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All About Extended Warranties

Photo by Mark Lund

We all know we can’t live without our TVs. But our other home appliances don’t get such undying devotion, even though they’re a big part of our everyday lives. They make the food we eat, clean our clothes, and even wash our dishes. So when one breaks down, it’s a huge inconvenience. (Ever tried hand-washing jeans?)

Since home appliances aren’t cheap, any malfunction could mean a chunk of change in repairs: Unless you have a warranty.

Just the facts
A warranty refers to a manufacturer’s promise to repair an appliance if it develops any problems. Luckily, most brands come with a free warranty for one year or more. But not all warranties are created equal. Since manufacturers offer so many different types, make sure you understand the one you’re getting before buying any new appliance.

The most popular is the on-site warranty. Under this policy, the vendor sends their technician to your home to do repairs. Another plus? Problems are solved immediately and you can quickly put your appliance back to work.

If your manufacturer gives you a carry-in warranty, it is your responsibility to take the appliance to the service center and pick it up when repairs are done. This may be okay for a vacuum but not very practical for a refrigerator.

So what about a parts-only warranty? You guessed it. It only covers defective parts; paying for labor will be up to you.

Keep in mind that most warranties only cover repairs to the model you purchased. But a replacement warranty entitles you to a new appliance if the old one proves defective.

Buyer beware
Whatever type of warranty you get, always ask the dealer if it’s the factory or the individual store covering the appliance. Why, you ask? Because some retail chains purchase appliances in bulk from manufacturers without factory warranties to lower their costs. So if your dealer goes out of business, you’ll have no warranty at all (aka up a creek). However, when the factory covers the warranty, you can call any authorized service agent for repairs.

Can’t get enough of warranties? Good. Because you should always read the fine print on your warranty agreement before purchasing any home appliance. And don’t forget to get a copy of the full warranty contract before leaving the store.

Extend yourself?
Most experts agree you should not buy an extended warranty, or maintenance agreements as they are sometimes referred to. Like waitresses pushing desserts, employees are given monthly quotas of these to sell. They make a lot of money for the company, but most likely you’ll never need it as appliances are built to last.

Plus, these suckers are expensive. A three-year extended warranty on a washer and dryer runs about $75 each. That tacks $150 onto the overall purchase price of your new appliances. A better idea? Save that money and use it should a need for repairs arise.

An ounce of prevention
The main reasons appliances malfunction relates to electricity. Short circuits and improper grounding are the most common problems. So a periodic check of your electrical wiring will help guarantee that your appliance continues to run without a hitch.

Another tip? New digital controls look great but their delicate nature can lead to malfunction. Make sure you handle panels and switches gently.

Finally, there is such a thing as a maintenance routine involved with using any home appliance. Yes, that user’s manual is there for a reason! Don’t just throw it in the bottom of your junk drawer, try actually reading it instead. Your reward might be never having to use any warranty at all.

Okay, time to change the subject…who here likes pina coladas?

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-- Mararget Winslow

See More: Buying Appliances , Buying Guides