3 Steps To Protect Yourself When Making Major Electronics Purchases

Stores like Best Buy like to take advantage of your natural fear that a piece of electronic equipment that you just spent a bunch of money on is going to break. And, let’s face it, it might — but that’s no reason to rely on an expensive extended warranty from the retailer.

Extended warranties are a huge source of profit for the store — and (according to our sister publication Consumer Reports) a big waste of money for consumers.

CR says:

When you take out an extended warranty, you’re essentially making a sucker’s bet. You’re gambling on a series of events happening at precisely the right time under precisely the right circumstances. These include:

* That a product will break exactly after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired and precisely when the extended warranty is in effect. Sure, it’s possible, but unlikely.
* That the cost of the repair will exceed the cost of the warranty. Surveys of Consumer Reports subscribers reveal that the costs are fairly close most of the time.
* That the product is likely to break in the first place. According to our data, most products are quite reliable and have not broken during the first three or four years of ownership.
* That you’re going to want to have the product fixed. Perhaps surprisingly, many readers surveyed said they didn’t bother seeking repairs because they desired a replacement product that had either new features, more power, greater flexibility, more advanced technology, or improved energy efficiency.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are some ways to protect yourself when making a major electronics purchase.

1) Pay with a major credit card that offers purchase protection and extended warranty protection.
You may not like credit cards. In fact, you may hate them. In that case, consider a charge card. For the small annual fee, a charge card will offer you many of the same warranty protections that Best Buy and it’s ilk are trying to sell you. If you eventually enter into a dispute with the store, it pays to have someone on your side. Do you think Best Buy is going to argue with itself on your behalf just because you bought a warranty from them?

2) Open the box before you leave the store and inspect the item. If you find old phone books or a severed head instead of your new laptop, it will be easier for everyone if the store knows that there’s no possibility that you were the scammer/decapitator. If the item is broken, your warranty might not cover the “accidental” damage. If you don’t inspect the item in the store, they will assume that you are the guilty party and no amount of arguing will convince them otherwise.

3) Check to make sure the serial number on the item matches the serial number on your receipt. Sometimes people switch broken items for new ones and return the box. If your receipt doesn’t match the serial number of the item, the store will assume that you are the one who switched it and the manufacturer may void your warranty. Again, do this before you leave the store so there can be no question about it.

If you are concerned about not having enough money to fix the item after the manufacturer’s warranty is expired — ask the store what they charge for an extended warranty and put that amount of money in your savings account. If the item never breaks, you’ve still got the money —plus interest. If it does break, you’ll have money for repairs.

For more in depth information about how to specifically protect yourself from being sold a “box full of crap,” (bathroom tiles instead of a hard drive, a disc that says “redneck shit” instead of the game you wanted, etc. click here.

(Photo:wiretap studios)

Comments

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  1. minsky says:

    Regarding warranties and electronics, if a given electronic item makes it through the manufacturer’s warranty period without having problems, chances are that the item will work properly for its intended life cycle.

    That’s why there’s no reason for a manufacturer to offer a standard warranty longer than the ‘infant mortality’ time span of 90 days, one year, etc. If an electronic item will malfunction, it will do so in the first few months of operation, this is standard industry practice, the manufacturers know their products.

    So, extended warranties, like discussed in the main article, are a waste of money.

    • taking_this_easy says:

      @minsky: except if you buy a large electronic item (like my laptop) and want it to last long… then u’ll get a 4 yr warranty with accidental damage (well, I got a good deal that requires laptop+4yr warranty… so why not?)

      dont feel like plunking down $500 in 2 years to replace my laptop…. i think i’ve already got my money’s worth in accidental repairs: friend dropped my laptop and cracked the hinge(replaced), water spilled on keyboard and killed the keyboard and dvd drive (both replaced)…

      • shadowkahn says:

        @taking_this_easy:

        because it’s silly to pay for accidental damage warranties on computer equipment. Call up your homeowners/renters insurance company and have a rider put on your policy. Costs me something like $19 a year, and they’ll fully replace or repair whatever breaks. Dropped my laptop, killed the screen and the motherboard, and bought a new Sager with the $900 insurance check, all for less than 20 bucks. The same warranty from the broken laptop’s manufacturer would have cost me a couple hundred or more.

    • Scuba Steve says:

      @minsky: That doesn’t apply to video game consoles it seems.

      and working with Whirlpool customer service, it seemed stuff broke much more often outside the warranty than inside it, all within months of the 1 year expiration date.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        @Scuba Steve: Oh that’s comforting. I just bought two Amana (whirlpool corp.) washer & dryer.

      • jimconsumer says:

        @Scuba Steve: My $1250 Whirlpool Duet washer needed nearly $1000 in repairs after the warranty had expired. Thankfully, I’d purchased Best Buy’s extended warranty ($400 covered both washer and dryer for 5 years), so didn’t have to come out of pocket.

        I also bought an extended warranty on a vehicle. $1200 for the warranty and it replaced a $2500 transmission and another $1500+ worth of misc. work.

        Are extended warranties always good? Nope. But they aren’t always bad, either.

        • danger the pirate says:

          @jimconsumer: in my experience, extended warranties on laptops always pay for themselves. its worked out for 2 laptops personally, several for friends and many at work. 3 years seems to be the sweet spot for price vs time.

    • zigziggityzoo says:

      Or you could add an electronics rider to your homeowners/renter’s insurance policy.

