Consumer Reports examines extended protection plans

November 2, 2012 4:00:26 PM PDT
With Christmas right around the corner, you are very likely going to be asked if you would like to buy an extended warranty for some of the items on your family's wish list.

The plans are big money for retailers, but are they worth it?

Consumer Reports says there's a real dollars-and-cents reason for the warranty hard sell. Stores make a lot more profit on these than on the actual product you're buying.

Whether you are buying a holiday gift or you need a new appliance, you're often urged to buy a service plan. Even online, many sites offer an "extended protection plan" before you check out.

But Consumer Reports' Tony Giorgianni says service plans are almost never worth it.

"Our reader survey shows that products don't break down that much during the service contract period. And even if they do, it doesn't cost that much more to repair them than it does for the contract itself," Giorgianni said.

Extended service plans are expensive. They can boost your costs by 30 percent or more and run into hundreds of dollars.

"If you pay for a repair yourself, there's a better chance that it's going to be done correctly and quicker than if you had it repaired under contract," Giorgianni said.

That's what Allen Peacock found when his dryer broke. He was told he'd have to wait three weeks to have it repaired under the service contract.

"I expected prompt service. And instead was told kinda you're out of luck, fella," Peacock said.

Consumer Reports says better than buying a service plan is paying with a credit card. Many cards automatically extend the manufacturer's warranty up to a year, so check your terms.

Calling the manufacturer can pay off, too.

"Just because the manufacturer's warranty has expired doesn't necessarily mean that you're out of luck. If you contact the manufacturer and make a good argument, there's a good chance the company will pay for part or all of the repair," Giorgianni said.

Consumer Reports says the one possible exception to the "no extended warranty rule" is when buying a laptop. If you're going to travel with it a lot, Consumer Reports says you may want to consider an extended warranty that covers accidental damage.


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