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Even the most reliable appliance will eventually break down. If an appliance breaks within the first year you own it, its manufacturer’s warranty will likely cover replacement. After that window, you are on your own—unless you purchase either an extended warranty for that appliance or a home warranty with appliance coverage.
An appliance extended warranty can cover repair and replacement costs after the original manufacturer’s warranty expires. For all the benefits they promise, extended warranties also have their downsides. This article takes an in-depth look at appliance extended warranties, including their pros, cons, and coverage terms, to help you decide if and when these policies are worth it.
What Is an Appliance Extended Warranty?
When you purchase a new appliance, the manufacturer’s warranty typically covers it for a limited time. This warranty is included in the purchase price and covers the cost to service, repair, or replace the appliance if it malfunctions due to a manufacturing defect or unexplained failure. Manufacturer warranties vary in length but typically last one year.
An appliance extended warranty supplements the coverage the manufacturer’s warranty provides. It may simply extend the duration of the coverage with identical terms or cover more than the original warranty. You must purchase an appliance extended warranty before the expiration of the manufacturer’s warranty. You may see this type of warranty referred to as a protection plan, a service contract, or appliance insurance.
Retailers often offer extended warranties as an add-on when customers buy a home appliance, but you can also purchase them through third-party companies. Extended warranties are most commonly purchased for large appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, ice makers, washers, dryers, dishwashers, ovens, stoves or cooktops, built-in microwaves, water heaters, and HVAC units. They are often available for smaller appliances, too.
What Does an Appliance Extended Warranty Cover?
In broad terms, an appliance extended warranty will cover the cost to repair or replace an appliance that malfunctions during the coverage period. It also covers the labor costs associated with repairing your appliance. However, warranty terms vary, and exclusions do apply. You should read through any policy carefully before purchasing it to determine exactly what it does and does not cover.
An extended warranty may only cover manufacturer defects or issues that arise from normal wear and tear. Its coverage may also be limited to mechanical parts. Many warranties do not cover the following:
- Damage caused by an accident
- Improperly maintained or modified appliances
- Cosmetic damage, such as dents and scratches
- Damage to knobs, window glass, and other cosmetic components
Benefits and Drawbacks of Appliance Extended Warranties
Like other insurance policies or home service plans, appliance extended warranties come with their own set of pros and cons to consider.
Here are the benefits to purchasing an appliance extended warranty:
- Peace of mind: An extended warranty can provide some peace of mind when you purchase an appliance. It can be especially reassuring if the manufacturer’s warranty seems too short or if you have had recurring issues with this type of appliance in the past.
- Flat up-front cost: The entire cost of an appliance extended warranty is paid up-front, leaving no monthly or annual premiums to worry about. Many warranty providers offer several options, such as a one-year, three-year, or five-year warranty. Regardless of your choice, you will pay a single lump sum for the entire term.
- Experienced service technicians: When a covered appliance breaks down, you do not need to hunt down a reliable handyperson. The warranty provider will connect you with a pre-screened service technician who specializes in the specific brand or type of appliance you own.
- Available to renters: A home warranty must be purchased by a homeowner. If you rent your home, an appliance extended warranty is the only way to cover any major appliances you purchase and plan to take with you.
- Added perks: Some providers throw in extra benefits to make extended warranties worth the cost. For instance, premium protection plans from Lowe’s offer a partial refund if you never have to use them, while The Home Depot allows you to transfer warranty coverage to a new owner for free. Some plans also provide partial reimbursement for preventive maintenance items, such as water filters, rinse aids, and cleaners.
Here are some drawbacks to purchasing extended coverage on your appliance:
- Comparative cost: Some products cost more to repair than others, and some are more likely to require repair than others. Take the time to research the product you plan to buy. Then, you can make an informed decision considering how likely it is to break within the warranty period, the out-of-pocket cost to address common issues, and how this cost compares to that of an extended warranty.
- Possible redundancy: Before purchasing an appliance extended warranty, ensure another warranty plan does not already cover the item. Some credit card issuers provide a complimentary extended warranty for items purchased with their card. You may also find an overlap between the included manufacturer’s warranty and the extended coverage offered by a retailer or third party, making the latter redundant.