      Mine cost me $1 per $100 of insurance (so for a typical laptop, anywhere from $10 to $25) per year with a $100 deductible. That way, I’m saving the $200-450 for the warranty by spending $20/year for the insurance. and if it doesn’t break, The worst case scenario is I spent $80 on insurance for nothing, If it does break, Even after four years plus the $100 deductible I’m still better off.

      • ScottRose says:

        @zigziggityzoo:

        Ditto on the homeowner’s insurance rider. I don’t have one, but it seems a better bet than accidental damage protection through a retailer.

        Also with most electronics they devalue so quickly that you can probably get a replacement on the used market for roughly the cost of the replacement plan (especially ext. warranty + accidental damage) after a couple of years. And depending upon what’s wrong with the broken thing you can also sell it “for parts” on eBay. A laptop with a cracked screen in otherwise good shape can sell for enough to really help defray the costs.

    • philmin says:

      @minsky: @aikoto:

      Aikoto, was most salesman dont consider when selling warranties is the value of most TV sets after a year +. They aren’t like cars… a TV set I pay 1,500 for now will only be worth a few hundred dollars in about a year. Salesman trump up how worried we should be about it breaking down, but really, in the period where it would break down the TV simply wouldnt be worth all that much. Its not like we have a 2008 Mercedes with an engine that died. It’s an already semi-outdated used item, and if the really really off chance that it breaks, people should take that risk and by a new one, not waste the usually ridiculously overpriced warranties that are sold up front.

    • framitz says:

      @minsky:

      As an electronics tech I’ve always told my wife; “If it last through the 90 day warranty it will probably last at least 5 years.” Investment in an extended warranty is generally a total rip off.

      This has always proven true in my purchases of electronics.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @framitz: And then there’s me. Bought a Panasonic some 2-odd years ago from Japan. Cracked screen within weeks of purchase. JPY150000 (some US$1650 at the time; I paid because I could afford to then- if it was now I’d have tossed it for a netbook). Cracked case 2 years on (now I have a Samsung NC10). If I had bought Panasonic’s extended warranty with impact/water/fire protection it would have saved me at least US$1000. But I’m taking my chances with the Samsung because the extended warranty was offered by Best Buy- yes, they covered battery replacement and accidental damage too, but it’s Best Buy.

    • Anonymous says:

      @minsky: That’s what they want you to think… What I know is that after working at Sears and taking call after call all day long from customers that bought these expensive refrigerators and ovens and did NOT buy the warranties… I will not be caught WITHOUT a warranty. Some of these companies are making crap. I talked to customers that had to have units replaced 2-3 times during the warranty period. The fail rates on some models were a lot higher than others. On most of these appliances the manufacturers warranty is only 1 year. The bulk of my calls were from customers who had an appliance that was 2-3 years old and out of warranty and there was absolutely nothing I could do except schedule a diagnostic service call (for a mere $75) while informing the customer they would be responsible for the cost of all repairs and labor. The cost to replace the main board in those units usually exceeds the cost of the warranty. If I spend $1500 on a new refrigerator — or any appliance … I expect it to last longer than a couple of years.

  2. LegoMan322 says:

    Major problem is some times they pay off and some times they do not. If you have a year warranty I think you should be fine. I only buy the “extended warranty” on Mac’s.

    My Tv’s, phones, cars, ect never get any protection on them. If they are to die, I am covered by the 1 year, and after that the price is so cheap I could probably just buy again.

  3. secretoftheeast says:

    I would say though, that it can make sense to buy the extended warranty on products you know have some reliability issues. For example, the xbox 360. Mine broke past the 1 year warranty, and it broke not from the red ring of death (which is covered for 3 years) but I got it replaced. I also had a friend that replaced his xbox 3 times, which while his issues were all within warranty, he didn’t need to mail it off for weeks at a time.

    In any case, it is likely one of the rare cases that an extended warranty makes sense.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      @secretoftheeast: Exactly. My boyfriend bought the extended warranty for his PS3 and had to use it. It was only $30 from Target. Very little in comparison to the cost of the console.

      He bought an extended warranty for his TV and had to use it after a bad storm. I just bought a new TV and got the extended warranty for it. It took me too long to save for a new TV not to spend the tiny bit on the warranty in case something happens. Fortunately, it also cover damage from electrical storms.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @secretoftheeast: This really is one of the rare situations when its OK to buy an extended warranty. In fact I would go so far as to suggest to buy a warranty on any video gaming system made by Microsoft or Sony that you buy on launch day, as its GOING to have problems later on. The first batch of systems is always the worst.

      Nintendo is no exception however, they are known to have excellent customer service. Their consoles come with 1 year and 90 day warranties if you register them online, so if something breaks on your Nintendo system, you just call them and you will get either a repair or a replacement. There is no need to buy an extra warranty with Nintendo products. I have even heard many people who have gotten Nintendo products repaired out of warranty for free.

    • oneliketadow says:

      @secretoftheeast: You could always simply buy something else instead of rewarding a company for making a product that’s liable to break so easily.

  4. jscott73 says:

    I used to buy my electronics only through Costco using my American Express card but since AmEx canceled my account I’ve stop buying electronics, screw ‘em both.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I work at Best Buy in the camera department. People come up to me all the time with broken cameras saying that the company wants over a hundred dollars to fix their camera while our plans are only aroud $40 on average. If they only save up $40 and think they can get their product fixed, they’re going to be sorely disapointed.

