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Are Tech Devices’ Extended Warranties Worth the Cost?

Most electronics that need repairs break when factory warranties are in place


spinner image Spilled coffee or tea on a laptop.
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Wait for it. The question is sure to accompany the pricey laptop you’re about to buy: “Do you want to purchase the extended warranty on this?”

The thought of paying more for something already high priced often is met with a resounding “No.”

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When purchasing expensive items like computers, electronics and appliances, even vehicles, most consumers forgo additional protection plans, sometimes called extended warranties or express warranties, because the factory warranty usually covers most repairs. For years, editors at the nonprofit Consumer Reports magazine have said don’t spend your money.

The consumer advocacy organization based in Yonkers, New York, has given similar advice on warranties for appliances, autos, desktop computers, tablets and televisions. Its 2019 laptop computer extended warranty survey found that most repairs are made while items are still covered under factory warranties, not extended warranties or service contracts.

Insurance and repair costs are similar

The median cost of an extended warranty or service contract is about the same as the median cost of a single repair, says Christopher Raymond, Consumer Reports’ deputy technology editor, noting that extended warranties might make sense for small, portable items like smartphones.

“The bottom line: If you have a habit of dropping your phone, it might make sense to spring for the added protection,” he says. “Otherwise, put the money into your savings account just in case you need it. The stats say you’ll probably get to keep it.”

Liz Weston, a columnist for popular personal finance site NerdWallet, echoes Raymond’s sentiment.

“If you’re going to be carrying around something that’s fragile, like a smartphone, you might consider an extended warranty as there is a higher chance of something going wrong. But otherwise, they’re generally not advisable,” she says. “Many people don’t use the extra warranty and/or they overpay for it.”

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Even if you have a problem with your gadget, the extended warranty you bought might have fine-print terms that can limit or disqualify your claim. Online sites such as Amazon and big-box stores like Best Buy earn huge profits from extended warranties, Weston says.

Compare plans from manufacturers, independents

If an extended warranty will give you peace of mind, experts suggest you shop around.

A three-year Asurion protection plan on a $1,300 LG TV at Amazon was $129 in July, according to popular tech publication PCMag. But that same TV sold at Best Buy had a Geek Squad protection plan for $175 for two years.

A smartphone extended warranty directly from the manufacturer on a new or almost new device that can cost upwards of $1,000 may be a relatively affordable add-on for the protection it offers, which includes accidental damage to the screen. But all have deductibles and often other service fees:

  • AppleCare+ on the most expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max is $9.99 a month, $199 for two years.
  • Google Preferred Care on its most expensive Pixel 8 Pro is $12 a month, $249 for two years.
  • Samsung Care+ on its most expensive Galaxy model is $11 a month for 36 months, $239 for two years.

The companies also have more expensive coverage for theft or loss.

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Warranties are a growing business

As electronics and other technology become more complex and sophisticated, repair costs are increasing, which is fueling growth in extended warranties. Nationwide, sales of extended warranties for appliances, autos, computers, mobile devices and other electronics are expected to increase almost 50 percent to $81.3 billion by 2028, up from $55.3 billion in 2022, according to the International Market Analysis and Research Consulting Group, which has offices in Brooklyn, New York; London; and Noida, India.

“Extended warranties may not make sense because many of these tech products are made very well, especially if they’re going to be carried by a big national chain,” Weston says.

“My advice is to buy better stuff,” she adds. “Don’t be worried about it breaking, do your research with both consumer and professional reviews, and check out websites like buymeonce.com that offer a deep dive on products that are better made.”

Video: Your Extended Warranty Might Not Be Worth the Money

Get more without paying more

With today’s ever-evolving technology, fixing an old smartphone or a somewhat dated television might not make sense when newer models offer more advanced features. Here are ways to get a better deal on warranties without paying extra:

  • Some credit cards extend warranties at no additional cost. If you’re not sure whether your card provides such a perk, contact customer service to ask.
  • Some retailers provide an extra year of protection on top of the usual one-year manufacturer warranty, so ask about it before you buy.
  • Some manufacturers will repair a product even after the regular warranty has expired simply because the practice is good customer service. If you’re having an issue with a tech item and the device is past its warranty or extended warranty period, contact the company to ask if it will cover the repair.
  • Reliable brands can mean less dependence on warranty coverage, but follow the manufacturer’s usage and maintenance recommendations for the best results. If you come across a reasonably priced extended warranty — without a lot of caveats on what’s not covered in case of damage or loss — go ahead and buy it if helps you sleep better at night.

This story, originally published Sept. 21, 2020, has been updated to include new warranty options and advances in technology.

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