It’s quite common in the personal finance community to be “hating” on the extended warranties. Some of the main points people make about warranties are the “warranty costs more then the item” and “if it breaks it will do it within the first 6 months and will be covered under standard warranty”. Now I don’t necessarily disagree with these statements however they always seem to look at warranties from a negative perspective. Warranties are just another form of insurance and when properly accessed are a great way to protect yourself.
Things to consider
- Cost of the item – Generally speaking the original cost shouldn’t have that much of an impact on your decision to buy an extended warranty but I decided to list it first because it is important emotionally. If you’ve gone out of the way and purchased a high end item the last thing you want is it breaking right after the standard warranty runs out. This can definitely be a stressful and frustrating experience that seems to increase as your original purchase price increases.
- Servicing Your Needs – When you made the decision to purchase this item one of the things you should have done was decide what your needs where and how this item will meet those needs. Well in order to get an extended warranty you should understand how this item will continue to meet those needs and for how long. This may require a deeper look at the industry and determining what major technology shifts are on the horizon. This will help you decide how long you’ll be satisfied with the item and therefore the length of warranty required.
- Repairability – This is a real “black box” for people. Before making any purchase you should always do research at what it costs to repair an item. You will need to know cost of the components, cost of the labor and difficulty of repairing items. An example that I use all the time is PC vs Laptop. PC’s easily come apart and components are relatively cheap. Laptops on the other hand are small, difficult to take apart and the components can get expensive.
- Cost To Replace – If the item retains its value then your the necessity for a warranty becomes greater. Or if you purchased a higher end item then it stands to reason that you will probably replace it with an item of equal cost. In eihter case it will cost you a pretty penny to get a brand new one so a warranty is a good mechanism to protect yourself from an unplanned purchase.
- Cost Of The Warranty – There is no single answer for this. This value will change based on the various criteria outline above. Obviously the cheaper the better.
I recently went through this process and decided to purchase the extended 3 year warranty on my 42″ Sony XBR 5 TV. Here’s I how I came to the decision:
- Cost of the item: The TV cost us $2600, which is no small amount especially since you could get a similar sized LCD at the time for $900. I have a hard time dealing with a product that turns out to be a lemon and get easily frustrated when it happens. I needed peace of mind with such an expensive purchase.
- Servicing Your Needs – This TV has all the bells and whistles at the time of purchase. It had the latest refresh rate and a one of the best contrast ratios. Now there are TVs with better options but what I have right now is good enough. I’m not enough of a videophile that I’ll notice minor technology advancements. Not to mention when the warranty runs out in 3 years we will most likely be moving out of our condo and into a home. When that happens we’ll probably be purchasing a second TV with the latest upgrades so I need the current TV to last until then.
- Repairabilty – LCDs are very compact in the back and are difficult to repair. Usually even if something small breaks it will require the replacement of a much larger component to fix it. My father in-law has exactly the same TV and had to get it repaired. If he didn’t have the warranty it would have cost him $1800 which is a staggering amount when you take into consideration the cost of a new TV.
- Cost to Replace – If this TV broke to the point where it wasn’t worth it to repair then I would probably go out and spend another $2600 on a similar caliber TV. I’ve had crappy TVs in the past where the different shades of black all look the same and you can’t make out anything in a dark scene. I’ve been there and done that so I’d definitely spend the money on a good TV.
- Cost Of The Warranty – The extended warranty cost $350 for 3 years. That is a mere 14% of the total cost of the TV. Considering everything above I felt this was a worth while premium to pay for the piece of mind. Had the warranty cost more then that I probably wouldn’t have gotten it but I felt the price was reasonable.
There are a lot of warranties out there that are big rip offs and aren’t worth a second thought. However just blindly turning them down is careless as well. Hear out what the warranty covers and what it costs. Consider the criteria above and you may find its worth the extra bit of cash to protect investment.
Have you ever bought an extended warranty and why? Do you blindly turn down the extended warranty options ?