    Funny thing about products least likely to break; our toughest camera which is shockproof, waterproof, freezeproof and crushproof is the one with the highest protection plan attachment.

  6. junip says:

    My bf and I bought a tv on his Amex, and wouldn’t ya know it, 2 or 3 months out of the manufacturer warranty, the thing starts having a dark stripe up one side of the screen. Amex doubles the manufacturer’s warranty, so we called them up, gave them all the paperwork they wanted and got a tv repair guy to give us a quote on the repair. He quoted us the cost to replace the whole lcd panel, because there would be no other way to fix it. It was about $100 less than the price we paid for the tv new. Amex just said “is it okay if we just credit your card for the original purchase amount?”
    So… free tv. woot!

    • cynical_bastard says:

      @junip: Wow, no hassle, no fighting? Just ok, this all checks out, here is your money?

      I am amazed!
      Maybe I need to check this out……

      • junip says:

        @cynical_bastard: we did have to get the original receipt, manufacturer’s warranty, and pay for the repair quote up front, but they refunded us the cost to get the quote too. Just have to jump through a few hoops, but it was pretty smooth. I mean.. we’re still using the tv. the dark stripe fades after the tv warms up for a while (30 mins-1 hr), so if you’re not super picky about the picture you barely notice it. (:

    • Anonymous says:

      @junip: Same deal. Had a Panasonic TV, mfr’s warranty expired after 1 year on components, 2 years on tube – TV “pink-screened” at 2 years, 3 days. Had it looked at by a local TV repair shop for $25, and they said the tube was busted, and “repair cost exceeds replacement cost.”
      Sent Amex the receipt, the repair shop’s notes, and the warranty page – 2 weeks later, the original cost plus the $25 evaluation fee were credited back against my account.
      Amex purchase-protection (especially if you’re shelling out the annual fee for their higher-tier cards) is second to none.

    • Triterion says:

      @junip: Wow, I guess I better get me one of them Amex cards then! That’s my kinda service

  7. Alan Dang says:

    I try to hedge my bets. If the warranty for an additional year costs me 5% or less than the overall product, I don’t think it hurts. If it’s greater than that, I’d take the chance of buying a new one or parts.

    Case in point: I have an hdtv I bought with a $50 year warranty, which is roughly 5% of the overall cost of the TV. I think if after a year something happens, I’m okay with paying 50 versus buying a new tv.

  8. aikoto says:

    I used to sell Best Buy and Circuit City extended warranties and I have to disagree with what you’ve said here. You CAN get your money’s worth and then some, but you have to know the terms of the warranty AND have the kind of personality to be able to use it. For example, the last time I used one, I got a $400 credit toward a new digital camera off a 3 and a half year old HP.

    The secret is to get longer warranties and make sure they cover performance, not just breakage. Having an item break might be rare, but performance degradation is practically certain.

    • Ratty says:

      @aikoto: I totally wouldn’t trust them to manage it. Years and years ago my mom bought me a computer at Future Shop (which had just been bought out by Best Buy). My sisters used the computer and got some nasty viruses on it and the secondary optical drive never worked properly. My mom takes it into the shop to be repaired under their warranty, less than 2 months after purchase and definitely covered. they give a few days’ estimate (please bear in mind we lived a 40-minute drive from the location) and say to come back on that day and it will be done. My mom says if it’s not, we have a family member who does computer sciences and offered to fix it.

      Well, we come back and it’s not done. We ask to just have it back ourselves and they say they can’t. In fact, they can’t even find the tower anywhere.

      All in all it took us more than 3 weeks after the second trip there to get it back.

      then when the monitor blew out (yes, actually audibly went PFFOOM and died) we took it in to deal with a manufacturer warranty. They didn’t even offer us and wouldn’t give us a loaner monitor even though we were entitled to one under the warranty and service terms my mom signed when buying the damn thing. Rather than that 17″ glorious flat-glass CRT monitor (what, it was 2001, that was nice) I had an 11″ little box of a monitor that wouldn’t boot in XP outside of safe mode because of the resolution being so small.

      So if they can’t even abide by honoring their basic warranty service, why trust them to judge and cover performance issues on a warranty that costs $$$?

      • Corporate_guy says:

        @Ratty: Warranties don’t cover getting your system infected with a virus. If they did at best all they are going to do is format the whole thing and restore it to factory.

        Plus what do you mean did not work properly? If you had major software issues that easily could mess with reading a cd.

        At best you had a claim for a drive replacement. If you took it to them asking them to fix your software problems, they probably lost it because they didn’t know what to do with it. They probably just sent it out for warranty work, even knowing it would just be sent back with the software unchanged.

        • Ratty says:

          @Corporate_guy: I mean from the get-go the second optical drive was not recognized and would not read discs. That was distinctly a hardware issue. Which they never fixed after they found the computer. In fact, they never ven booted up the computer to test it by the time the month-long ordeal was done.

          The viruses (any OS re-install, virus removal, and other software-related issues for software included with the system were included per the paperwork) were covered on the service plan package my mom got and paid for. Talking about the supplemental store warranty/protection that this poster is saying is a great value, NOT manufacturer warranty. My mom decided she’d buy it and then they wouldn’t even perform the tasks they specifically stated the coverage would offer.

