Manufacturer Extended Warranties
A basic extended warranty will extend the period of time a product is covered. As I noted, the outright majority of consumer notebooks come with a one-year warranty; purchasing a two-year warranty will extend the standard coverage by one year beyond that and so on.
Basic extended warranties do not necessarily add extra features such as better support over the included basic warranty. If the standard warranty is listed as “One-year limited warranty” and the extended warranty is listed as “Two-year limited warranty”, chances are they are the same except for the period of time covered.
The longest warranty period I recommend is three years; four- and five-year warranties are offered by some manufacturers however that is an eternity in the computer world; any computer that old would be quite outdated and at that point, it would be best just to get a new computer. Also, note that the price for four- and five-year warranties is usually higher per year than three-year warranties; the manufacturer knows it is likely going to have to replace parts at that point and charges accordingly.
“Premium” Extended Manufacturer Warranties
Companies also sell “advanced” or “premium” extended warranties that add additional features to the basic warranty. Feature support will vary by company; they may include extras such as:
- Enhanced technical support
- Expedited shipping
- In-home repair service
- Accidental damage coverage
“Enhanced technical support” can be ambiguous; larger companies are offering it in response to the backlash they received years ago from outsourcing to countries such as India. Dell, for example, bills their enhanced technical support as “North American Phone Support”.
In general I think premium warranties are a waste of money (with the exception of accidental damage protection); whether you have the standard or premium warranty, the manufacturer will still make good on warranty issues. Premium warranties are a good example of companies “skimming off the top”, making you pay for things you don’t need.
Retail Store Extended Warranties
Retail stores such as Best Buy are infamous for pushing customers to buy their extended warranty plans. Stores rarely make more than a few percent profit on notebooks themselves, however extended warranties are almost always pure profit.
You are almost always better off getting an extended warranty from the manufacturer rather than a retail store for the following reasons:
- Manufacturer extended warranties are almost always less expensive. To illustrate, Best Buy’s two-year standard plan for a ~$1,000 Toshiba laptop is $179.99, while Toshiba’s two-year extended warranty is only $79.99.
- It will likely be faster getting your laptop serviced by the manufacturer rather than the retail store. Retail stores do not stock replacement parts like manufacturers do; chances are if you bring your laptop into Best Buy for repair, they will have to send it out anyway to get the job done. Don’t expect retail stores to be any faster servicing your notebook than the manufacturer.
- Retail store warranties do not include phone support on all but their most expensive plans; manufacturer warranties include phone support for the length of the warranty period or longer. Getting a two- or three-year advanced warranty with phone support from Best Buy on $1,049 Dell laptop is $299.95, where Dell only charges $168.00.
In short, manufacturer extended warranties offer the same level of service or better compared to retail store extended warranties at less cost to you.
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