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Personal Computer Extended Warranties – Are They Worth It?

The last time you were in a retail establishment and made a purchase and the sales associate asked you if you would like the extended warranty coverage, did you accept? For many products you are routinely asked that question. Why do you get asked that question when you see marketing display slogans and phrases attesting to the quality and performance of that product? There is quite a dichotomy in the selling process occurring here. That’s what we’re discussing today; extended warranties and other warranty types. You need to understand what’s involved in order to make good buying decisions when shopping for a personal computer, while saving your hard earned dollars.

Let’s begin by discussing the different types of warranties you will encounter when you’re shopping for a personal computer.

  • Manufacturer Warranties
  • Extended Warranties
  • “Mom & Pop” Computer Shop Warranties

Manufacturer Warranties: The standard manufacturer warranty coverage period for most desktop and laptop computers is one year. When calling for service, ensure it’s an authorized service center for your brand of PC. You can find this information in the manual that came with the PC, the manufacturer’s web site, or from the retail outlet where you made the purchase. Before contacting the service center, make sure you have the model and serial number of the PC since they will ask you for it. Once you have contacted the manufacturer’s service center, they will direct you to either ship it to a main repair facility or bring it over to a local computer center near you that is authorized by them to make repairs. The bottom line is make sure you understand the terms of the warranty. Some warranties might include labor but limited parts support. Do not assume they are all one year for parts and labor.

Just as an overall disclaimer about manufacturer warranties, if you ever have a problem with a PC during its manufacturer warranty period, the warranty may be voided if you:

  • attempt to open the case
  • disassemble any part of the unit
  • modify anything, remove a part, and/or install a part
  • upgrade the operating system

The degree of warranty strictness depends on the manufacturer, but the above is quite common for many of the PC manufacturers today.

Extended Warranties: Extended warranties are warranties purchased by the customer at the time of purchase. Contact information should be listed on the paperwork that accompanies your extended warranty purchase. Remember that the repair facility responsible for an extended warranty repair is rarely the same company as the PC manufacturer. For an extended warranty, a service center’s response on how to repair your PC can vary from company to company; some will provide outstanding customer service, others may keep you waiting for awhile. Some service centers will dispatch out a technician to your home within a certain time frame, other servicers may ask you to either ship the unit to their facility, or take it to a nearby service center that they have authorized to do their repairs. Still others may even help you solve the problem over the phone, depending on the complexity of the problem.

Remember the following about extended warranties:

  • They are the highest money maker for many retail outlets, even more of a profit maker than the product itself.
  • Do not rely or trust what a salesperson tells you about how great an extended warranty is and be careful of the ones who put down the manufacturer’s warranty to build up the value of the extended warranty.
  • Nothing verbal that a salesperson tells you can be legally enforced, but rather what is in writing will be the authority for the coverage terms.
  • Ask to see what the coverage details of the extended warranty include before buying. If the salesperson cannot provide that information, leave and shop elsewhere.

The ultimate question is should I get an extended warranty for a PC purchase? Statistics of PC servicing show that if a PC is going to break, it usually breaks down in the initial few months of use, which is already covered by most manufacturer’s warranties. Once it breaks, it’s usually okay for a few years, which would put you out of the realm of extended warranty coverage anyway. The best insurance policy you can have for a PC is simply take good care of it. I’ve always done that and my PCs have lasted me several years, including the laptops.

“Mom & Pop” PC Shop Warranties: An area of warranty coverage that you should be careful about is a warranty associated with a third-party PC store. They are generally referred to as a “Mom & Pop” computer store from your local area that sells and services PCs, builds their own PCs, and will also build a custom PC to your specifications. Their prices and selection aren’t as good as the large retail chain stores, but they are competitive. The area where they make up for this is in the area of customer service. A local PC store that has been in business for a number of years will have good, personalized customer service. Before deciding to do business with them you should find out the following:

  • Their reputation for backing up service claims by customers is key. Call your friends or coworkers and ask if they have done business with the company. A good rule of thumb is finding out how long they have been in business. If they have been in business for several years, that is usually a good sign.
  • Evaluate their customer service. Go inside the store and walk around. If asked by a staff member if you need assistance, ask them about their service policies. Find out what types of PCs they offer for sale. Mention some problems that you’ve had in the past with your PC and see how they respond. Stay in the store for awhile and see how customers are treated that are dropping off or picking up their computers. Does the staff seem knowledgeable, courteous, and have a customer-first attitude?
  • These companies should have warranties on their PCs as well as providing for refurbished, or reconditioned PCs. Find out what the warranty period is for reconditioned computers. They should have a 90 day warranty if you choose not to purchase their warranty.
  • Ask the technicians if they are A+ certified, have some computer industry certification, or inquire about their length of experience.
  • Although being a member of the Better Business Bureau doesn’t necessarily indicate integrity, it’s a point in favor of them as a viable candidate for your business.
  • Are they an authorized repair facility for a major PC manufacturer? This is not vital but it’s a good indicator of their expertise in the computer industry.

Understand that the validity of their warranty rests with their willingness to support it, which in most cases with reputable shops, is pretty good. Frankly, I have never experienced problems in this area, but I always made sure of that shop’s reputation and did my homework before making the purchase.

If you really need to have an extended warranty so you can sleep well there are a couple of ways to get a free extended warranty. Keep in mind that the major credit card issuers have cards that do provide extended warranty coverage for products purchased with the card. Check your card issuer and find out if your card qualifies for it. If it doesn’t, you may be able to switch over to another card they issue that does have the extended warranty feature with minimal or no cost to you for the card switch. If you call their customer service they can explain the details of the extended warranty coverage.

Another free extended warranty avenue are the national home shopping clubs. There’s a good chance one of them is in your area; check it out and see if they offer a free extended warranty with a PC purchase.

Remember that you can always bank the money that you could have paid toward an extended warranty and save it for a repair down the road, if it’s ever needed. But the most important thing you can do is simply treat your PC well, like any other large monetary investment. By taking good care of it, you are stacking the deck in your favor. Treat your PC with respect and it will last you well past the warranty period. Besides stretching the dollars you paid for your PC and getting more than your money’s worth, you will definitely sleep well at night.

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