There are plenty of considerations for buyers when assessing a new car warranty. After all, it’s your main source of protection in the event of premature part failure.

Aside from asking what is actually covered by the policy, you’ll probably research how long the warranty is, and if there’s a distance limit; perhaps even what happens if you decide to make some modifications to your new pride and joy.

But one question that often goes unasked centres around when a new car warranty starts.

Hint: it’s not when you shake the dealer’s hand, or even when you sign on the dotted line. There’s also more than one answer.

Most commonly, the warranty period begins on the first date of registration, which generally coincides with a happy buyer taking delivery of their new wheels.

“A new car warranty usually begins on delivery,” a Western Ford spokesperson told CarExpert.

“When we register and report the car to the manufacturer, that’s when the warranty starts.”

There’s an exception to the rule, however.

A car may be ‘new’ but have kilometres on the clock due to spending time as a ‘service’ car. Dealers have many uses for new cars; they’re displayed in the showroom as demonstrator vehicles, loaned out to customers as courtesy cars, or even utilised as company cars.

These examples are known as service cars, and are registered by the dealer long before they’re then sold on to a member of the public.

In these situations, the warranty period actually commences when the car is first registered by the dealer and put into service, shortening the length of coverage for an eventual buyer.

Service cars are generally sold at a discounted price, which offsets some of the depreciation and warranty drawbacks associated with these vehicles.

Location also influences the commencement date of a new car warranty.

For example, the warranty period for Toyotas purchased in Australia begins when the car is first registered except in Western Australia, where coverage starts from the purchase date of the vehicle.

While buyers are entitled to the full advertised warranty period, kilometres accumulated on the car during its time in service are included in distance limits pertaining to the policy.

Toyota Australia has a 60-day money back guarantee on new vehicle sales which begins on delivery, even if the car is an ex-demonstrator.

Determining the end date of a warranty is more straightforward. Whether the car was first registered prior to delivery or on the date of delivery, the warranty will always conclude a set number of years or kilometres from that date.

Most brands in Australia cover their new cars for five years, with no kilometre limit. The longest warranty in Australia belongs to Mitsubishi, but it comes with conditions – if you service within the dealer network, it last 10 years or 200,000 kilometres.

Some brands will offer brief promotions with longer-than-usual warranties; in this case it’s worth checking if the extra years of the warranty are from the factory, or a third-party supplier.

“Generally the car will be registered and reported on the same day, so a Ford warranty will end five years after that date,” added the Western Ford spokesperson.

The end date of a warranty is particularly important, as that’s when buyers will be left without cover in the case of a claim.

If in doubt, the best way to clarify the commencement date of your new car warranty is by getting in contact with either the manufacturer directly, or the dealer you purchased the car from.

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