Beware After-Market Auto Warranties From Third Parties

The Better Business Bureau sent out an alert that it’s been bombarded with complaints about extended auto warranty companies. Gripes include deceptive sales practices — including high-pressure phone sales tactics to get customers to pay upfront for contracts they can’t see — as well as insurance fraud.

The BBB offers the following advice to keep in mind if you’re considering an after-market car warranty:

*Don’t give out personal info over the phone or email unless you’re ready to buy a warranty.

*Don’t let a salesman force you into making an abrupt decision. Some sales agents offer a better rate if you offer an early commitment.

*If you’re offered a “bumper to bumper” warranty, that language doesn’t necessarily mean the warranty will cover every repair your car needs.

*Read the manufacturer’s warranty to make sure you’re not being sold coverage you already have.

*Check out the business with the BBB at or by calling 314-645-3300.

If you’ve ever bought an after-market warranty, how did it work out for you?


Edit Your Comment

  1. stock2mal says:

    I purchase SquareTrade warranties for many of my electronics. I have only used the service once, but it was on a $800 tv, so the $70 for the warranty kept me from having to pay out of pocket for a new tv. Square Trade PayPal’d me the money after they had a technician come to my home and verify that the TV would cost over $1200 to repair. 3rd party warranties are a rip off in the store though, stay away.

    • scoosdad says:

      I’ve often wondered why, for example, the Square Trade warranty offered for my Panasonic TV runs concurrently with the Panasonic 1 year warranty. So when you buy the Square Trade three year warrantly, it’s really only for the two years after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Can anyone give me a better understanding of how that works? I have a window of a few more weeks left to purchase the Square Trade warranty, and that part has always bugged me.

      For what Square Trade wants vs. what I paid for the TV, it seems to be a reasonable gamble as long as you know what’s covered going into it.

      • stock2mal says:

        Well, you have 90 days after you purchase the item to get the warranty, so you basically get 2 years and 3 months I think. If you do a Google search, you can always find Squaretrade coupons for 30% off or more, so that just brings the cost of the warranty down even lower.

        I have been pleased with them so far.

        • scoosdad says:

          My Panasonic warranty is for one year, parts and labor. I have to buy the Square Trade warranty by the three month point, max. That’s the part that makes no sense to me. It seems like calling it a three year warrranty is misleading since there’s no way you could get three years of coverage out of it unless the item you bought it for has only a three month long warranty. I’d be paying for 9 months of overlapping coverage, and Square Trade’s fine print says the Panasonic warranty applies when it’s still valid, not their’s.

          A better way to do it would be if you had to buy the Square Trade warranty by the three month mark, and then it didn’t kick in until after the Panasonic warranty had expired at the end of one year. That gets you a total of four years of coverage, as you might expect. That’s the ‘buyer beware’ part of a warranty like that, I guess. Everything else seems to be OK about it and I think I’m going to do it anyway next month.

          • stock2mal says:

            I agree that it would be better if the warranty kicked in after the manufacturer’s warranty had expired, but even for 2 extra years of coverage it’s a pretty good deal, especially since they usually just cut you a check.

      • stock2mal says:

        Also, if you call in and are past the window, they will generally do it anyway, from what I have read.

      • Julia789 says:

        I got the Square Trade on my new laptop, because my laptop’s warranty doesn’t cover a klutzy kid running around the house with a light saber toy. To me, it was worth it.

      • gman863 says:

        This is the same way Best Buy and other major retailers state their extended service plans.

        I don’t consider it deceptive for a few reasons:

        * It is clear to understand you are covered for x number of years from the original purchase date.

        * Some electronics warranties are 90 days labor, one year parts (a manufacturer ripoff). If the item breaks six months from now the manufacturer pays $5 for the part; you cough up the $100 for labor.

        * Most extended warranties cover lightening/power surge issues from day one. Manufacturer warranties don’t cover this at all. In addition, Square Trade offers optional accidental damage coverage on most items. If you drop your digital camera or spill coffee on your notebook PC this will save you the cost of replacing it.

