Saturday, January 3

I warrant you'll be wantin' a warranty

"Extended Warranty, how could I lose?!"
--Homer Simpson

Okay, fine, so we all know about the dreaded 'extended warranty' on a car. It ranks up there with 'undercoating.'

But in this increasingly electronics-filled society, aren't warranties becoming almost second nature? And shouldn't they be?

Some say no. Liz Pulliam Weston believes that, other than laptops, extended warranties aren't a good use of your money. That's because laptops are far more difficult to fix yourself. On the other hand, I suppose, most people know someone who can help with a PC.

I guess this makes sense, but a lot depends on your situation. When my computer went kablooey, I was doing contract work to make ends meet. (Or, to be more precise, to make the ends be less far apart.) The state of Washington was giving me $330 a month; my mom was helping me with the rest of my rent; and I had about $100 in food stamps each month. So that contract work, even when it was only $60 a week, was a big deal.

In other words, I couldn't go without a computer. I found Best Buy had some eMachines with incredible rebates. But since I needed the money upfront, I opened a 0% Best Buy card, giving me a 6-month window to get the rebate checks and slowly pay down the balance. The end cost was around $250 for the actual computer.

But because even $250 was difficult to cough up, I knew that if this computer died I'd be in big trouble. I wouldn't be able to get 0% a second time, and I didn't know anyone who was PC-savvy. So I invested in the 2-year warranty.

Just the peace of mind the warranty offered was worth it.

But if you are in a position where you can save up relatively quickly for a cheap computer -- or you know someone who can likely fix it for you -- you probably regard the extended warranty with suspicion.

Then there are things that aren't so easily fixed: MP3 players, audio equipment, video game consoles.

I guess the question is: How much do you need to spend before you're willing to protect it for an extra two years?

For me, the decision comes down to how much a replacement would be, versus the assurance I have that the item will last. For example, my vacuum cleaner came with a three-year warranty. I think that's acceptable. On the other hand, if it's only going to cost $10 to get an extra year or two out of a $20 MP3 player, why not go for it?

A lot of people (including some store employees) encourage you to take advantage of the warranty process. Some warranties aren't pledging to fix items -- they are pledging to replace them. So if your camera spontaneously "breaks" toward the end of your warranty, you'll get a gift card for the purchase price. And then you have a brand new camera. Personally, this kind of thing makes me a little queasy. But I'm a tad too honest, I suppose.

Have you ever taken this approach? Do you buy warranties on your electronics? Are PC warranties a total waste of money?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Warranties are all numbers games, just like Vegas. It's not that you might not make out with money- it's that the house wins in the end. Sometimes you get off with a replaced camera or computer, and sometimes you spend an extra fifty bucks that never does anything.

Good example: Buddy's car had a major engine problem that later turned out to be a recalled part, and we got all the money back.

Bad example: Fry's trying to make up pay a hundred in warranty coverage on two computer parts whose total cost was 250 dollars.

Another thing to mention with computers, is that you can find GREAT deals with used computers (like cars, sometimes only 6-12 months used, which is NOTHING!). Another place to look is Craigslist ads, and to ask computer buddies if they have spare parts. I know that after my husband and I replaced our computers recently, we now have enough spare parts lying around to make another computer and a half. They're used parts, so we don't want to sell them, but we'd gladly hand them over to any friend who needed them.

There are still computer recycling centers around that keep everything from vacuum tubes to never-used motherboards, who can assemble cheap machines with better running power than out-of-the-box models. You trade a little ease-of-use for power, but it's an option to consider.

Computers are kind of going the way of cars- if you know what you're doing, you save a bundle and have a better running machine. If you don't, you can be taken to the cleaners by repairmen and salesmen as ruthless as bad mechanics.

January 4, 2009 at 9:26 AM

Blogger Abigail said...


Thanks for the info. We have a recycling center near downtown Seattle that I've been to before. (I got a 'boot box' -- all the hardware, no operating system.) Tim and I have discussed having him just build the next computer we get. When that day draws near, maybe I'll take him shopping over there.

Thanks for all the info -- very helpful!

January 4, 2009 at 11:25 AM

Blogger Alane said...

I have never been a fan of the extended warranties but after all we have gone through with gaming systems I wish we had. I will say my mom bought many of the systems but I would gladly have paid her for the warranties a list of our problems:
Wii- returned after having for 3 months. Stopped working
Zune- again after less than six months stopped working
Drumset- xbox 360 stopped working after 60 days. This isn't including foot pedal that already broke.
Problem with these returns: loss of time with the items, loss of saved info on them, even though they were under regular warranty mom had bought them online so warranty was ready to expire.
One that really irks me
PS3- 2 years old, way out of warranty since bought online months before holiday, cost to fix $159. Ouch!

January 4, 2009 at 5:14 PM

Blogger Revanche said...

After I figured out that the Best Buy warranty on my laptop was crap (they took the computer for a week to diagnose it, then called and told me they still didn't know what was wrong with it and it'd cost me $200 to have them try to fix it), I canceled the warranty and got the remainder of the term refunded. Then I had a friend who was actually computer savvy work on it for me, and he fixed it for free.

Oh yeah, and the Best Buy idiots managed to break the brightness function on the laptop in addition to not fixing the original problem.

No more warranties for me. And especially not from Best Buy, ever.

January 6, 2009 at 3:03 PM


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