s 12 years, making it one of the more established providers in the industry. The A.M. Best financial strength rating of its insurer, Universal Underwriters Insurance Company, is also an A+ (just above Endurance’s insurer, Wesco Insurance, which has an A).
While Endurance edged out the victory with it’s broader eligibility and superior customer service during our research, if you’re a new car owner, getting a comparative quote from Easy Care is worth the time.
How to Get The Best Extended Car Warranty
Extended car warranties aren’t really warranties.
An extended car warranty is not actually a warranty as defined by federal law. The more accurate term is “vehicle service contract.” The reason has to do with timing. A service contract can be arranged at any time and costs extra while a warranty is included in the purchase price of the vehicle. The term “extended car warranty” is mostly used as a marketing gimmick — it makes the product sound like it’s an extension of the manufacturer’s coverage, when in fact it’s a vehicle service contract sold by a third party. However, it will still protect you from the cost of repair in the case of a mechanical breakdown.
So, just because you’re buying an “extended warranty” doesn’t mean you’re actually extending the coverage you got when you bought your car. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Extended warranties can actually be tailored to fill the gaps of a manufacturer’s warranty. For example, J.D. Power found that problems with technology like Bluetooth and GPS are the top reasons for declines in vehicle dependability — features manufacturer warranties won’t cover, but extended warranties might (Endurance covers in-car technology that was installed by the manufacturer in some of its policies, but not aftermarket items). Other benefits of an extended warranty include roadside assistance and even rental car reimbursement, both of which Endurance offers.
If you decide to go with an extended warranty, be sure to negotiate.
At most dealerships, you can not only negotiate the price of a car but also the price of an extended warranty. Extended warranties are often marked up from wholesale so that the dealer can make a profit. In order to negotiate a different price, we recommend finding cheaper quotes online and using them as leverage to get a lower price when you visit the dealer.
Experts advise finding a good estimate of the dealer’s cost of the warranty and then offering to pay $100-200 dollars over it. This will generally result in a counteroffer that is much lower than the marked up price. For more information, we advise looking at negotiating samples by professional negotiators.
Negotiating isn’t limited to dealers either. On a phone call with Endurance, our tester was given the option to negotiate a lower price with a manager (even after they were offered a discount for getting a first-time quote). We can’t vouch for every third-party provider, but trying for a lower price is always worth a shot.
If your car is new, buying an extended warranty early on can lead to lower costs.
Most new cars already come with a warranty that lasts 3 years or up to 36,000 miles. Although it seems counterintuitive to buy coverage from an extended warranty provider while you still have the dealership’s included protection, doing so often results in lower quotes and costs. Simply put, it boils down to one rule: the older your car gets, the more expensive an extended warranty will be. So if you are confident that you want an extended warranty for the added peace of mind, we recommend looking for a provider within the first year of ownership. The double-protection won’t add any benefits during the first 3 years of ownership, but if you plan to own your car for more than 4 to 5 years, buying early will lead to future savings.
The Best Extended Car Warranty: Summed Up