Should I buy the extended warranty?

Originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, November 3, 2020

Since the advent of the personal computer, businesses and individuals alike have pondered the question, do you want the extended warranty with that?  Not all extended warranties are created the same, and cost can run anywhere from 10% to 25% of the cost of the computer.  What then, are some of the things folks need to take into consideration when evaluating the purchase of an extended warranty?

First, let’s talk about base warranty.  All machines from the major manufacturers come with at least a one year warranty.  The base warranty usually includes ‘depot’ support, which is a nice way of saying that you have to either drop the computer off somewhere locally, or ship it to the mainland.  Sometimes shipping costs are included, sometimes they are not, sometimes it’s one way, meaning you pay to ship it to them, but they will cover the return or replacement shipment.

The base warranty covers hardware defects.  If something is wrong with any hardware component, it will be repaired or replaced.  Anecdotally, replacements are more common than actual repair.

It is important to point out that your data will probably NOT be saved and in some cases, folks have reported that their data was actually deleted, even though the drive was not damaged.  Just another reminder to always have your data backed up.  Any applications you added after purchase will also be gone.  In short, your computer will be like it was when you bought it.

Under a base warranty, usually, you can only place calls between 8am and 6pm, five days a week.  In Hawaii, sometimes it’s local time, sometimes it’s Pacific time, depending on the global awareness of the manufacturer.  Typically, their commitment is to begin work within one business day of your first call.

Is this good enough for you?  Many folks think so.  But what does an extended warranty offer?

One of the most significant options typically offered with an extended warranty is on-site as opposed to depot support.  If your problem can’t be resolved over the phone, a technician is sent to your residence or workplace to look at your gear, and if repair or replacement is needed, shipping costs are covered.

Another option often offered is an extension of the length of the warranty.  Common options are one, three, and five year durations, with three years being the sweet spot, both in terms of price as well as suitability.  A one year extension isn’t long enough to be of significant value, while five years is just too long.  If your computer breaks after four years…it’s time to just buy a new one.

Extension of the time period in which you can call, as well as response time is offered as an alternative under extended warranties as well.  This option is popular with businesses and government agencies who need immediate assistance.  Typically this upgrade is for 24×7 support, with a commitment to begin work in 4 hours or less.

Accidental damage protection is another popular option available from many manufacturers.  This one is pretty self explanatory.  If you accidentally damage your machine, say by spilling coffee on it, you are covered.

Should I buy the extended warranty?
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