Q: Are extended warranties on computers worth buying? — Tim
A: During the holiday buying season, the ‘opportunity’ to buy an extended warranty will likely be presented to most of us when we are at the register to pay.
You will have 30 seconds to make a decision on a contract that would realistically take you 30 minutes to read through (by design).
In general, extended warranties (like insurance, playing the lottery or gambling in Las Vegas) favors the house, which is why they continue to present you with ‘the opportunity to protect your investment.’ Just like with other forms of gambling, you will hear lots of people tell you how their extended warranty ‘paid off’ for them and that they would do it all over again, so if you are the gambling type, make sure you do your homework.
The device you are buying and how expensive it is, has a lot to do with whether you should even consider the extra coverage in the first place.
Another big red flag is when the company that is selling you the extra coverage is not the one responsible for providing the service after the sale.
Inexpensive devices or those that have few or no moving parts (like digital cameras and tablets) are the least likely to be worthwhile covering, while even complicated devices like laptop computers are still questionable because of the cost of the coverage.
Another huge consideration: What’s actually covered by the warranty? Often times, things like abuse or user inflicted damage are not covered but you won’t know that until you try to make a claim.
With computers, the vast majority of problems aren’t from hardware failure, (which is primarily what most extended warranties cover), it’s software or operating system problems which aren’t covered the way you would want them to be.
Extended warranties on your computer that include repairing corrupted operating systems means, they will wipe everything off your hard drive and reload it so it looked like it did on the day you bought it.
Imagine not knowing this and getting your computer back with nothing on it.
You get to spend the next two weeks trying to find all your program disks, restore your backups (if you even have one), reconfigure all your settings so that you can get on the Internet and print and figure out how to get all of your peripherals to talk to your computer again because none of that is ‘covered.’
Getting it repaired so that all of your critically important information and settings are retained is expressly not covered; if you can actually get through the fine print, you will see that your data and settings are your problem, not theirs.
If you want extended protection on a computer in the areas that are most likely to impact you, look at some form of coverage (such as our Quality Care program http://goo.gl/SeNkO ) that allows you to bring your computer in whenever you want, not just when something breaks.
This allows you to ensure that you get value for your money because you are in control of when the computer gets serviced, not the extended warranty company.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.