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Extended Warranty Purchasing Advice

Are they worth it?

In the old days of CRT-based TV's and projections TV's, we would advise against purchasing extended warranties (aka: extended service plans, or "ESP's"). After all, the warranty could cost $300-500 on top of the price of the TV, and almost any repair could be done for around $300. Now, on modern TV's, repairs are done by replacing complete printed circuit boards or display assemblies. Today's TV's rarely fail, but when they do, repair is expensive. For this reason, we now recommend purchasing an extended warranty on any TV that you cannot afford to go out and replace if it has a problem. A couple of scenarios will illustrate this:

 

Which warranty should I buy?

Extended warranties are actually insurance policies for the repair of the your new product. These are offered and administered by companies that are separate from the companies that sell the product. This separation has its advantages and disadvantages:

Most people buy their extended warranties at the store where they buy their set, but it's also possible to buy extended warranties on-line. You usually have to buy the warranty at the same time you buy the product, but some companies will let you buy an extended warranty for the first few months of ownership, or at any time during the manufacturer's warranty. The reason for these restrictions is obvious: They don't want you to buy a TV, watch it until it breaks, and then run out and buy an extended warranty to cover the repair. 

The best extended warranty companies are the ones that authorize repairs and pay the service centers quickly. Most service centers have contracts with a few extended warranties that they are comfortable supporting, and they will refuse to do repairs for other ESP's. If you have a particular service center that you like to use, ask what ESP's they will accept. 

Watch the exclusions!

Like all insurance policies, some problems are specifically excluded. Obviously, you cannot back the car over your new LCD TV and get it repaired for free, but some extended warranties carry the exclusions to extremes. We have seen ESP administrators decline to authorize repairs because the belts in a cassette deck were "wearing parts," like the the tires on your car! Others have refused to pay claims for any repair that contained the word "cleaned." The latest problems are with projection lamps on DLP and LCD projection TV's. Some extended warranties exclude the lamp altogether. Some will replace the lamp only once. Others will cover the lamp, but they ship you a cheap aftermarket lamp that you must install yourself. This is a big issue, because the lamp is expensive and may need to be replaced several times during the life of the contract.

Be sure to ask about exclusions when you buy the warranty, and then confirm you were told the truth when you receive the contract. 

Get the contract.

Stores do not generally give you the printed contract for the warranty you purchase. At best, they may give you a small pamphlet stapled to your purchase receipt. At worst, they may simply list the extended warranty as a line item on your receipt. We recommend contacting the ESP administrator as soon as possible after buying the contract. This protects you in case the dealer goes out of business before you need the extended warranty.  There have even been a few dealers who sold contracts, collected the money, and never sent the contract (or the money!) to the ESP administrator - something you'd rather find out now than later.

If you cannot get the contract, at least get the contract number and the name, address and phone number of the ESP administrator. You will need this information later to identify the contract to a service center.

Do these things now, while all the companies are still in business and all information is still current.  It's too late to do this when your product finally dies, after the dealer has changed ESP administrator 5 times and gone out of business.