Most of us think of warranties for our cars kind of like health insurance

Most of us think of warranties for our cars kind of like health insurance. If something goes wrong, you may have a “co-payment” but most of the cost of “care” will be covered. However, if the car you’re buying is past its manufacturer’s warranty, buying an after-market warranty for it may not always be a practical idea. The following are some things for you to keep in mind.

The first consideration you must make concerning an after-market warranty is whether or not you need one. When you’re buying a new car, the question is moot – the car will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Similarly, if you’re considering the purchase of a used car that has very low mileage, or that’s categorized by the manufacturer as a “certified pre-owned car,” it’s possible that the car is still under warranty from the manufacturer. If that is the case, you need to find out if the warranty will transfer to you. Don’t just take the sales person’s word for it – ask to see something in writing.

Another consideration is your personal status. If you have the financial resources to handle most repair bills easily and you’re willing to take your chances, you may not want to spend the money on a warranty. If, however, you aren’t comfortable with your financial resources or you worry that you could find yourself stuck paying a large repair bill, then by all means investigate the possibility of getting an after-market warranty. Your decision should depend on your personal financial situation and your willingness and ability to handle the cost of repairs.

There are also some automobile dealerships that regularly offer limited warranties on used cars as an incentive to get buyers to do business with them. They are generally very happy to talk about these plans, so calling up several different dealerships will give you a good idea of who offers warranties and what the general terms are.

Your next consideration should be whether or not the car is eligible. Assuming the car isn’t covered under a manufacturer’s warranty and the automobile dealership isn’t offering a warranty, look at the mileage on the car. If the odometer reading is 100,000 miles or more, you’ll find that it difficult to qualify for an after-market warranty. If you can find one, chances are equally small that it will be at all affordable.

Generally speaking, the older the car, the more expensive the warranty will be – even if the mileage is relatively low. In most cases with an older car, the cost of a warranty may not be worth it, depending on the level of coverage offered.

If an after-market warranty is available from a third party, expect the insurer to require that one of their mechanics inspect the car. After all, they are in the business of assessing risk, and they’ll want to make sure that the car they’re considering insuring doesn’t have any obvious mechanical faults or defects that would lead to a claim.

If you do decide to purchase an after-market warranty, you need to make sure you know exactly what’s covered and what steps you have to take to keep the warranty in effect. For example, some warranties may say they cover the “power train.” This is a term that’s defined differently by different companies, so make sure you know exactly how your prospective insurer defines it. If you have to be able to show records of maintenance at particular intervals to keep the warranty valid or only use a particular mechanic or dealership for repairs, make sure you know that ahead of time as well. You don’t want to take any action that will invalidate your warranty once you’ve gone to all the trouble of purchasing it.

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