But what exactly is it, and when does it come into play?
Also known as the drive train, the powertrain of a car refers to the engine, drive axles, drive shaft and transmission. While the powertrain might seem like a small portion of the car, they are the really-expensive-to-repair components of the vehicle. Enhanced powertrain warranties offer longer/more coverage periods. A powertrain warranty is a separate guarantee for the part of the car that provides power, and the components that transfer that power into kinetic energy. It is separate from the basic new car warranty and usually lasts at least twice as long.
Powertrain warranties normally cover a car for double the duration of a basic warranty. The terms may vary according to the manufacturer, but they can last anywhere from 5 years/60,000 miles to 10 years/120,000 miles. In more recent years, a few automakers have started marketing lifetime powertrain warranties. Some of these warranties may not be transferable, though they may come with perks, such as free rental or towing.
Keep in mind, however, that if the basic warranty expires and the powertrain warranty is still in effect, then you are only covered for what the manufacturer defines as the powertrain. Anything else will have to come from your own pocket unless you extend your warranty.
As always, the fine print in the warranty contract can make oodles of difference in how much you end up paying. Especially when discussing the powertrain, there are definition differences among manufacturers, so be very sure you know what you are signing on for. Terms such as "long block" (the part of the engine that can be removed) and "short block" (part of the engine beneath the cylinder head) and other terms might be manufacturer specific. Umbrella terms like transmission or drivetrain should also be clarified. An example is the clutch; some powertrain warranties will not include the clutch as part of the transmission if the car is a manual shift. The fine print may be deceptive, and only cover the disassembly and inspection part of an engine inspection, and not cover the reassembly and installation fees. Again, know very clearly in your mind what you are buying.
The engine and drivetrain are both incredibly expensive to repair, and if not under warranty a serious repair may cost as much as buying a used car. New and used cars come with very different powertrain warranty terms, and it is important to distinguish the difference. If you have an old car that you wish to keep for a while longer, a powertrain warranty, if you can find a company willing to cover it, might save you a great deal of money in the long run.