      • MrEvil says:

        I find it a total ripoff too. Back when I worked at Lowe’s, the extended warranties they offered on appliances were 3 or 5 years PLUS whatever the manufacturer’s warranty was. So if you bought an appliance with a 2 year factory warranty and bought the 3 year extended you got a total of five years.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    The downside to freedom of information. whenever you buy something expensive, the rats come out of the woodwork and try to get you to buy insurance on it. After years, I STILL get solicitations for various home insurances scams.

  3. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    These are the same clowns that violated the “do not call” rules until for years the FCC smacked them down. Slime.

  4. Fjord says:

    I have received 3 ‘shady’ cards for the past two weeks. They read something like “Your factory warranty is about to expire, extend now.’
    Thank god I am car savvy and I do 100% of my car repairs at home. (that includes and engine swap once)

  5. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I made the mistake once of buying a 3rd party warranty with a brand-new truck I bought once – instead of paying more for the Chrysler warranty.

    Although I only needed to use it a couple of times, all the hoops I had to jump through to get anything approved and paid for completely negated any possible cost savings vs. the manufacturer warranty.

    Every vehicle I’ve bought since then has been accompanied by an extended warranty from the manufacturer themselves.

  6. rpm773 says:

    I’ve bought a 3rd party warranty before when I’ve picked up a used car. They usually work out in my favor, although that’s only because I’ve had some expensive fixes. A few things I’ve learned….

    Read the contract pamphlet and look for the clause explaining what is and what is not covered, and make sure you understand it. Sure, maintenance and general wear and tear usually isn’t covered, but look for vague language.

    You buy the warranty when you buy the car, but if the car you’re buying is used and still has a factory warranty on it, you’re essentially giving them money for nothing. Make sure the policy is prorated based on when it takes affect, and that it won’t expire before you get a chance to be protected by it.

  7. alana0j says:

    The only after market warranty I ever purchased was for my cell phone I bought off NewEgg. I paid like $25 I think but it did come in handy, my crazy ex decided to break my phone into pieces and the warranty sent me a check for the price of the phone a lot quicker than I anticipated they would.

  8. Consumer David says:

    Here’s a great tip for buying a factory warranty: If you live in an “expensive” state (e.g., New York) you can call any dealership of your car make in the country to get a quote on a new car warranty. I’ve done this with GM MajorGuard and Toyota where I called random dealerships in Montana and Florida to get the same contract between 30-40% cheaper – with no sales tax too!

    • incident man stole my avatar says:

      years ago when I worked for a “major” label an artist came down to DC to buy a new car because it was a lot cheaper than in NY.. it pays to shop around

    • gianspi says:

      This is a great suggestion. My friend actually was offered a 100,000 mile extended warranty through Subaru in NH when he bought the car. He declined and later found a dealer on a popular Subaru message board who offered the same warranty for $450. They took his VIN number and credit card number over the phone and updated his warranty.

      He can go into any dealer in the US and Canada and his new warranty will be accepted. No running through hooks, and probably a bit cheaper than the 3rd party warranties.

      In addition to your suggestion David, I would also like to suggest browsing the forums and message boards of your automaker; you may found a friendly dealer who will sell the warranty just over cost.

    • TasteyCat says:

      I’ve heard good things about Troy Dietrich ( He sells them at something like 3% above cost.

  9. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    They also have sneaky ways of denying: Electric window won’t raise / lower: Motor is covered. Regulator, not. The regulator is an integral part of the motor for most makes models, and the regulator is most often the reason for electric window failure. The motor is for all intents and purposes BROKEN, and would otherwise be covered, but because the regulator failed, you are denied.

  10. Blueskylaw says:

    Any company that offers to sell you an auto warranty if your car is less than 20 years old or has under 200,000 miles will always seem shady to me. They are insuring cars that are on the verge of major breakdowns and they know that you know it also. They are playing on your fears and will be supremely expensive, will deny your claim to the point of you having to file a lawsuit or both.

    • zzyzzx says:

      I just assumed that the coverage ends at the 20 year mark or 200,000 mile mark, whichever comes first.

      I also wondered if one could buy this on an already broken down, but spare car and just wait a couple of months then try to use the warranty.

