Q. My friend just bought a 60-inch TV for around $1000 and the store told him he should get the extended warranty for an extra $150. He did. Was that a good move? — Mickey, Prince Frederick, Maryland.
Short answer: No!
For years, electronics stores have boosted their profits by selling extended warranties to TV shoppers, sometimes using fear to make people think their sets will fall apart the day after the manufacturer’s warranty expires.
But it’s not a good deal for the consumer and here’s five good reasons:
1. Nearly every TV set comes with a one-year warranty on parts and a multiple-month warranty on labor. If the set is a lemon — ready to collapse into a thousand pieces with a single touch — you’ll find out shortly after you bring it home. And if that happens, your manufacturer’s warranty will cover any repairs.
2. Some credit cards will extend a product’s warranty for an extra year for free. Check with your credit card company before buying a store’s extended warranty.
3. TVs, even today’s sleeker flat-screen sets, are built to last. The number of sets that need repairs in the first few years are estimated to be around five percent. That’s not a high number. And, as we just noted, if your set does need a repair in the first year or two, it’s likely it will be covered by your manufacturer’s warranty plus your credit card’s warranty extension.
4. Many TVs are priced under $1,000 and the extended warranty, which often covers repairs up to three years, usually costs from 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price. So let’s look at the math:
Let’s say you need a repair in slightly less than three years and you spent an extra $100 to $200 for the extended warranty to cover that repair. Well, the price of any specific TV model starts to fall as soon as you buy it. So the chances are good that your original set now costs roughly 50 percent of its original price. In other words, you could buy your TV now for around $500. But you may have already shelled out $100 to $200 to fix a nearly three-year-old set. When you consider that only about five percent of sets need repairs in the first few years, that just doesn’t make much sense.
5. Some warranties come with fine print that let the retailer off the hook. For example, if your set has a pixelation problem or a screen cracks, it may not be covered.
Those are five good reasons NOT to buy an extended warranty for a TV.
Now I’ll give you one for why it MAY be a good reason to buy one.
If you’re buying a very expensive set — let’s say one that exceeds $3,000 or more in price — it might be worth getting an extended warranty if the warranty is not too expensive itself. If you can get the warranty for 10 percent or less of the purchase price, it might be worth it for your peace of mind. After all, even with depreciating set prices, a $3,000 TV will still cost around $1,500 in three years or so. So, again, for peace of mind, you might want to consider paying $300 (or less!) to cover any possible repairs.
But before you do, make sure the warranty is comprehensive — and be sure your credit card company doesn’t already offer the extension as part of your policy.
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— Phillip Swann