Buyer Beware: Extended warranties

(National) Dec. 16, 2004 - So many things you buy these days come with the offer of an extended warranty.

But, Consumer Reports' Kim Kleman says data show extended warranties are almost never worth buying, "In surveys of our subscribers we've found that you'll often pay as much for the extended warranty as you would for any repairs during that time."

That's if you need any repairs at all during the warranty period. Usually, the magazine has found, you don't.

For projection TVs the repair rate in the first three years is just 16 percent. For conventional TVs the repair rate's only five to seven percent. For digital cameras the repair rate is just eight percent. Same with camcorders, just eight percent.

Kleman says, "Extended warranties are almost pure profit for the companies that offer them, because chances are you'll never use them."

She says one exception is laptop computers, "Laptops are expensive and fragile and hard to repair. So, we do recommend an extended warranty, but get it from the computer manufacturer, not from the store where you bought the computer."

Treadmills and elliptical machines are two other products where an extended warranty is a good idea, if the manufacturer's warranty is short. With so many moving parts exercise machines are prone to problems, so a two- or three-year warranty is well worth it.

Before you buy an extended warranty, check to see whether your credit card provides similar coverage. Many add a year to a manufacturer's warranty when you use the card to make the purchase.

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

Copyright © 2004 Consumers Union of U.S. , Inc. All Rights Reserved.