      • GuinevereRucker says:

        @Ratty: Might I recommend not using Windows in the future :)

    • KCChiefsFan says:

      @aikoto:

      I’m not sure if I’d buy another warranty. My bedroom TV went out, and to make a long story short, a month and a half later I’ve received 90% of the original purchase price. I went from a 32″ 720p LCD that I bought 2 years ago for 1000, to a 46″ 1080p LCD from Samsung that I got for 900, and it only cost me the 200-300 for the warranty. When I put it like that, it does sound like I made a good investment, but the amount of bickering and waiting you have to do to get any satisfaction out of warranty companies is outrageous. I called no less than 15 times, usually to wait on hold and then be told that noone knew anything. When I finally got the manager that mails the checks and/or replacements, I got low balled with a crappy off brand TV. My nose was brown by the time we finally settled on 90% of the original purchase price.

      I guess the moral of the story is that we should be doing business with companies that guarantee their own freaking products for more than a year, instead of pumping money into warranty companies. Sure, the gamble paid off for me (new TV is better than my old TV in every regard) but ask yourself this (especially in the case of a TV); Could you live without a TV for a month while it is repaired and/or replaced? If the answer is yes (in my case it was a bedroom TV) then I’d say go for it. If the answer is no, or if you know you could just buy another one anyway, I’d say to run away from warranties like they are the plague. When they sell you a warranty, they PRAY you will never have to use it. Their business depends on it.

      Oh, and to any potential buyers, never believe a sales pitch of “if it breaks, you can bring it right back into the store”. This is true within a certain amount of time (lemon laws differ by state I think) whether you buy the warranty or not. Once that period is up, it doesn’t matter if you have a warranty or not, you are still going to have to call a warranty company, or the manufacturer, for a repair call. With the exception of some club stores, there is no such thing as bringing your broken TV in for an exchange.

  9. philmin says:

    Try having a Best Buy TV salesperson explain the math/logic of buying a warranty that costs more than 25% of the TV set value.

  10. Charles Lam says:

    As a retailer, I find that manufacturer warranties are usually worthwhile, when dealing with computers anyways. Dell’s warranties have a very nice accidental damage tack on that might be expensive but having a full 4 years of accidental damage is very useful for some people I know.

    With Laptops, the two things that I’ve seen fail the most are the logic board and the LCD, both of which are upwards of 200 dollars out of warranties repairs.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      @Charles Lam: I will 2nd Dell’s accidental damage protection for laptops.

      Consumer reports claims a 43% repair rate on laptops in the first 4 years. If you don’t have accidental damage protection there is a good chance the warranty won’t cover any damage.

      Now I seem to be around a lot of people that abuse their machines, so I may see a higher rate of failures.

    • Ratty says:

      @Charles Lam: The Accidental Damage really is worth it if you have a Dell laptop. It an cover some pretty dumb mistakes like spilling your drink on the thing, or dropping it on concrete, or sitting on it.

      I was told (jokingly) the only thing they look for are hammer marks. So you should throw your laptop down the stairs or share a beer with it if you really want that replacement*.

      * — not actually suggesting it, but it is a pretty generous coverage.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @Charles Lam: I do agree with purchasing warranties on laptops. I have done fine with desktops over the years so I really don’t need warranties on those. Laptops are smaller though, and they are more difficult to repair, so even someone who can repair a desktop may not want to work on a laptop. Since everything is smaller, parts are more expensive as well.

      Plus your going to be toting the thing around, if I am too careful with an item it limits my use of it. If I am going to buy a laptop I expect to be able to toss it around a little and still have it work. No one wants to have to treat their laptop like its going to break if they set it down on the table.

      • Ragman says:

        @Outrun1986: I have a tablet PC laptop. The lcd screen(it has a glass cover) costs $500 to replace, 3yr full warranty $350.

        Laptops are definitely one to consider for coverage, simply due to the hazards they inevitably face. (unless you pick up a pretty cheap one)

        Appliances and cars, it seems you’re gambling buying the extended warranty vs the odds that it’s got a defect that won’t show until after the initial warranty expires.

  11. MSUHitman says:

    The only thing I would say extended warranties are good for are video game consoles. The PS1, PS2, and XBox 360 have all had issues that if it wasn’t for extended warranties, many people would have been screwed, or be without their consoles for a significant period of time, or pay a repair fee and get reimbursed after warranty extension/results of a class-action suit.

    It took a lawsuit against Sony to get free fixing of PS2 systems with DRE’s (disk read errors) while the 360 has had it’s warranty extended twice by Microsoft to avoid a lawsuit, although there may still be one coming.

  12. chrisgeleven says:

    The only time I buy extended warranties are for laptops. One repair alone when you factor in labor pays for the warranty.

    One thing I am debating is buying AppleCare for my iPhone 3G. I have to July to decide, but I have had absolutely no problems with my phone and there are no moving parts that could wear out in an iPhone (no HD, no fans, etc.), assuming no accidental damage of course.

    • junip says:

      @chrisgeleven: I got applecare for my boyfriend’s 2g iphone when i got it for him as a gift. He’s out of the one year coverage now, and just recently had to get his phone replaced due to an error that kept popping up (that could have arguably been caused by him). Since he had applecare, it was swapped out no problem.
      I guess it just depends on how often you plan to replace your phone. If you’re just going to buy the new iphone when the next one comes out, you probably don’t need the applecare.
      And if you drop your phone and smash the screen, applecare won’t help you.

