Electronics: When to buy an extended warranty

5:55 PM, Dec 22, 2011   |    comments
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So, you've just picked out your brand new laptop or digital camera, you get up to the counter to pay for it, and the cashier tries to sell you an extended warranty.  Should you buy it or not?

While shopping for yourself or others this holiday season, you may have run into this question at the cashier's counter.

"Would you like an extended warranty for that?"

The shiny new toy you just shelled out hundreds for could run into technical problems after the manufacturer's standard warranty wears off.

So what items should you protect longer term?

Products with a higher rate of repairs, like laptops, desktop computers and tablets, should be covered longer. Problems like cracked screens, battery replacements and mechanical and electrical breakdowns can be costly, anywhere from about $200 to $600, depending on the brand of laptop and what's exactly wrong with it.

For a $500 iPad, Best Buy offers a 4-year protection plan for $99. That plan covers damages that manufacturer warrantees don't cover, which is normal wear and tear.

But Consumer Reports suggests most of the time, extended warranties are a waste of your money, and a cash cow for businesses. They say stores keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for warranties.

But if you're still concerned about protecting your electronic babies, take a look at repair prone brands. Consumer Reports lists the top three laptop brands in need of most repairs are Dell, Compaq and Sony.

Now don't feel pressured by the salesperson to buy an extended warranty on the spot.

In most cases you have 30 days to decide if you even want the warranty.

So go home, take your time and do some research on your product's likelihood of repairs.

If you do decide to purchase that warranty, here are a few of popular third-party options. ElectronicWarranty.com, Square Trade, Green UmbrellaAMT Warranty, 4cs iWarranty,  and Global Warranty Group.

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