- Limited coverage: Appliance extended warranties simply cover breakdowns caused by regular use or a manufacturing defect. It’s important to read the fine print of any warranty. Pay particular attention to any exclusions in the warranty’s terms that make it less useful. For instance, many warranties specify that they do not cover accidents, damage caused by natural disasters, or residential appliances used in a commercial setting. The best home warranties typically offer more generous coverage than an appliance extended warranty.
- Inconvenient terms: The fine print of an extended appliance warranty may outline routine maintenance requirements. Failure to follow the recommended maintenance schedule could void the warranty. A requirement that you use specific providers for any necessary maintenance or repairs could also prove inconvenient.
- Sales pressure: Homeowners have a limited window of time to purchase an extended warranty. This creates a sense of urgency and pressure to buy—especially if the retailer offers the warranty. In that case, you typically have to decide immediately before completing your purchase.
Appliance Extended Warranty vs. Home Warranty
In your search for home appliance insurance, homeowners have two basic options: an appliance extended warranty and a home warranty that includes appliance coverage. Both give homeowners access to a network of qualified service technicians and reduce out-of-pocket costs if a covered appliance requires repair or replacement. However, key differences exist in cost, coverage, and availability.
Appliance extended warranties cost less than home warranties because they cover less. A home warranty can cover all major appliances and critical home systems. In contrast, an extended warranty covers a single appliance. The cost of purchasing an extended warranty for each item in your home will add up over time, and you will have multiple policies to keep track of. A home warranty is a simpler solution and offers more comprehensive coverage.
Perhaps the most important difference lies in when and how these policies are available. While a home warranty can be purchased anytime, an extended appliance warranty must be purchased before the original manufacturer’s warranty expires. Extended warranties are typically offered by the appliance manufacturer or the retailer at the time of purchase. Home warranties are sold by home warranty companies, such as American Home Shield.
Rarely is an extended warranty the best or only choice for appliance coverage. Home warranties for high-end appliances may be more difficult to find, but they do exist. With a comprehensive home warranty, all of your home’s major appliances will be covered by a single policy, regardless of when or by whom they were purchased.
However, appliance extended warranties may be worth it in some instances. It depends on the cost and terms of the warranty as well as the product in question. Do your research ahead of time so you do not have to make an on-the-spot decision at checkout, and be sure to read any policy carefully before signing.
Appliance Extended Warranty FAQ
For which appliances should you buy an extended warranty?
To determine whether you should buy an extended warranty for a specific appliance, research the problem rates for the specific brand and product you have in mind. Research the average cost of repairs, too. For instance, Consumer Reports identifies refrigerators as the appliance most likely to experience a problem within the first five years. However, an extended refrigerator warranty can easily exceed the average cost of repairs.
Is an extended warranty on a washer worth it?
An extended warranty on your washing machine may not be worth it. According to Consumer Reports, only 30% of all washers will experience problems within the first five years of ownership. Keep in mind, though, that some brands are more reliable than others. Reading reviews from customers and independent third-party testers can help you decide whether an extended warranty makes sense for the washer you plan to purchase.
Does an extended warranty protect against any damage to the appliance?
No, an extended warranty does not typically protect against any damage to the appliance. Most extended warranties, for instance, do not cover accidental or cosmetic damage. You should read the terms of your policy carefully to verify what types of damage it covers.
Can you buy an extended warranty for a refrigerator?
Yes, you can buy an extended warranty for a refrigerator. Most retailers will provide this option when you make your purchase. You may also be able to purchase an extended warranty later from a third-party provider. Some manufacturers also offer extended warranties directly.
How We Chose the Top Home Warranty Providers
Our team reviewed and researched dozens of home warranty providers, thoroughly analyzed sample agreements, and identified customer pain points based on customer-review analysis and interviews with industry experts. Our in-depth methodology guides our review process to provide transparent information about the companies we review.
During this process, we determined that the most critical aspects of a home warranty company include available service plans and add-ons, depth of coverage, plan cost, industry reputation, customer support infrastructure, and additional features. We also focused on the ability to choose your own contractor; upgrade your coverage package; transfer your plan to another owner; and cover roof leaks, high-end appliance brands, ceiling and exhaust fans, and faucets and fixtures.
Our research supported that plan coverage should carry the most weight, with customer support as the second-most important factor. Industry reputation, plan availability, and additional features were rated equally. Therefore, we determined that price range, while worth considering, should not be the primary basis for choosing a home warranty provider for your home’s needs.