      • Jameson Bauman says:

        Otherwise, Best Buy is the only retailer to offer accidental damage on your iPhone. There is no deductibles and you get a new iphone within 72 hours. Beat that. @junip:

  13. SecretAgent8 says:

    It should be noted that there are exceptions to this that need to be discussed. The first one that someone already mentioned is accidental warranties, no manufacture is going to cover the product if you physically break it. If you’re prone to break stuff and can get a reasonable price on an accidental warranty usually that is the best if not the only course of action if you don’t feel like tossing the product and buying a new one.

    The other factor to consider is that a lot of retailers will offer in home service with their warranties (mainly tvs) which as of yet is not offered by any other form of coverage. At minimum you’ll have to load the TV into your car and drive it to your local repair shop where you may pay the same price that you would have paid to have it serviced in your home through the retailer. Consumer reports fails to include any kind of shipping or transportation costs when they concluded that the repair cost is usually right around the warranty cost. Depending on where it’s going and how big the product is these costs can be a big part of the repair which is easily avoided when the repair comes to you.

  14. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    I don’t typically buy the extended warranties, but the few times I have, it has worked out for me or I am ok with the decision:

    1. Bought one for like $15 for some computer speakers at Best Buy, they told me if anything didn’t sound right up until that time, I could return it no questions asked for a refund (or store credit or something). 2 months before the extended warranty, took them back in, and got some new ones. Super easy, however I probably won’t purchase one of these again.

    2. Bought one on my 50″ DLP tv for 4 years. I figure the bulb would typically go out after 3-4 years, and the warranty was cheaper than the cost of getting the bulb replaced. It hasn’t been 4 years yet, and the bulb hasn’t gone out, but if it does, it’s saving me money (worth it for ease of dealing with it).

    3. Got a 3 or 4 year warranty with my laptop from Dell last year. The laptop came out to be cheaper with the warranty than without it (I didn’t want to buy the warranty, but I priced for the same specs without it and it cost more). So I took it. Still got time on it and I’m pretty confident something will break (the hard drive if nothing else).

    If my Xbox 360 goes out sometime soon, I’ll probably purchase a new one (out of warranty and all that), but will get the extended warranty (or buy with an amex), just for ease of not having to deal with Microsoft.

    But in general, getting those extended warranties is pretty unnecessary.

  15. majortom1029 says:

    Sometimes warranties are good. Say you get a 3 year warranty on your laptop .Dell and say your mainboard breaks on the laptop if your laptop isnt made andymore then dell will give you the next one up that is about the same to yours.

    Example my inspiron 1520 would be replaced with an xps 1530

  16. Brunette Bookworm says:

    My thought is, extended warranties are like insurance. You hope you don’t need to use them but if you do, you are glad you have it. I’m a bit surprised the post didn’t say anything about cost of item vs. cost and time of warranty. If the warranty for a large, expensive item is long and is minimal compared to the cost of the item or one repair, then the warranty makes sense. I bought one for my new TV. It covers everything for 4 years and they will send someone to the home to repair it. Very nice for a large TV.

    I have refused some warranties because the cost of them was too high compared to the cost of the item and how much they extended the warranty. Someone before mentioned 5% or less per extra year. That might be a good number. I know my TV warranty was about 10% of the total TV purchase for an extra three years. I don’t consider that expensive when I know people who have used it.

    • Gregory Bair says:

      @Red-headed bookworm: Of course they don’t say anything besides, “All extended warranties are stupid.” This is Consumerist, after all, owned by the Consumer’s Union, people who use a product for two months and declare that you won’t need service on it.

      Extended warranties and service plans don’t make sense in every purchase, yes, but in some they do.

      True story: I have a co-worker who won a pair of front-load laundry from Whirlpool ($1500 retail value). He bought the service plan on them when he picked them up. Fourteen months later, the control board went out on it. The repair bill came to almost $1200.

      While it’s true that electronics in the past were made with quality stuff, do you really think that that Vizio you’re buying that was made in China really has as good of parts as that 15-yo Sony you’re replacing?

      I am not ashamed to say that I am a commissioned salesperson who believes in what I sell. I’ve purchased them on every electronics item I’ve purchased (where it made financial sense) and have so far had a TV replaced (after 2.5 years) and a camera (I dropped it in the pool in Las Vegas.)

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        @Gregory Bair: So it’s good consumer sense to not buy it on big ticket items and then if they break or go out, just toss it and buy a new one? Sorry, but that’s not fininacially responsible for me. I don’t earn enough to just drop $1000 on a new item every year. I buy electronics with the intention of having them for years. It seems odd they wouldn’t balance that out in the article.

  17. aerick79 says:

    I too did sell these “extra warrenties.” They are great if you buy a big ticket item like TVs, Washer and Drivers, and what not. Why chance it? Why spend the money on the perfect TV, to have it break a couple years after you buy it.

    But you really need to read the fine print and understand everything, let the warranty work for you instead of it working you.

    • floraposte says:

      @aerick79: But you’re simply undergoing a real loss now instead of a possible loss later. That’s losing the chance right up front. I’m not saying that there’s never any benefit from extended warranties (back in the vcr days, I used mine heavily and was very particular about them, and I definitely got my money’s worth from the warranties), but that most of the time you’re losing money by purchasing them.

      Really, it’d probably make more sense to buy earthquake and flood insurance, and how many people here (save the Californians) have that?

