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Warranties Offered on New Gadgets: When (if Ever) Are They a Smart Purchase?

november 17, 2021 | member benefits
Woman unpacking a new television that comes with a warranty

Every shopper has at some point been prompted to add an extended warranty to their latest purchase, and most of us reflexively decline the offer. Often, we assume that the brand new item still fresh in its box will work perfectly forever, or if it does break down, it’ll do so soon enough to qualify for a quick and hopefully easy return to the store. 

But the reality is rarely so simple, and in those instances, you could be grateful for the money you paid upfront to get it repaired or replaced with no hassle. And while warranties may not be right for every purchase, there are somewhere the additional investment makes sense.

Warranty Basics

In general, a warranty is a guarantee by a manufacturer about the overall condition and functionality of a good or product for a certain period of time. At the heart of it is the reasonable assumption by consumers that what they paid for will work as intended.

With a warranty, sellers are offering assurance to buyers that if the product doesn’t meet that reasonable standard of use, they’ll make it right. It’s important to understand that how they might do so can differ upon the warranty.

In some instances, manufacturers may want you to ship back the product so that they can repair it and return it to you or will send you a replacement part provided it’s simple enough for consumers to fix on their own. Other warranties will offer buyers a brand new replacement for the broken or malfunctioning product and lesser warranties provide a refurbished replacement.

Some warranties may offer cashback, giving users the chance to purchase a new version of the product (or to take their business elsewhere if the problems soured their affinity for the brand.)

How the company will choose to handle your warranty claim depends entirely upon what’s written in the warranty that’s included in the box or on the company website, so while most of us may have made a habit of skipping the fine print, it’s worthwhile to read up on how repairs and replacements are handled in addition to the instructions. 

That warranty may also have terms and stipulations that impact your ability to make use of the warranty. If the product breaks while using it for something outside of what would be considered as normal or reasonable use, you may void the existing warranty on the product and thus, you are not able to obtain free replacement or repair. 

In most cases, a product warranty doesn’t cover any collateral damage that may result from that product breaking either. For example, if your device goes haywire and causes damage to your home or property, the product warranty most likely makes clear that the company is not responsible for any expense or repair beyond the device itself (although you should read each warranty to be certain of its terms.)

Types of Warranties

Much of the above falls under what are known as express warranties and implied warranties. An express warranty is what the name suggests: a warranty that is put into writing or words regarding the quality and performance of the product. It’s the written warranty we often skim at purchase and scramble to find later once the product has broken down, detailing what is covered and for how long plus what the manufacturer will do to make things right. 

It can include any oral guarantees made by a company or salesperson, although those types of guarantees can be harder to hold a company to later should it prove unwilling to live up to the spoken terms; as with most agreements, getting things in writing is best. 

Implied warranties are assumed standards of reliability and function that are in place whether or not there is a written warranty on offer, usually referred to as a reasonable person’s expectations. Let’s say you’re shopping for a microwave: regardless of what may be written on the package or on a slip in the box, consumers have a right to assume that the microwave they purchase will work for its intended purpose of heating up food. The idea of an implied warranty is enshrined in law, so manufacturers can’t try to dodge it without a written warranty.

Then there’s the extended warranties, the ones we often pass on because we’d sooner have the $20 or $30 now at the risk of paying out considerably more later. Extended warranties are also somewhat self-explanatory: warranties that go beyond the basic warranty provided with your product. Depending on what is offered, “beyond” may refer to an increase in the length of time or could also broaden the scope of the coverage in terms of what will be replaced or repaired. 

For electronics, it may simply be the existing warranty period is lengthened but with an appliance, it may mean that certain parts are replaceable for a longer period of time. It’s important to understand that the extended warranty still has terms and conditions that may be voided by using the product outside of its intended normal purpose or attempting to fix a problem without using a certified repair company. And, it cannot be said enough, you need to read the terms and conditions or ask questions of a professional.

Should I Get an Extended Warranty?

Although manufacturers and retailers would like you to buy an extended warranty on every product you buy, it’s probably not economically smart or feasible to pay for the extended protection on every purchase.

So, when should you pay extra for the added coverage?

  • If you can’t afford the cost of a full replacement down the line, it might be smart to pay a little extra now for items you can’t live without, like phones or laptops.
  • If you cannot fix the item yourself, once it’s outside the regular warranty period and it’s a relatively expensive item, like appliances and exercise equipment.
  • Likewise, cars and homes are big, important investments that run the risk of repairs that can drain your budget. Having an extended warranty can offer peace of mind and a bit of insurance against considerable damage.

Beyond that, buyers must weigh the pros and cons when it comes to each offer for extended warranties and research the product’s performance.

  • Is the product likely to break during the period covered by the extended warranty? 
  • What would be the cost to repair or replace the product without a warranty? 
  • How much trouble would it be to try to get the manufacturer to fix the product under the warranty? 

If the potential benefit is worth the upfront cost, extended warranties may be a good investment; otherwise, you can opt to rely on the standard warranties, and with luck that the product will last.

If You Need Help with Warranty Terms, Get Legal Advice

Like any agreement, there’s a lot of language to parse when it comes to warranties, and the possibility of a fight to get the manufacturer to honor the terms of the agreement. If you need help understanding a warranty or getting your goods fixed under a warranty, you can talk with a LegalShield lawyer to get sound legal advice. Memberships start at only $29.95 a month. A LegalShield plan is one purchase you won’t regret.

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist and the reader is strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be a third-party paid contributor. All information by authors is accepted in good faith, however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.

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