Is an Appliance Extended Warranty Worth It?

Whenever an eager salesperson tries to sell me an extended warranty on a major appliance, I wonder, “Why is this person trying to save me money?”

Short answer: They’re not.

Extended warranties are cash cows for retailers who typically pocket 50% of the warranty cost, which is much more than the margins they make on the goods themselves, says "Consumer Reports." That’s why retailers put the hard squeeze on customers just before they make the final sale, and 15% of us succumb, typically paying $75 for the add-on.

And even though we can’t say buying an extended warranty is throwing money down the drain -- once in a blue moon you actually collect -- spending more than 20% of purchase price on a warranty is a bad idea, even if it makes you sleep better at night.

Here’s why.

Appliances Rarely Break During the Extended Warranty

Most major appliances come with a manufacturer’s warranty that typically covers parts and labor for one year after the date of purchase. It’s lemon insurance against a bum machine rolling off the assembly line.

Extended warranties usually stretch one to three years beyond the manufacturer’s warranty, grace periods when, statistically, appliances rarely break. 

That’s because major appliances have lifespans that reach well beyond extended warranty periods, and likely won’t require repairs until they near their past-due dates. 

Related: Vintage Appliances: Hot Stuff That’s Still Cool

You May Already Be Covered

When you buy a major appliance, you have a reasonable expectation that it will work for many years. If it doesn’t, you have recourse that doesn’t cost you a penny.

Manufacturers want you happy: Even if your machine is out of warranty, manufacturers generally want you to be happy with their products. That’s doubly true now that consumers aren’t shy about bashing faulty products on the Internet. If you raise hell with the company -- call customer service and complain; write to the CEO if you have to -- you might get either free repairs or a replacement appliance, especially if others have complained about the product. 

Implied warranties: Many major appliances are covered by implied warranties, state laws that say an appliance should work well for a reasonable amount of time, generally about four years. If you’re unhappy with the retailer’s or manufacturer’s response to your complaints, you might have the weight of the law behind you. You can try to mediate through the Better Business Bureau mediation program, or you can sue, depending on your state’s laws.

Some manufacturers get around these implied warranties by stating they’re selling the product “as is.” But 11 states (Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia don’t let them get away with this as-is technicality. 

Credit card protection: Many credit cards offer extended protection on purchases that come with a manufacturer’s warranty. However, not all credit card protections are created equal, and some only offer protection on certain types of their cards. Take home lesson: Check to see if and what type of warranties your cards offer.

Related: When to Repair or Replace Your Appliance

How to Extend Warranties Without Paying Through the Nose

Just ask: It’s amazing how much free stuff you can get when a retailer is trying to sell you an expensive appliance. When negotiating the sale, ask for a free extended warranty (the worst that can happen is that they say no). If that fails, ask for free delivery or installation.

Third-party warranties: Warranty plan providers, like SquareTrade and Protect Your Bubble, sometimes extend coverage for less cost than the retailer offers. They’re worth a look-see.

Get new credit cards: If you don’t already have a credit card that provides an extended warranty, get one. All four major card networks -- Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express -- offer extended warranties up to one year to certain cardholders. Only Discover and American Express provide coverage to all cardholders, according to a CardHub survey. 

All-in-one appliance warranties: For peace of mind, look into all-in-one appliance warranties, such as All Six Warranty. For a flat rate of around $20 per month, a certain number of household appliances are protected, regardless of their ages. Apart from a predetermined service call fee -- typically around $50 -- all repairs are covered for as long as you’re enrolled.

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