Read that warranty fine print before you spend big bucks

Consumer Reports says extended warranties are usually not worth the cost

Most major purchases, such as cars, appliances and even houses, come with warranties.

They’re great for peace of mind if they cover the right things. That two letter word, “if,” is key.

Alfonso Torres and his wife had just moved into their new home when their fridge went on the fritz.

“Although the refrigerator was under warranty, we still had to pay for them to come, and they could not fix it. So, they offered to replace it for a similar model, but we could not find exactly one, so we had to pay a little extra,” Torres said.

A lot of people face warranty letdowns, often because the limitations are hidden in the fine print.

“A good warranty is one that’s long, covers the most important parts, and has a simple process for resolving problems,” said Consumer Reports’ Diane Umansky. “That’s important because that tells you that a manufacturer has confidence that its product is going to last a long time.”

Reading the fine print, all of it, is important, she said. Coverage periods can vary a lot and there are almost always exclusions.

“Regular wear and tear isn’t covered in a warranty, and neither are user mistakes, like spilling coffee on your keyboard. You want to use the product as it’s recommended to be used. That’s really important to make sure your warranty stays in effect,” Umansky said.

Extended warranties that claim to provide additional coverage on top of the manufacturer’s warranty or coverage after it expires often sound appealing. But Consumer Reports says that most times they’re not worth the additional cost. CR found that consumers are usually better off just putting away a little cash for emergency repairs.

There are exceptions, though. If you have a child who tends to drop his laptop, paying for the extended the warranty may be a wise move.

The bottom line: Know what your warranty covers and what it doesn’t before you need it. And always take the time to read the terms and conditions so that you avoid potential frustration in the future.

Even if a product is recently out of warranty, Consumer Reports says it never hurts to contact the manufacturer if you need help. And if you paid for an item with a credit card, you might have additional warranty protection.


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About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.