  11. Rachacha says:

    Check online if you want to purchase a manufacturer’s extended warranty. I did, and saved 2/3 off the warranty. I purchased a new GM vehicle several years ago, and at the time, declined an extended warranty, however, the car had a lot of electrical failures the first 3 years, so I decided that I would extend my warrany an additional 3 years right before the original warrany expired. I went to a couple of the local dealerships, and then looked online and found a dealer out of state that was giving the warranty at his cost (presumably he was getting a high volume discount). I checked out his reputation, and decided everything was on the up and up and purchased the warranty. I paid $400 for a warranty that locally I could find for only $1200,,,great deal for a 4 year extension of the original manufacturer’s warranty.

    • bpoe13 says:

      Hello Rachacha,

      “and then looked online and found a dealer out of state that was giving the warranty at his cost”

      Can you give me a bit more advice on how you did this search? I am looking to extend my wifes Jeep Compass that has had many issues in the first 2.5 years.

      Thanks in advance,

  12. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I keep getting extended warranty offers purporting to be from my local Chrysler dealer – who I bought a car from in 2006. They even have his letter head and logo but are really from a third party. The dealer claims he is innocent but I’m sure he sold a list to the third party – they have too much info that they could only have got from him – and the letters keep coming with his letterhead and logo.

  13. Warble says:

    For a while my dad and girlfriend I knew were receiving robocalls saying that their car’s warranty was about to expire and requesting a call back, which was amusing since my girlfriend didn’t own a car. But my dad called the number back to see what the scam was and they asked for his make and model and when he said “1993 Geo Prizm” they just hung up on him.

    That’s probably not quite what the article is talking about. But is it really that different?

  14. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    I bought the factory extended warranty for my used (at the time 2y 8 month old with 29,000 miles) Toyota Solara, a 2 door Camry. My first nice used car besides the beaters in high school and college. LOTS of electronics compared to my older SUVs, enough to worry me about difficult and expensive diagnoses. I rolled the dice and lost, house won. No repairs needed.

    When I bought my house, I declined the warranty on the appliances/ heating and AC, etc. Bought the house in January. The AC died on about the second or third use. Started kicking myself for not buying the warranty. Then read the exclusions. Turns out we had a very rare and failure prone type of central AC. It was natural gas powered and I still can’t figure out the physics / thermodynamics on that. And it was specifically excluded in the warranty, one of the few exclusions.

    • zzyzzx says:

      You can power almost any appliance with natural gas if you want to. It still uses some electricity (for controls, usually) but uses the natural gas turbine (or combustion engine) to drive a pump where as a regular electric appliance uses an electric motor. It shouldn’t be rocket science, but the repair people aren’t used to seeing them either.

  15. framitz says:

    I purchased an extended warranty on a used motorcycle one time. I got home and after reading it carefully I realized it was a ripoff (nothing that WAS covered was even possible). I went back to the dealer and spoke with the sales person that sold me the bike and the policy.

    He read the policy, turning more red as he read. He agreed it was a ripoff, apologized profusely and refunded the money on the spot.

    He was so embarrassed I actually felt a little sorry for him. He promised to speak with the owner and stop offering extended warranties from the third party.

    I’ve dealt with this dealer several times since and they are the most honest shop I’ve ever dealt with…
    The owner being a race fan of my uncle back in the day was VERY helpful with discounts. I think they sold me most items including bikes at little more than their cost.

  16. mannyvel says:

    BBB – yelp-like blackmail, but institutionalized?

    • r586 says:

      BBB doesn’t do anything, I tried that with an auto repair shop listing all the problems I was having, the repair shop sent back a letter full of lies, some of which made no sense and could have been easily verified if they were true but offered no proof or details

      The BBB closed and ruled in their favor despite that the shop had been repairing my car for 3 months at this point. The super rare car I had that took so long to find parts for: a chevrolet prizm (that is just a rebadged Toyota corolla)

  17. Harmodios says:

    And that’s why…

    You never buy a used car.

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:


      1) These people are not targeting used car buyers. They are targeting anyone with an out of warranty car, including by brother who bought a new Accord in 2004 that is long out of warranty.