  18. Tremblor says:

    I had a LCD tv break 2 months out of warranty. Luckily my Credit Card doubled the MFG warranty and got it all fixed.

  19. olderbudwizer says:

    I utilize green umbrella for my extended warranties on household electronics. green umbrella dot com. It’s 8.95/month on my cc (not contract term), and I have added a new tv to my coverage and no increase in price. I can drop coverage whenever I like.

  20. Eldritch says:

    Honestly, I’m glad I bought the protection plan from Best Buy. I bought a Creative Nomad mp3 player and after almost a year, the headphone jack stopped working. I took it to Best Buy, and they happily replaced it. Since the model I had they no longer stocked, I was upgraded to a 40GB mp3 player from the 20GB I had that had broken, no extra charge, and they extended my plan an extra year.

    WORTH IT.

  21. cecilpl says:

    I just bought a TV from a great store called Visions Electronics. I did go for the extended warranty, because it’s a little different than most.

    If you don’t end up using the warranty (ie your TV doesn’t break) then you get the cost of the warranty back as in-store credit. As long as I’m going to buy something there again (which I will), it’s a win-win.

  22. rattis says:

    The fact that we have to have things like this make me sad. What ever happened to common decency. Let the system fail, it’s horribly broken and time to build from the ashes.

    • Pandrogas says:

      @rattis: Metaphor for our economy?

      The extended warranties are optional since most everything comes with a manufacturer’s warranty to begin with. Beyond that, how long do you expect a company to take care of you just because you bought something from them?

      Common decency isn’t as common as the name implies. It hardly ever was, even back in the day.

      • rattis says:

        @Pandrogas: part metaphore for our economy, part socail commentary.

        My real complaint was the scamers that swap stuff out. I think that it goes to show a larger problem, that our current economy is just a part of.

  23. somuch says:

    I paid $100 for the extended warranty on my washing machine($500 Frigidaire). I’ve used the warranty 10 times, so I’m thinking I’m ahead on this one. When the sales woman offered me the warranty, she said to get it on the washer, but not the dryer. 6 years later, no repairs on the dryer, lots on washer.

    I am a very heavy user, so I expected more wear and tear than most.

    I think I owe that woman a thank you note.

    • Anonymous says:

      @somuch: @somuch: Yep – buy ‘em on major appliances. We bought 5 year coverage on our Fisher Paykel washer and dryer. After we got to know the repairman pretty well over the course of 18 months, we ended up having the dryer replaced under the lemon clause in the warranty. We got an upgraded model because the original was discontinued and they replaced based on original price, not comparable specs. Yay, new dryer!

    • Charles Mousseau says:

      @somuch: Yesterday, I went and won $500 at the local casino. I, too, can make a wager with a negative expectancy and get a short term positive result. Doesn’t change the underlying fact that you made a negative expectation wager and got lucky enough to get a result laden with positive variance.

  24. Red_Eye says:

    Speaking as someone who had to jump through hoops last year and finally found someone who through a friend of a friend was able to get our 18 month old Toshiba 42hp66 plasma screen fixed I say BS to anyone who says dont get extended warranties.

    Talk to anyone who services Flat Screens and they will tell you that the failure rate is around 30% within the first 3 years. Since most manufs only cover them for 1 year then your screwed. In our case the Toshiba we have is made using LG guts common in MANY large name brands like Zenith Magnavox Toshiba Polaroid ETC. This particular failure involves 3 boards in the tv set (out of 5) and is over $500 just for the parts (thats what Normans Electronics told me). Some of those manufs will extend the warranty and cover you so its worth fighting them over.

    Oh yeah and BTW this particular board set fails so frequently its is now sold as a set of 3 boards by some major parts depots. [richtechparts.com]

    In the end only because we knew someone did we get it fixed. Oh and as for those credit card extended warranties, read the fine print on those when you’re ready for a laugh.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      @Red_Eye: I bought my LCD TV through newegg.com and got the extended warranty. It seems like it covers a good deal for a total for four years at a minimal price. It’s in home service, too. My boyfriend had TV problems after a storm where lightening struck close by. The warranty says it cover that. I hope I won’t need it but with the weather around her, who knows. I’ve protected it as much as I can but that’s still not a guarantee.

  25. MrEvil says:

    The Extended warranty I feel is only worth it on a laptop. Just don’t buy a warranty that lasts longer than you’re willing to use the system.

    Most extended warranties on Laptops cost less than a replacement LCD or motherboard. The parts alone can be $300+ Depending on make and model. I got a quote on a Toshiba motherboard that was $600 and $999 for the LCD. That’s not even factoring cost of labor, and alot of shops will break it off in you to work on a laptop.

  26. Blueskylaw says:

    “If you find old phone books or a severed head instead of your new laptop”

    On what day was the severed head story posted?

  27. krispykrink says:

    One thing that really ticks me off about Best Buy is that they try to pressure people buying Apple products into buying the Best Buy service plan. DON’T! It’s completely worthless.

    With all Apple products, go directly to Apple for “Apple Care”. I wont get into the merits of whether you should or shouldn’t get it, but if you do, go directly to Apple. You have a full year to decide if you want it, unlike Best Buy, who pressure people to buy their junk at point-of-sale.

    Also, if you have purchased an Apple product from Best Buy and have a problem with it, do not take it back to Best Buy. Again, go directly to Apple during your first year warranty.

