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When you buy an appliance, TV, phone or virtually any other type of product that product is typically covered for a minimal amount of time (usually, it seems, until the day before trouble starts). At the time of purchase however, you are usually given the option to purchase an extended warranty, and many people who have experienced appliances breaking down a week after the warranty expires are all too happy to sign up. But are extended warranties actually worth the money or are they, as armies of Internet sceptics claim, just a cynical trick on behalf of manufacturers to siphon more money from your bank account?
What is an Extended Warranty?
It’s hard to fathom today but until well into the post war period warranties were a rare commodity indeed. It wasn’t until consumer culture began to take hold during the 1950s in fact that people began to make noise about manufacturers not standing behind the products they were selling. As a result governments in most developed nations began to enact legislation to protect buyers (or consumers as they were increasingly being called) from unscrupulous manufacturers. Another reason driving the push toward enforceable warranties was the ever-increasing number of product litigations. Since consumers had no warranty to invoke they were instead suing companies directly, overwhelming the court systems of many countries with liability claims.
Today, warranties are a given and most every product is covered for a certain minimum period of time against defects. In Europe much is made of the mandatory 2 year warranty rule but this regulation is often overridden by the laws of individual countries, such as the Sale of Goods Act in the UK which basically nullifies the EU’s 2 year rule.
Extended warranties first came into widespread use during the 1980s and ever since a lively debate has ensued between proponents of this type of extended protection and those that feel it is a waste of time and money. But does the extended warranty deserve the bad press it frequently gets or is that bad press simply a function of website owners needing something to write about?
Do you Need an Extended Warranty?
Let’s cut right to the chase and ask the most important question first. Do you need an extended warranty? It would be great if there were a clear cut answer in to this question but like most things in life the issue comes down to a combination of circumstance, preference and most of all, product. In some circumstances an extended warranty may be fully justified and in some cases not. If, however, signing on for extended protection allows you to sleep a little better then it’s probably worth it regardless of the product or whether you ever actually use the extended coverage.
What Products are Typically Covered?
There was a time when extended warranties were not widely available but those days have passed into history along with New Wave music. The fact is that today almost all products sold in the UK offer some degree of extended protection. That fact alone should give one pause because let’s face it, why would you need an extended warranty on a mobile phone when if, like a majority of people, you buy a new one every year or so? But the fact is that the rarity today is the product that doesn’t offer extended warranty coverage.
So When Should you Purchase Extended Coverage and When Should you Pass?
When you Should Pass
- Refrigerators are a good example of a product for which extended warranties are commonly offered but don’t make much sense. After all, when was the last time you heard of a modern refrigerator actually breaking down? Nonetheless some 40% of refrigerator buyers opt for extended coverage, perhaps because they live by the adage “better safe than sorry” or because they remember some long ago day when their mum’s icebox went on the fritz and there was water all over the floor.
- Also, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend £100 for an extended warranty on a product that costs £250 (see “Kitchen appliances” below). Chances are that any defect will be apparent soon after you purchase the device and be covered by the normal warranty. Also, simple repairs needed after the basic warranty expires may well cost less than the £100 the extended warranty cost you. Repair deductibles may also come into play and basically negate any benefit from the extended coverage.
When you Should Purchase an Extended Warranty
- Cars are an example of one product where it likely pays to purchase extended warranty coverage especially if you plan to keep the car indefinitely. Back in the day repairing an engine was a fairly straightforward thing that anyone with common sense could do provided they were willing to get their hands dirty. Not so today. Open the bonnet on a modern automobile and you’ll be greeted with a maze of mechanical and electronic devices the likes of which require a degree in engineering to figure out. As such auto repairs today are complex, expensive undertakings and if your 6 year old car suddenly develops serious health issues the extended warranty coverage can be a life saver.
- Kitchen appliances are products that, for one reason or another, most homeowners don’t swap out very often. It’s not unusual to visit a friend and see the same blender on their counter that they had when they shared a flat with you during your university days. The same can be said for microwaves, mixing bowls, toaster ovens and just about anything else you’ll find in the modern kitchen. As such opting for extended coverage on these items is often a good, common sense thing to do. The key to purchasing extended coverage on kitchen appliances is to make sure you don’t pay more than 20% of the original purchase price of the item itself. If you do any benefit may be negated.
- Home improvement products are another instance where extended warranties can make a lot of sense. Since most people plan to stay in their homes for many years purchasing lifetime warranties on things like replacement windows is a good idea. Keep in mind though that sometimes lifetime warranties come with the product so you may be able to find a manufacturer of replacement windows that offers a ‘free’ lifetime warranty and not have to purchase one separately.
- Cameras – and by this we mean high end DSLRs – are another product for which extended warranties can make a lot of sense. While mobile phone cameras have come a long way they’re still not comparable to high end DSLRs or even high end 4K video cameras. And if you’re serious about photography this is the type of camera you’ll want. Their lifespan can be formidable but so can repair costs. This is because, should problems arise, the camera typically has to be shipped back to the manufacturer and disassembled by the same professionals that put it together. Opting for an extended warranty plan on a high quality camera is a choice that could pay off handsomely if you keep that camera for any length of time.
Finally, as stated earlier extended warranties always make sense if they help you sleep better.
What are the Top Rated Companies Offering Extended Warranty Coverage?
Because this list would be many pages long if we included every type of product we’re going to limit it to what are largely considered the top rated companies offering extended warranty coverage on automobiles. Some may disagree or feel worthy companies were excluded, that is their right. We go by what our research indicates to us.
Extended warranties are not the be-all end-all of consumer protection nor are they the scam they’re sometimes made out to be. The fact is extended protection often makes a great deal of sense, particularly when talking about products with long lifespans like automobiles, replacement windows and high end cameras or items that people tend to keep for extended periods like kitchen appliances. By purchasing an extended warranty today you may wind up saving yourself considerable money in the long run and anyone who believes that’s not a sound idea needs to re-evaluate their thinking.
We hope you found this information helpful and be sure to check back often for more informative product reviews and tips.