A warranty is a specific guarantee for quality or performance within a set period of time. Auto warranties insure the owner of a car against mechanical failures that occur during normal vehicle use. Aftermarket warranties are basically the same as extended warranties, except that aftermarket warranties are backed by companies other than the manufacturer. Extended warranties are basically warranty extensions for more money with the same manufacturer/dealership/company after your first new car (basic) warranty has expired.
Aftermarket warranties are classified as a type of extended warranty.Aftermarket warranties have a tendency to be cheaper than actual extended warranties backed by manufacturers or dealerships. However you should always double check the company from which you intend to purchase the aftermarket warranty. Some companies might offer sub-par service or terms and others might be outright trying to scam you.
Similar to any sort of warranty, the things you want to look for in an aftermarket warranty are: price, coverage and terms of service. Whatever the warranty price comes out to be will be heavily dependent on the length of coverage and terms of service. Aftermarket warranties do not come in as-neat packages of 3 years or 36,000 miles. They can cover as little as 3,000 miles up to 170,000 depending on the model of the car; the coverage period can span only 3 months or perhaps 14 years. The terms of service may be more confining as well, limiting your choice of dealers or mechanics.
A rock solid aftermarket warranty will not limit your choice of dealers or mechanics, and should cover most if not all of the possible mechanical failures covered in the new car coverage. Maintenance items are never covered. Preferably opt for a warranty that will pay for the repairs directly; reimbursement can take months if you have to front the money for a repair.
Aftermarket warranties are typically cheaper the earlier you purchase them. That means getting the coverage before your current, or new car warranty, has expired can be cheaper. If your basic warranty expires and you are offered an additional 4 year warranty but do not plan on owning the car for the additional 4 years, then consider that extending your warranty coverage on the car may also make your car worth more at resale time.
A careful reading of the fine print and attention to detail are crucial before inking a contract.
Do your research on companies offering aftermarket warranties well in advance of actually needing one. Check with your dealer and manufacturer to see what extended warranties are being offered and compare it to the deals of independent companies. Most importantly, consider your own needs when purchasing an aftermarket warranty.