The differences in auto manufacturers' warranties should be considered when you are buying a new vehicle. And it can get complicated. • The basic "bumper-to-bumper" warranty is typically three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. It isn't quite "bumper-to-bumper" — those items that wear, such as tires, belts and batteries, may not be covered by the auto manufacturer but usually are by their own manufacturer with some sort of guarantee. Some companies go longer than three years and 36,000 miles.
There also is a powertrain warranty — most are five years or 60,000 miles, but many manufacturers go longer — and a corrosion warranty.
Exceptionally good warranties have been offered almost as a sales item, for a limited time, and although the manufacturer may discontinue that warranty program on future models, if you bought one when that warranty was in effect, it can't be taken away from you.
That said, there is fine print: Hyundai, which prides itself on offering "America's Best Warranty" (its term), does indeed cover "nearly every new vehicle component" for five years or 60,000 miles, but the sound-system warranty is for three years and paint is for three years.
And, of course, no warranty covers "acts of God," such as flooding or hail damage. More in a gray area are exclusions from "improper maintenance" — check your owner's manual for service procedures, because straying from them can void a warranty, as can the addition of unapproved performance parts. For details, check the Web sites of manufacturers. Be aware, too, that some dealers offer their own added warranties, with, say, free oil changes for life or free tires for life. Get that in writing, and find out whether the warranty is underwritten by an insurance company — if it is, and your dealer goes under, it may be good at another dealer.