Informed protection: Know exactly what’s covered before you buy a used truck warranty

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Updated Sep 9, 2020
Note a warranty’s caps on individual repairs and cumulative (“aggregate”) repairs, which might not offer the protection you desire during the contract’s term.Note a warranty’s caps on individual repairs and cumulative (“aggregate”) repairs, which might not offer the protection you desire during the contract’s term.

This story was originally published in September 2017.

Warranties for used trucks come in a wide range of prices, coverage and lengths. You can’t truly weigh the value of any particular warranty, though, unless you know what it covers – and what it doesn’t.

“Read the contract itself – not the marketing material,” says Rick Clark, vice president of National Truck Protection, one of the largest warranty providers. “Get an actual sample or copy of the contract. Warranties these days come in all flavors. You can get them cheap. You can get them expensive. The most important thing when buying a warranty is to know what you’re buying.”

Clark, who also is vice president of the Used Truck Association, recommends opting for a shorter warranty, such as six months to a year, with more comprehensive coverage over one that offers less coverage over a longer term.

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Also learn the contract’s caps on individual and cumulative repairs, he says. Say a warranty has a $20,000 aggregate cap – the total amount of coverage for the life of the contract – and your truck needs a $30,000 engine repair.

“You’ve got a $10,000 difference that somebody has to pay,” Clark says. Multiple repairs also could max out an aggregate limit.

Repair caps also can affect individual repairs. Clark says some contracts cover only $100 an hour for labor, but if your shop charges $150, “somebody has to pay the difference.”

If you have trouble understanding warranty terms, have someone at the dealership explain it, says Craig Kendall, president of the Used Truck Association and market manager for the dealer group The Pete Store. “If they can’t, call the warranty provider, and ask them to.”

Kendall also recommends buying a warranty at the time of purchase and rolling it into the loan if possible. “I hear people all the time say, ‘I’ll buy it myself and add it later,’ ” he says. “They hardly ever do.”

Single-truck operators in particular would be wise to grab a warranty when buying a used truck, Kendall says. “Buyers often ask, ‘Can I afford a warranty?’ ” he says. “My question is ‘Can you afford not to have a warranty?’ You need to take steps to protect yourself.”

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Kendall and Clark both recommend coverage that includes exhaust aftertreatment systems.

Clark says coverage for head gaskets and injectors is imperative and also provides a barometer of a warranty’s quality. If it’s comprehensive enough to cover head gaskets, “it’s probably a good warranty,” he says.

Buyers also need to check a warranty’s maintenance requirements, Kendall says. “Will you do what it’s asking you to do?” he says. “If not, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

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