  28. Etoiles says:

    The only times I’ve bought electronics warranties are on portable electronics, and only warranties that also cover accidental damage. Laptops and mp3 players are subject to much more stress and abuse than my desktop computer or TV.

  29. tz says:

    It depends on the item. I got two repairs (failed hard drive) on my laptop from one of the office stores, and the laptop is not available nor a similar model (It is a very small but powerful laptop, and now they either have netbooks or desktop replacements).

    Laptops can be much more difficult to fix than desktops (30 minutes to get to the hard drive which if you jiggle it can crash).

    If it is an expensive, hard to or un-repairable item, and the cost of coverage is small (especially if you get the item on sale!) and you plan on keeping it at least as long as the coverage, think about it. You may not use it, but if buying a new device will be more difficult (think about trying to restore an XP set of programs on Vista – I use linux and backup regularly so for me that isn’t a problem), or you won’t want to, get the warranty.

    And do check the terms. Sometimes their option is a store-credit voucher for the cost of the item, which fixes nothing.

  30. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    If you find a severed head instead of a laptop, just leave the head under your pillow for the Bloody Head Fairy and wake up with a new laptop! Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

  31. redhelix says:

    DO purchase extended warranties, Just not through the retailer. Most manufacturers offer an extended warranty service that bests the retailer’s and you go directly through them. Retailers, meanwhile, usually act as the middleman for the same type of service… although Best Buy has been doing a lot of repairs in-house with their own service centers lately.

    Also:
    “Do you think Best Buy is going to argue with itself on your behalf just because you bought a warranty from them?”

    Yes, actually. I worked for Geek Squad for several years and I know, personally, that repair services experiences more infighting than any other department in the company. Do you think I wanted to get screamed at daily by a person because Precision Camera was taking 5 weeks to fix their Canon? Nope. I was on the phone almost every day telling service center techs to stop being retarded. A losing battle, but at least the right people were getting chewed out.

  32. corinthos says:

    While I do hate them some of them are easier if you don’t feel like waiting for shipping and such. I had one for my laptop that allowed me to get a new battery twice within three years. the plan only cost 60 bucks so got my money back when I got another battery.

  33. Outrun1986 says:

    The cost of the product vs the warranty cost has to be heavily considered here. Should you buy a warranty on that 15$ MP3 player, probably not. Should you buy a warranty on that $1500 TV set that you want to last forever, probably so.

    But if a warranty on a TV is going to cost you 500$ and your TV is costing you $1500 I would say its better to shove the money into a savings account, watch it accumulate interest (not that its much) and then by the time your TV breaks you will be able to buy a new one with the money you have in the bank since the price of electronics is constantly coming down.

  34. cheeley says:

    Here in NZ we have the Consumer Guarantees Act, which does a number of funky things. If you have, for example, a washing machine which breaks down a week after your 1 year manufacturers warranty runs out, you can take the machine back to the retailer. By law the retailer must either replace it, fix the goods, or refund your money.

    [www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz]

  35. drb023 says:

    I think people assume insurance is always an investment, when it’s really a cost (of piece of mind).

    If you find it worth it, great. If you don’t think it’s worth it, good for you.

    I don’t purchase extended warranties for the appliances in my own home, but I do for appliances I have in a rental property out of state because it gives me piece of mind that the hassle of fixing them will be less with the warranty. Everyone’s situation and point of comfort is different.

  36. fatcop says:

    You know how much a real human skull costs? More than a laptop.

  37. FaustianSlip says:

    I think the value of an extended warranty depends on what you’re buying. For cell phones, some kind of insurance is probably a good idea- a cell is something you’re carrying around constantly, are likely to drop, et cetera. The probability of wear and tear and accidental damage are fairly high, and so insurance or an extra warranty might make sense. The same goes for iPods/MP3 players and laptop computers. A television, by contrast, will likely be put in place and left there for the bulk of its lifespan. The potential for damage is a lot lower, so the usefulness of an extended warranty is probably similarly lower.

  38. Ajh says:

    I bought a $39 headset and they asked if I wanted a 2 year warranty for $5.

    I asked “so if it stops working and I didn’t drop it in the toilet you’ll replace it?” and they said yes. So I said yes. Do you know why I said yes? Because headsets rarely last more than two months on me before either the sound or the microphone goes. I know I’ll be getting replacements.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I actually just came across a particular situation where one of those extended warranties would have come in handy. I purchased a 46″ Samsung LCD TV two years ago. I had quite an ordeal when I first got the tv regarding parts that were not working that included 4 months of calls to Samsung and several visits from two different certified Samsung service shops. After those first few rocky months, my TV was back in working order.

    Until two weeks ago, I woke up to a loud crash coming from my living room. The stand of the tv had broken and the tv fell to the floor, the LCD panel breaking on impact. Now I am stuck with a $2,000 doorstop because Samsung won’t do anything for me as the tv is past it’s 1 year warranty.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      @SirDanF: :) That is my biggest fear on my new LCD TV. I bought the extended warranty from newegg…it seemed resonably priced plus I’ve never had any problems with newegg over items.

      • Anonymous says:

        @Red-headed bookworm:
        I actually bought this item from Newegg. At the time they had something in place called a Bulk Item Policy that pretty much said that once it’s shipped, it’s not their problem. There was never an extended warranty offered. =

        I still buy my computer parts from Newegg but not buying a TV from them again.

