Tech Buying Tip: What To Do About Extended Warranties

This is a very difficult topic. In the past I would tell people to “never buy the extended warranty.” But lately, I find that not only am I buying them, I’m using them.

I just took my digital camera in for service. I’d bought a three-year extended warranty on it when I purchased it at my local camera specialty store in 2007. Recently, it went wonky, not giving me a clear focus on most pictures. I was still inside my warranty period, barely, so I took it in, they fixed it, and it’s back as good as new. No charge. If I didn’t have the warranty it would have been an almost $300 repair, in which case I would have pitched it and bought a new one.

It seems like every time you buy ANYTHING they’re trying to sell you an extended warranty. Why? Because it’s hugely profitable. So here are a few guidelines to help you decide when to buy and when to pass:

Buy the extended warranty when the thing you are buying is:

  1. Something you carry (and will eventually drop).
  2. Expensive and technologically complex.
  3. Something that you plan on using heavily for the entire warranty period.

Pass on the extended warranty when the thing you are buying is:

  1. Unlikely to break outside of the manufacturer’s warranty (like an automobile).
  2. Contains no moving parts (or very few and simple ones).
  3. Is something you could replace at low cost.

I’ve had people try to sell me extended warranties on DVDs. I typically pass on buying warranties for TVs and consumer electronics, like DVD players, iPods, etc. But I do purchase the extended warranties on laptop computers.

Be careful and read the warranties. Your laptop extended warranty might not cover damage you inflict on it, or if you manage to get it wet (dropping and water damage make up the reasons for the vast majority of laptop repairs – often at the owner’s expense). You might find a better, more comprehensive warranty from a third party. Look for them online.

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5 Responses to “Tech Buying Tip: What To Do About Extended Warranties”

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  2. Hal Brown says:

    I usually avoid extended warranties. Of course some of the circumstances you mentioned are certainly reasonable. Every case is different and needs to be treated as such.

  3. Can I get insurance for my iPad or iPhone? | iPad Guides says:

    […] Tech Buying Tip: What To Do About Extended Warranties […]

  4. […] But spend any time there and you quickly discover that the staff is only present to sell you stuff. They really can’t help you make an informed purchase and they certainly can’t help you decide between models, manufacturers, or options. And what they want more than anything is to sell you extremely overpriced cables and extended warranties. Go to to buy your cables and think long and hard before buying an extended warranty and see my advice from last year. […]

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