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Computer Care: Think twice before buying extra warranty

POSTED: October 25, 2013 6:27 p.m.

When you buy your next electronic gadget during the next few months, whether for yourself or a gift, chances are the salesperson will ask if you want to add an extended warranty to the purchase. You’re under pressure to decide in a few seconds whether or not to spend about 15 percent of the device’s value to protect it. I almost always decline these offers.

Aside from the one time when my laptop had keyboard failure, I’ve never had to take advantage of the extended warranty, so I stopped buying them. The fact is, most things that will happen to a device will happen to it quickly and the repairs will be covered by the store’s or manufacturer’s warranty.

If the price is cheap enough — and often it is enticing — I will buy protection for a laptop only. I frequently carry my laptop with me when I travel and when I go on jobs, so the chance of it being bumped, dropped or otherwise damaged is great.

When you do feel it necessary to get the extra insurance, you need to inquire if it is a no-fault warranty. Would your purchase be covered if you dropped it or if your puppy chewed through the power cord?

Then you need to determine if you need to pack it up and send to a repair center or will you be provided with an RMA number and box to ship it in. Also inquire how long you would be without your device. Would you get a loaner in the interim (probably not) or would they come to you to make repairs?

You’ve got to (quickly) decide if what you are about to purchase is worth the extra expense of an additional warranty. What is the product worth; what could go wrong with it; what would repairs cost?

In rare cases the cost of the warranty is worth it, but there are caveats. If a persistent problem arises, the device will be replaced by the store or manufacturer.

Most consumers don’t know that when you send your covered computer in for repairs, you will get it back fixed but with your hard drive wiped clean. The way they fix software and operating system issues is simply to reinstall Windows. By doing that, all of your documents, photos, videos, music, spreadsheets and other data are deleted, not to mention all of your installed programs, printer driver and network and system settings. You will basically be starting from scratch, like the day you bought the computer.

Sometimes even if you send it in for a hardware issue, you may discover a wiped hard drive upon its return. That’s just the way they do things in the corporate repair world.

Many consumers also fail to realize if a premium credit card is used to purchase an appliance, it would be cover from Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Many of their high-end Gold and Platinum cards do cover purchases. So buying an extended warranty would just be redundant and a waste of money.

Motherboards and video display can fail, sure. But most times that would happen during the first few weeks or months, not a year later. They fail when old, but what doesn’t? So excepting the purchase of laptops, I’d save my money. If you could almost replace your device (tablet) for the cost of a warranty, get a new one instead.

Of all the computers I have repaired, only a handful required a motherboard replacement, and they were old XP machines. Hard drives fail, but at least they are relatively inexpensive.

Often you will spend about the same or less for repairs on your device instead of getting that warranty. Consider the time you will be without that laptop; often a couple of weeks. With a local repair, it might only be a day or two.

I save clients’ data whenever possible, but most times repairs done under warranty work will simply replace the drive, tossing all your stuff with it. So even with that warranty, there are instances when getting it fixed locally may prove better for you.

Just remember, should something go awry with your covered device, for the first week or two, the store would be responsible for it. They will at most times replace a defective unit. After that, it falls under the manufacturer’s warranty, which would cover anywhere from a year to two years. Should something happen to your device after that, then the extended warranty would kick in if you had one.

So even if you did purchase an extra insurance policy on your computer (or laptop, tablet, phone, Blu-ray, etc), if it fails during the first year, it could be covered by a warranty other than the extended one. Also consider saving the money the warranty would cost and put it toward repairs or even replacing the device altogether.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.


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