      2) Why not buy a used car? Both my wife’s and my cars were bought used when they were in the 29-32 month old range with about 27-29k miles. New enough that they still had some factory warranty left for immediate problems, but old enough that there was a goodly amount of depreciation on them already. Bought both of them from dealers and could have sold them for about what we paid for them after driving a couple of hundred miles. Pretty tough to do that with a new car off the lot.

    • JonStewartMill says:

      Maybe YOU’LL never buy a used car, but I’ve only ever bought one new car (in 1986) and I swore it would be my last.

      I guess buying used might be a bad idea if you know nothing about cars and aren’t bright enough to have the vehicle looked at by a mechanic.

  18. tBone says:

    If I may quote Mr. Popken from December 28, 2010: “And remember folks, extended warranties are largely worthless, so why bother going through this ordeal in the first place? Just skip ’em.”

  19. Dr.Wang says:

    We can make this really simple. It is safer to assume that ALL telemarketers are thieves and liars. Don’t do business with any of them. Same goes for door to door sales people. There. Problem solved.

  20. kc2idf says:

    “If you’re offered a “bumper to bumper” warranty, that language doesn’t necessarily mean the warranty will cover every repair your car needs.”

    This is valid. If you draw a straight line between the front and rear bumpers, most of the car is either above or below it.

  21. pastthemission says:

    I have a PENN warranty and it covers a bunch of different stuff that can be very expensive (entire engine, transmission, electrical system) but I’ve never had to get anything fixed that was actually covered. Figures.

    • JonStewartMill says:

      If it were otherwise, you wouldn’t have people beating down your door to sell you an extended warranty. I learned that lesson at the same time I learned how financially foolish it is to buy a new car.

  22. fortymegafonzies says:

    I bought one when I purchased a truck with only about 25,000 miles on it. The warranty policy was written really well and specifically stated what it did and didn’t cover and the price was resonable so I figured what the hell, as it only added a pittance to my monthly payments. A few years later the truck was hit and declared a total loss so, as per the policy, I went back to the dealer to get the balance of my warranty refunded (should have been about $900) since I obviously would no longer be needing the warranty. Turns out the warranty comany just sold policies for a few years and then completely fell of the face of the Earth, so I never got the money back.

  23. Kestris says:

    A year after we bought our new to us CR-V, we’re STILL getting those stupid ‘Your warranty is about to expire!” scams in the mail.

    So annoying.

  24. balthisar says:

    I bought a great 3d party warranty many, many years ago when I still distrusted GM vehicles, but bought a used GM vehicle anyway. I don’t remember the name of the warranty company, though, but they fixed every problem that car ever had.

    These days, I’d only buy an extended warranty for a Chrysler, VW, Mitsubishi, or Hyundai though.

  25. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Huge fan of Square Trade, especially on eBay purchases.

  26. Alexander says:

    Some years ago I bought a 40″ Samsung LCD and paid about $60 for a 3 year warranty from Fry’s. Last year, a few months before the warranty was about to expire, the TV went kaputz and needed a new motherboard. It got fixed just fine a week later. $60 well worth it.

  27. mikec041 says:

    Warranty Gold, moved operations to Grand Caymans then declared bankruptcy. Continued selling worthless warranties until shuttered by the Texas AG.

  28. PortlandBeavers says:

    Just keep enough money in the bank to pay to get things fixed.

  29. gman863 says:

    The DMV in most states sells your contact info. (name, address, make/model, VIN #, etc.) to whoever wants to buy it. Marketers can usually choose a set of paramaters (vehicles between 1998-2005, registered Harley-Davidson owners, etc.) to pitch warranties, dealerships or magazines.

    What really sucks is that in most states there is no way to “opt out” of this by contacting the DMV.

  30. kayley23 says:

    I was in the middle of a 5 car accident and the love of my life car was totaled. I was 19 away from home and trying to figure out how to buy a car. Not only did I get taken on the car, when it came to signing the paperwork I was told I had to purchase a warranty with it. That warranty came in 3 levels of protection, etc. I ended up paying about half the price of the care for this disaster.
    I do have to say though, when my alternator went bad, they covered it, so they saved me SOME money…and it came at a time where that money was badly needed.