Are Those Lifetime Warranties From Dealers Any Good?

Image: Patty Peck Honda

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing lifetime warranty offers, big luxury sedans under $25k, and a complex multi-car situation.

First up, do those “lifetime powertrain warranties” that dealers offer carry any value?

I recently purchased a pre-owned 2019 Nissan Altima. It comes with whatever is left of the manufacturer 3 year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty, as well as a “Lifetime Powertrain Warranty” that is included from the dealership. Does this mean that the dealership will pay for anything that fails within the engine, transmission, etc. for the lifetime of the car, or is it just a gimmick?

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This is part gimmick and part value-added feature depending on how long you keep your car. Often a “lifetime powertrain warranty” really means 100,000 miles so you need to look at the fine print, but sometimes dealers really offer to cover your engine and transmission for as long as you own the car. Keep in mind most people don’t keep cars for very long and this offer doesn’t carry over to the second owner. Also, the engine and transmission are typically the components that last the longest if well maintained. Another detail often part of these warranties is that you have to have your car serviced at specific intervals at this dealership or that lifetime warranty is void.

Dealers often use this as a marketing or sales angle, and they are taking the gamble that you probably won’t keep your car for ten years and you will give their service department business to maintain that warranty. Is this extra coverage a good thing to have? Sure, but I wouldn’t base your deal decision on it.


Next, what’s the best big luxury cruiser for under $25,000?

I had a brand new 2015 fully loaded A7 on lease... loved it! After turn in, I took a break on huge car notes and got a brand new Malibu. Now that’s up... I want luxury (and space; I’m 6 feet), but a low note so I’m going used.

We want to stay under $25k... So far we’ve looked at an A8 L, S550, A7 (kinda hard getting an older model once you’ve had a newer one), K900, and Genesis. Generally I prefer luxury and tech over performance. What do you recommend?

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You mentioned it’s hard to get an older model once you have had a new one, and shopping for big, German luxury sedans in the sub-$25,000 price point will mean a car with some age, miles, and likely no warranty on it. That’s a bit of a risky purchase for someone who is trying to keep their costs in check. Of course, there is the Lexus LS which is very durable, but you are still looking at an older model with higher mileage.

I would focus on those Korean luxury cars like the K900 and Genesis models that take a super hard depreciation curve but offer a more up to date car with reasonable running costs.

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And finally, sometimes a complex vehicle situation is pretty simple.

My household consists of myself, my wife, and our three-month old baby.

We currently have three vehicles:

2013 Ram 1500 Laramie Quad Cab 4x4 – Wife’s Monster Truck

· ~135,000 miles

· She likes it because it’s big, safe, and 4x4

2006 BMW 330i – My Daily Driver

· ~227,000 miles

· I love it. 6-speed manual, sport package, all the packages really.

· Kinda falling apart, interior trim, no clear coat on roof, front bumper scraped up, etc.

· Babies well

2000 Corvette Coupe Z51 6-Speed – Fun Car

· ~85,000 miles

· Wanted it to be my AutoCross and HDPE car

· Still want it to be daily drivable

· Not really in love with it, lots of small things need to be addressed

· No room for baby

We are fortunate. All cars are paid off.

1. I think my wife would have an easier time in a 5-pass SUV.

2. My daily will need replacing soon. Would still like it to be manual and somewhat fun.

3. Would like vehicle towing capability.

4. I still want a fun track-ish car that can go on road trips to events / shows and preferably bring baby and wife.

5. Would rather not have to spend money on change up…or at least minimize to make Mrs. happy.

The wife is very convinced we will lose lots of money swapping vehicles. She may be right. Ram will need hail damage repaired, taxes on new (to us) cars, etc. Can maybe get $17k from truck, probably $10k from Vette. Carvana offered $192 for BMW…so idk. I think I just have too many requirements for everything to be met.

I still want a vehicle that can tow / has a bed for the occasional uses (I know there are other options, but we are alone in OK, moved for a job no family to pull resources from).

I’m not super keen on daily driving the tow vehicle due to mpg and fun considerations Prefer my two vehicles to be manual trans.

My options are pretty much to either stay as is and make due (keep the BMW running, tweak the Vette until I hopefully like it, deal with the less-than-ideal aspects of truck as family car) or do a major switch up.

I guess my car enthusiast desire to constantly change what I’m driving is getting in the way of my practical thinking.

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I think we need to separate your vehicle needs and perspective from your wife’s. She likes the truck, she feels safe, it seems to be good for the kids and it is running fine. You should keep the truck. I don’t see a reason to part with a vehicle that someone likes if it’s working for your situation. Furthermore, your wishlist says you want a vehicle that can tow, I would imagine your pickup can do that just fine.

As for your situation, if your fun cars are no longer fitting your needs and or becoming expensive so they are no longer enjoyable, it may be time to start fresh with a clean slate on both cars. Of course, how you handle that is limited by your budget, so if you aren’t in a position to afford something you really like, perhaps it’s best to make d0 with what you have.

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Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!

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About the author

Tom McParland

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)