How to tell if a warranty is worth it -

Is a warranty worth it?

Extended warranties are always good deals for the stores, but rarely do they make sense for the consumer. You can often end up spending more on the extended warranty than you would on repairs.

And who's to say the product will break anyway?

"It's usually not worth it," said consumer expert Metara Austin.

Austin says to first look at the manufacturer's warranty. It's often all you need.

But some manufacturers are getting stingy these days. Many computer companies, like Apple for instance, are reducing their terms from a year to only 90 days.

"I bought an iPhone 4S and I bought the Apple Care program," explained Meredith Cooper. "I have small kids, so we're dropping the phone all the time."

Apple Care allows you to contact Apple customer service agents after the initial 90 days.

When else might an extended warranty be a smart buy?

  • When the item is VERY expensive (Think $6,000 Subzero refrigerator not easily repaired or replaced.)
  • When it's cutting edge technology (No record of reliability.)
  • When it's delicate with small moving parts (More expensive repairs.)
  • When you're clumsy (You know you'll break it.)

You might also consider an extended warranty for products that break most easily. But remember the rule of thumb: if the extended warranty costs more than the average repair cost of an item, don't buy the extended warranty.

WEB EXTRA: Here are the items most likely to break within the first three years, according to Consumer Reports:

Product Repair Rate (%)
Desktop PC 37
Laptop PC 33
Lawn tractor or riding mower 29
Refrigerator (side-by-side with ice maker and dispenser) 28
Self-propelled mower 26
Washing machine 22
Gas range 19
Refrigerator (top-and-bottom with ice maker) 17
Projection TV 16
Push mower 15
Vacuum cleaner 13
Dishwasher 13
Clothes dryer 13
Microwave (over the range) 13

Austin says if you do buy an extended warranty, be sure to read the fine print. Make sure it covers accidental damage and never pay more than 20% of the purchase price.

And check with your credit card company. Many companies extend a product's warranty from the manufacturer when you purchase it with your card.

"The best thing to do is to ask a lot of questions," she said. "Don't let anybody pressure you into buying one on the spot. You can always go back later to buy an extended warranty."

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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