How to Check if a Car Is Still Under Warranty

Dustin Hawley | Feb 10, 2021

In many instances, when consumers purchase a used car, they want to know if the original manufacturer’s warranty still protects that car. Even if you bought your vehicle brand new, it can sometimes be challenging to keep track of warranty terms.

call dealership to check warranty

Moreover, different parts of your car may be covered under separate warranties. For example, many new vehicles come with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. If your camshaft were to fail, it would be covered under these terms, but the standard warranty would cover an issue with your power windows.

Here’s a quick, concise guide to checking if your car is still under warranty. Before we begin, we should highlight that this guide covers the manufacturer’s warranties only. If you’ve purchased an extended warranty plan for your vehicle, you’ll need to reach out to the warranty provider to retrieve information applicable to your specific terms.

Step One: Find Your VIN Number

Your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (abbreviated somewhat redundantly as “VIN Number”) is a 17-character string of letters and numbers that are unique to your vehicle. It contains information about the vehicle type, the manufacturer, and even which plant the car was manufactured in.

For legal purposes, manufacturers are required to locate a VIN plate or sticker in several locations on the vehicle to ensure it can be uniquely identified. Here are some of the places you can usually find a VIN number:

  • Look on the outside of your windshield, just under the wiper blade on the driver’s side. There should be an embossed plate, either at the very front end of the dash or just outside the front of the glass.
  • Another good place to look is on the driver’s side door. Open the door, and look for a sticker under the latch. Sometimes, the sticker is located on the jamb instead, either near the latch or next to the side view mirror.
  • Many manufacturers have a VIN plate under the hood. Lift the hood, and look near the front of the engine compartment. The plate will often be next to the hood latch for easy visibility.
  • If your spare tire compartment is located in the trunk, lift the tire out and look for a plate or a sticker underneath the tire bay.
  • A VIN plate is often found in the rear driver’s-side wheel well.
  • If all else fails, check your car’s paperwork. Your vehicle registration, insurance card, and title document should all have your VIN number printed on them.

If you’ve tried all of these options and still fail to locate your VIN number, call your local dealer. Give them your car’s year and model, and they should be able to tell you exactly where to find the VIN on your specific vehicle.

Step Two: Check Your Odometer

Once you have located your VIN, the next step is finding out how many miles your car has been driven. This information is essential because most warranties have a mileage limitation. A good example is the 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty we mentioned above.

To find your car’s mileage, check the odometer. It’s located behind your steering wheel and can be either mechanical or electrical. To view an electrical odometer, you may need to turn the key in the ignition so the vehicle’s power system turns on and displays information on your dash and instrument panel.

Step Three: Call Your Local Dealership

With your VIN number and mileage in hand, you have all the information you need to determine if your vehicle’s warranty is still active. Now, all you need to do is call a dealership and inquire.

If you have a good working relationship with a particular dealer, start by giving them a call. Otherwise, any dealer for your manufacturer should be able to provide you with the information you need. So if you own a Ford truck, for example, any Ford dealership should be able to tell you if your truck’s warranty status is active or not.

If you can’t find a VIN number in worst-case scenarios, you may have to drive to the dealership. Even in this scenario, they’ll have all the necessary information on-hand to assist you.

One place you should avoid using as an information source on warranties is your vehicle’s manual. The manual will typically have information about the warranty terms and conditions, which seems like a natural place to look. So why should you avoid doing this?

The problem with this practice is that the warranty becomes active on the date of purchase, not the manufacture date, and not the model year. Your used 2016 car may have been purchased in the fall of 2015, or it could have been sold a year later during a dealer sale. In this situation, a five-year warranty may expire in Fall 2020 or even as late as Fall 2021, depending on the terms and the actual date of purchase.

If All Else Fails, Try Carfax

As noted, any reputable dealership should be able to sort out any warranty issues. That said, there are always outliers or specific situations that may require a bit more investigation. In that case, running a Carfax report is an excellent first step.

Carfax is a paid service that finds your vehicle’s history. It does this by searching through dealer records, insurance records, and state DMV databases. You can search by VIN number or enter your license plate number and state the vehicle is registered in.

Warranty issues aside, it’s usually best practice to run a Carfax report on any used vehicle. In addition to warranty information, you’ll learn about any accidents, airbag deployments, major repairs, and whether it has ever been used for commercial or fleet purposes. Having background information on your vehicle is essential in achieving the peace of mind you made a solid purchase decision.

Always Follow Your Maintenance Schedule

Vehicle warranties are not unconditional. Therefore, if you want your manufacturer to honor their commitment, you need to keep up your end of the bargain and maintain your car to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Your owner’s manual will have a recommended maintenance schedule. Follow it. Get your oil changes, wheel alignments, and fluid changes performed at the appropriate times. This is not just crucial for maintaining warranty coverage; it will also help ensure your car stays in the best possible condition.

Summary

As we have outlined throughout this article, finding out your vehicle’s warranty status is a simple, three-step process. Find your VIN number, check your mileage, and call your dealer to see if your car is still covered. If you found this guide helpful, take a look at our other guides and reports for more information!

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