Should you buy a warranty for all electronics?

December 7, 2010 7:42:45 PM PST
If you are buying a flat screen TV, iPad or other electronics for gifts, should you also buy an extended warranty? That is a question you're asked almost every time you buy a gadget or electronic device. 7 On Your Side takes on what your answer should be to that question.

Do you want a warranty with that? It may not be the only question of the ages, but it is one we've all heard it plenty of times. Millions of extended warranties are sold each year, and millions pay off, but should you buy one for yourself and if so, where?

Christopher Harkins told 7 On Your Side a heart breaking story.

"I went through the unfortunate experience of dropping my iPhone and breaking it," says Harkins.

Now we don't have a picture of his broken phone, but the screen was scratched, so it is good he had bought an iPhone extended warranty.

"I had a new replacement phone in less than a week which actually had a problem and then they very quickly resolved that and had a new phone to me a day later," says Harkins.

Harkins bought his warranty not at the store where he purchased the phone, but later online from San Francisco-based SquareTrade.com.

"Most people don't realize you have a choice," says President and CEO of Square Trade Steve Abernethy.

Abernethy says his business is growing because the economy is coming back, electronics are hot and Square Trade's name and good service is becoming known.

"We either fix the item, so if you crack the screen, we'll fix it in the five-day service guarantee. If you drop it in a toilet, most often we can't fix it cost effectively, so we give you cash and you pay for the item. You go out and get a brand new one," says Abernethy.

There are many extended warranties available, those sold by retailers, manufacturers and online companies like Square Trade.

Consumer Action's Joe Ridout isn't that thrilled with any of them.

"If you are determined to buy an extended warranty, it certainly makes sense to comparison shop, but just bear in mind that you're not making a good financial decision," said Ridout.

That's because most electronics that fail, do so before the manufacturer's standard warranty expires. And Ridout says there is a way to get an extended warranty for free.

"One of the nice features of many credit cards is they will double an existing warranty or add on additional time. That way you are getting an extended warranty for free and you don't have to pay anything for it," says Ridout.

If you go that way make sure you know what is covered. Same if you are buying an extended warranty. Don't just compare price. This is insurance, so just like car insurance the policy with the lowest price may not be the actual best deal.


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