Why you should take a pass on extended warranties for laptops, phones
Question: Are computer extended warranties worth buying?
Answer: No matter what tech device you buy from practically any retailer, it’s pretty likely that they’ll try to get you to pay a little extra for a “protection plan” that goes above and beyond the standard factory warranty.
In some cases, it seems like such a small amount of money that you may say, “why not get the extra coverage?”, but the credit card you made the purchase with may already provide this basic protection.
In the vast majority of cases, you’re simply improving the profitability of the sale for the retailer, which is why you’re seeing it virtually everywhere.
Many of the electronic devices you’ll buy today don’t have the moving parts that would commonly wear out in the past, making the “protection” even less likely to pay off.
Computers: It’s not covered
When it comes to computers, there are a variety of reasons that buying “extra protection” upfront can be a waste of money.
First and foremost is that these protection plans generally only cover hardware components, which is rarely what causes those aggravating computer issues.
In our 30 plus years of servicing computers, the vast majority of issues that we see are software or operating system-based, which isn’t covered by most extended warranties or protection plans.
They know that most consumers don’t realize this and that they won’t take the time to read the fine print. Even when some form of coverage includes the operating system, it means they will return the computer to the factory settings.
“Factory settings” means the stuff you really care about like your programs, data files, browser settings, printer drivers and desktop icons are all going to be wiped out.
When you get your computer back from this type of “warranty” service, the burden of reloading your programs, restoring your data files (hopefully you had them backed up), reinstalling printer drivers and getting the computer to work the way it used to is on you.
Warranty service can also take a lot longer depending upon your device as large retailers may require the device to be shipped to a central repair facility in another state.
If you’re going to pay for extra coverage on a computer, it’s best to get a plan that covers software-based issues and includes data backup and restoration. Another thing it should address is the one thing that very few computer owners ever think about: maintenance.
The reason so many computer problems become complicated, time-consuming and expensive to fix is because most users tend to ignore the signs of a problem when they first appear.
They don’t reach out for help until the computer becomes unbearable to use, which means it’s likely loaded with issues by then.
Imagine how expensive car repair would become if you never maintained your vehicle and waited until it broke down before taking it to a mechanic.
Addressing quirky computer issues when they occur keeps them from becoming a cascade of issues, which is where maintenance comes in.
The Apple exception
Apple has moved to computer, phone and tablet hardware platforms that are nearly impossible to repair by anyone other than Apple. The “Apple Care” package they sell that extends their coverage, despite it not covering software and maintenance issues, is one of the few that you may want to consider because their hardware is so expensive.
Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services, datadoctors.com. Ask any tech question at facebook.com/DataDoctors or on Twitter @TheDataDoc.