Warranties & Guarantees: 4 Facts to Make Sure You’re Covered

Not all warranties are created equal. So how can you tell the difference between good coverage and bad? We delve into all you need to know about warranties.

We’re always looking to get the most bang out of our hard-earned buck, whether it’s being spent on a necessity or some indulgence. Companies know this, and so they’ll usually try to sweeten whatever deal you’re considering with some additional perk. No down payment! No interest for the first year! Two for the price of one! We’ll give you a crisp high-five!

And then, of course, there is the humble warranty. It’s the bread and butter of the sale, and on paper seems like quite the steal. For a small, additional fee, you get free repairs and/or replacements on your purchase for the next year, perhaps even longer? What a bargain. No need to worry about shelling out a ridiculous amount of additional cash to buy the thing in question all over again.

As with any additional “perk,” however, these kinds of plans usually come with strings attached: they can get expensive very quickly, can cover only a very narrow set of circumstances, and have to be renewed regularly.

Why bother with the additional paperwork when many products come with a manufacturer’s warranty comes built in? Well, the “default” tends to come with a lot of words like “only” and “limited” and “except,” along with a timeframe of only a month or two; twelve, if you’re lucky.

This isn’t to say that warranties aren’t worthwhile. On the contrary, they can be the ideal way to protect your investments and guarantee the value of where you spend your money. It’s just that, often, simpler is better when trying to avoid unnecessary costs or frivolous “benefits” that really don’t give you much. If you can cut out all of the extraneous fees and optional add-ins and still get good coverage without breaking in your wallet, it’s probably a good idea!

With that in mind, here are some features and key terms to look for before you decide to buy additional warranties:

1. First and foremost, consider what comes already included in the manufacturer’s guarantee, and therefore won’t cost anything more. For items that you know, you’ll use regularly and/or may be exposed to rough conditions (like, say, an external security door!), the more comprehensive, the better. It usually will not cover issues caused by accidents or tampering, but if the warranty includes whatever problems may arise from normal use and wear, it’s likely more than good enough for most people.

2. Next, look at how long this warranty lasts. The best case scenario is, of course, the lifetime warranty: you’re set forever! Of course, many companies will use this concept as a buzzword to get you invested, but not actually back it up with any substantial coverage. Make sure that the product’s functional elements (hardware, framework, and so on) are included. You probably won’t get superficial concerns like surface scratches or chipping included, but that’s not particularly important in the long run.

3. Compare overlapping coverages. Many plans will incorporate several stretches of time, each of which will cover something different: five years for this, ten years for that, et cetera. This approach is good because it recognizes that a product’s parts aren’t all created equal, and will most likely wear and/or break at different rates. If those that are most likely to fail are covered earliest (usually within the first year or two) and the later periods (ten years, “for the life of the product”) are mostly about ensuring overall longevity and durability, you’re likely set.

4. Finally, note any charges that may be required for repair. Many plans will give you certain parts of a fix for “free” as part of your coverage, but charge you for other things: shipping, labor, and so on. While simpler plans might not include them, the tradeoff lies in the fact that they aren’t particularly comprehensive: either the issue is so small that it’s not worth doing anything about, or it’s too large to be covered, and you’ll have to just replace the whole thing. Better guarantees will typically include them, but keep the charges and minimums low. Since you probably won’t have to pay them frequently (if at all) and only when you need them, these costs will be a better investment than paying more for a general service that you may never use.

So be smart about your investments, and try to find a bundle deal that gets you your item and good protection for it in one! The more a company is willing to include upfront, the better. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for being such a savvy and responsible shopper, too!

What’s your opinion on warranties? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments on warranties and guarantees below.