Car rates

What is a vehicle maintenance contract? (2022)

A Vehicle Service Agreement (VSC) is a paid plan that helps cover auto repairs after your car’s factory warranty expires. Also known as extended car warranties, these protection plans can help owners avoid the stress of expensive repair costs.

In this article, the Home Media Review team explains what a vehicle maintenance contract is, what it typically covers, and how much you can expect to pay for this vehicle protection. We assessed the best extended car warranty companies to help you find the most suitable option for you, and we recommend that you compare free quotes before deciding on a vehicle service contract.

Overview of vehicle service contracts

Although a vehicle maintenance contract can also be called an extended warranty, it does not actually extend the Factory warranty vehicle manufacturer’s warranty. Instead, a third-party provider usually covers specified repairs.

You have many coverage options when it comes to vehicle maintenance contracts. There are plans that reflect powertrain warranties, covering engine, transmission and drive axle only. You can also find similar vehicle maintenance contracts at bumper-to-bumper warranties that come with new cars.

Depending on the provider and plan you choose, you may get coverage for one of the following vehicle components:

  • Air conditioner
  • Electrical system
  • Brakes
  • Suspension
  • fuel system
  • entertainment system
  • Navigation system

Common exclusions in vehicle service contracts

As with factory warranties, vehicle maintenance contracts do not cover all parts of a vehicle. Read the fine print of the contract before purchasing a vehicle protection plan so you know what’s covered and what isn’t. Here are some common exclusions:

  • Wear items such as tires and brake pads
  • Damage due to lack of routine maintenance
  • Damage caused by modified components
  • Damage caused by parts not covered
  • Damage caused by collisions, environmental factors or vandalism

Vehicle maintenance contracts will also not cover pre-existing issues. This is why most providers have a waiting period before coverage kicks in.

What is covered will depend on your choice of plan. If you want maximum protection and peace of mind, it’s best to find an exclusion plan that covers everything but a short list of components.

Additional benefits of vehicle maintenance contracts

Many vehicle maintenance contracts include benefits at no additional cost. Here are the most common additional benefits:

  • 24 hour roadside assistance: Lock assist is often included, along with battery jump starts and fuel delivery when you run out of gas.
  • Reimbursement of the rental car: When your car is in the shop for covered repairs, many plans help pay for car rental costs.
  • Trip Interruption Protection: If you have a covered breakdown more than a specified distance from your home, this benefit helps cover food and accommodation costs.
  • Towing services: Many plans pay for towing to the nearest repair center in the event of a covered breakdown.

How to Use Vehicle Service Contracts

Most vehicle service contracts from independent extended warranty companies allow you to take your car to any authorized mechanic for covered repairs. If your contract is from a car manufacturer, you will likely need to take your car to one of their dealerships.

The process for filing a claim varies depending on the provider you choose. Some require you to pay the repair center upfront and then reimburse you. Others pay the repair shop directly, so you only have to pay your deductible out of pocket.

Where to buy vehicle service contracts

You can purchase a vehicle maintenance contract from a dealership or a third-party provider. There are a few key differences to consider when making this decision.

Dealers

One good thing about buying an automaker’s vehicle protection plan from a dealership is that you’ll always get genuine replacement parts for covered repairs. The downside is that you may be limited to bringing your car to dealerships or authorized service centers for covered repairs. This could be a big deal if you prefer to use a trusted mechanic.

Third party providers

Choosing the independent route for a vehicle service contract gives you more flexibility in terms of repair facilities and plan options. Several providers, including Endurance and Carchex, offer coverage that lasts up to 200,000 miles or more. Although dealerships only provide coverage when you purchase your vehicle or before your factory warranty expires, independent companies allow you to obtain coverage almost any time.

How much does a vehicle maintenance contract cost?

You can expect to pay between about $99 and $129 per month for a car maintenance contract. Extended Warranty Fee depend on the plan you choose, the type of vehicle you own and the number of kilometers on the odometer. Our team received the following protection plan quotes for a 2020 Toyota Corolla with 30,000 miles, each with a $100 deductible:

Is a car maintenance contract worth it?

The peace of mind that comes with a long-term vehicle maintenance contract can be worth it. These protection plans are especially great for drivers who want to keep their car well beyond the factory warranty expiration date.

To help you decide if a car service contract is worth it, we’ve put together repair estimate from RepairPal. The following estimates are for common repairs on a 2020 Toyota Corolla, the same car covered by the plans in the table above:

Our recommendations for vehicle maintenance contracts

We researched all the major vehicle maintenance contract providers and rated them on a 10-point scale. The following companies are our top picks based on coverage options and affordability:

Endurance: the most comprehensive coverage

Global mark: 9.2
Coverage: 9.7
Cost assessment: 9.0

Endurance offers six levels of coverage that can last up to eight years and over 200,000 miles. Every Endurance vehicle maintenance contract comes with a free year of Endurance Elite benefits, which include tire repair or replacement, key fob replacement, total loss protection and collision reduction that offers up to $500 per accident.

Read more: Endurance Guarantee Review

Carchex: great reputation in the industry

Global mark: 8.6
Coverage: 9.1
Cost assessment: 8.6

Carchex car service contracts can last up to 10 years or 250,000 miles. There are five levels of coverage to choose from, and they all come with flexible payment plans. Carchex works with over 30,000 repair centers across the country.

Read more: Carchex Review

CarShield: the most affordable

Global mark: 8.4
Coverage: 9.1
Cost assessment: 9.0

CarShield offers six protection plans, including one for motorcycles, ATVs and other specialty vehicles. Unlimited terms and a variety of monthly payment options set CarShield apart from its competitors in the extended car warranty industry.

Read more: CarShield review

Our Methodology

Because consumers rely on us to provide unbiased and accurate information, we’ve created a comprehensive rating system to formulate our ranking of the best extended car warranty companies. We’ve collected data on dozens of auto warranty providers to score companies on a wide range of ranking factors. The end result was an overall score for each vendor, with the companies scoring the most points at the top of the list.

In this article, we have selected vendors with high overall ratings and cost ratings. The cost ratings were informed by car warranty rates and available deductibles.

*Data correct at time of publication.