By Stephanie Humphrey
One of the biggest shopping weekends of the year is coming up this week. According to a report from the National Retail Foundation, two million more people are expected to shop this year from Black Friday to Cyber Monday than did so in 2020. A lot of those purchases will undoubtedly be electronic in nature, and a lot of the salespeople at retail outlets across the country will undoubtedly try to sell you on the extended warranty for those products. But is an extended warranty worth it?
Extended warranties are the additional repair and/or support plan that kicks in when the manufacturer’s warranty expires. They range widely in price and could cost anywhere from $20 to $200. Research by Allied Market Research shows that the service plan industry was valued at 120.79 billion dollars in 2019! With so much money at stake, do you really need to add your two cents to the mix?
The short answer is probably not. Most people wildly overestimate the chance of a device breaking, and even if it does, the cost of repair is usually comparable to the cost of the service plan anyway. It makes more sense to have a few dollars saved for the possibility of a repair rather than pay extra upfront for a service plan that you may never use. When you do use a service plan for a repair, you usually have to ship your device away to have it fixed, and it usually takes a lot longer than it would have had you just visited your local repair shop.
You might also already have extended protection on purchases through your credit card. If you use that card to purchase the item, you may be covered for damage, theft, or other incidentals. Check with your credit card issuer to see if this applies to you and make sure you keep a copy of the receipt and the original manufacturer’s warranty in case you need that information to make a claim. You should also read the fine print on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies as well to see if you could be covered there.
There are a couple of possible exceptions though. If you are prone to breaking your smartphone often, the service plan that is offered by the manufacturer – for example, AppleCare or Samsung Care – may make sense. And if you travel often with your laptop, a service plan might also make sense in that case, as Consumer Reports estimates the rate of repair for laptops to be as high as 24%. Other than these two products, extended warranties are typically not recommended for desktop computers, televisions, or appliances.
Service plans typically have lots of requirements and exclusions which could make them worth even less, so if you do plan to get one make sure you read all the fine print before you buy. Check to see what the store’s return policy is as well so you don’t get stuck with a lemon that you can’t take back. And one of the best things you can do is buy from reliable brands that are well-reviewed, so you may not necessarily have to worry about repairs in the first place.
For most electronic devices, if you take care of them and follow any maintenance recommendations from the manufacturer, you can probably skip the extended warranty. Happy Shopping!
Stephanie Humphrey is a former engineer turned Tech-Life Expert and author. She is a contributor to ‘Good Morning America’ and Fox 29’s ‘Good Day Philadelphia’. You can find Stephanie all around the web @TechLifeSteph and get her book “Don’t Let Your Digital Footprint Kick You in the Butt!” on Amazon.