  40. tworld says:

    A few days ago I went to BEST BUY to purchase a laptop/notebook. When I was at the counter paying, I noticed a sticker on the box that said, “14 days,” with additional smaller text. So, I asked the salesperson what the sticker said. To my surprise it said I had 14 days to return the item, AND there would be a 50% re-stocking charge. In case you missed that, I said, a 50% RE-STOCKING CHARGE ON AN ITEM THAT COST MORE THAN $400.

    The best part is that if I hadn’t asked I wouldn’t have known that information BEFORE I made the purchase because that little bit of pertinent info was only provided because I asked.

    So beware when shopping at BEST BUY. Ask about all their little rules BEFORE you give them your money, so you can make the decision to buy, or not.

  41. Charles Mousseau says:

    It’s really simple:

    If the store offers you an extended warranty for $X, you can rest assured that the average value of your extended warranty (sum of probability of every circumstance times the value of the warranty in that circumstance) is worth far, far less than $X.

    A couple of anecdotes don’t change a very key fact: It’s a zero sum game, and if it represents an expected profit for the store, it cannot represent an expected profit for you.

    Why the pressure? Why don’t they let you go home and buy it a week later (after you’ve been able to do some research on it) and let you pay the same price with a week less on the coverage period? Could it be because they know it’s an impulse buy, built entirely on irrational and illogical appeals?

    If my statistical argument is wrong, and they really don’t make such a big killing, why don’t they honor a request to reveal their yearly profit margin on these products? Casinos even do that. What are they afraid we’ll see? That every $1 they take in results in $0.20 worth of actual customer usage?

  42. Janet Altman says:

    When I purchase electronics I do what many people here do, hedge my bet. Purchase just enough and hope for the best. I only wish managing my digital security could be that easy. I’m always doubling up for the worst! And usually it arrives.

    My favorite site to browse is [www.justaskgemalto.com.] And their word of advice is that you can’t buy warranty on digital security. You have to buy the software. Some things are just inevitable and a sure deal.

  43. merc78 says:

    Consumer Reports does the research and I have found them to be right on the money. Besides if you feel you really need to buy an extended warranty there is room for negotiation on price. You would be surprised how much they are willing to reduce the price of this extended warranty. Everything is negotiable.

    • Jameson Bauman says:

      Consumer Electronics also often reviews products that are old and dated and I’ve found, not on the market. Take it from someone who has people day in and day out bring in their CE magazine and we don’t carry what they say is “the best on the market”. Consumer Electronics also has no reason to back a retailer as opposed to a manufacturer. They don’t rate stores and they don’t get to see the number of items that come back or why. I’m sure I see more customers and problems with products in a given month then the one product they test and write about. @merc78:

  44. Jameson Bauman says:

    Wow Consumerist! Look at all the people who enjoy their “extended warranties”! The fact of the matter is, major electronics manufacturers don’t trust their electronics. Most of the current electronics are portable and therefore, are void of anything that institutes wear and tear. Also, they have started using more plastics instead of metals and aluminums which wear out over time in order to lower costs. Anything that you can carry around such as laptops, portable dvd players, mp3 players, cameras, camcorders, and cell phones might as well be void of a manufacturer’s warranty. They will simply look to see if there are any nicks or scratches and void the warranty on you. Also, the costs of a “service plan” which goes above and beyond a manufacturer’s warranty if it offers accidental damage is often worth the cost. The time it takes to go through a manufacturer is often painful and not worth the time. Sure, somtetimes going through a retailer is painful, but I’d like to argue more often than not it is easier. Being able to enjoy an electronic without worry of how you use it (hanging your DSLR over a ledge, dropping your phone, or dropping your laptop) is nice as a consumer, and so knowing that a retailer will cover such things for a minimal cost allows you to use that electronic without worry or hinderance. Also, don’t forget the things that these “extended warranties” cover. Best Buy will cover $300 dollars worth of food spoilages if your fridge goes bad, $200 worth of laundramat fees if your washer/dryer goes bad, they have loander phones if your phones takes a dump with no deductable, and they offer a 37″ loaner tv if they can’t fix your tv on the first go around. How’s that for service? Don’t get me wrong, having an AmEx must be nice, but everyone doesnt’ have one. Oh, and home owner’s insurance doesn’t cover everything and has a hefty deductible that only increases your fees. For the average consumer who doesn’t now how to fix their own electronics or doesn’t have the time to, “service plans” are a great idea. The majority of people do not have the knowledge to fix their machines and so they are great alternatives to going through a manufacturer’s warranty wich takes time, work, and often a decline of help due to “normal wear and tear”. Make sure to clarify the difference between “extended warranties” and “service plans” as they are quite different.

  45. Cesar Vazquez says:

    Best Buy offers a protection plan that is $99.99 for ANY laptop, it covers you for any accidental damage (almost anything can be considered an accident)

    its not really worth it on a cheap $399.99 Compaq, but you would be foolish not to get it on a $1999.99 Macbook Pro.

  46. LeoTs3181983 says:

    Be sure to the read the Consumer Limited Warranty for your TV,DVD player,Tivo or DVR,which is usually located on the back of the Operation Manual. There’s always a line at the end that says”THIS WARRANTY GIVES YOU SPECIFIC LEGAL RIGHTS. YOU MAY ALSO HAVE OTHER RIGHTS WHICH VARY FROM STATE TO STATE.” In other words,if you buy your TV,DVD player,Tivo or DVR in one state,and you move to another state,the warranty may not be valid in the state you’ve moved to.