You finally pick out the sleek laptop or big-screen television you’ve been saving for and just before you hand over the credit or debit card at the store, the salesperson says you ought to purchase the extended warranty to protect your investment.
What’s that? You don’t want to spend a couple of hundred bucks on a “product service plan” on top of a $1,400 PC or TV?
Yes, you can expect to be pitched at your local big box store for many – nay, most — of these high-tech purchases.
So, the big question remains: Should you pay for that insurance policy, in case something goes wrong with your gear down the road?
The experts weigh in
According to Consumer Reports, you’re better off saving your money.
For one, Consumer Reports editors say those who buy extended warranties and service contracts for consumer electronics rarely use them for repairs. This data was collected from a recent Consumer Reports survey completed by many of its members.
What’s more, the same survey – and previously commissioned ones — found that the vast majority of repairs were made while items were still covered by a factory warranty.
And with laptops as an example, the median cost of an extended warranty or service contract is about the same as the median cost of a single repair, claims Consumer Reports.
Rubina Ahmed-Haq, a Toronto-based personal finance journalist, brings up another fact: “The biggest reason I would agree with the Consumer Reports advice is because technology changes so fast.”
“When a gadget breaks down, usually we are into the next generation and fixing the old one seems unnecessary,” suggests Ahmed-Haq. “Imagine still having an older generation iPhone…most want move on.”
“In the end it might be a couple hundred dollars you could have just saved,” she adds.
Keep in mind extended warranties are big business for retailers. According to the newsletter Warranty Week, it’s a $40 billion business — in the U.S. alone. The same publication states two-thirds of in-store electronic shoppers and almost three-quarters of appliance purchasers say that an associate has pitched an extended warranty to them.
Buying items with some credit cards extends warranties at no additional cost. If you’re not sure whether your card provides such a perk, contact customer service to ask.
Some retailers, such as Costco, also provide an extra year of protection at no cost.
Even if you have an issue with your gadget, the extended warranty you bought might have fine-print terms that can limit or disqualify your claim.
It’s also worth noting some manufacturers will repair a product even after the regular warranty has expired — simply because it’s good customer service. If you’re having an issue with a tech item and it’s past the warranty period (or extended warranty), it’s still worth contacting the company in case they’ll
fix it for free (Apple is usually good about this).
Consumer Reports also says to buy reliable brands and models, and follow the manufacturer’s usage and maintenance recommendations.
Bottom line? An extended warranty may offer you some peace of mind to protect your big tech investment, but most experts agree if anything will go wrong it’ll likely happen within the manufacturer’s own warranty period.
That said, if you come across a very reasonable amount — without a lot of fine print on what’s not covered in case of damage or loss — buy in if helps you sleep at night. In most cases, however, it’s simply not worth it.