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HDTV Buying Guide: Extended Warranties

Matt Burns
11.22.05
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Who likes to buy service plans? Anyone? No one does. People feel that if they are spending X amount of money then it should last as long as the 24-inch Zenith that they purchased after they got married in ’86. Well folk, I got news for you. Most modern TVs technology are not made to last.

This edition of HD Beat HDTV Buying Guide is going to take you through different questions to help you determine if an extended warranty is worth your money. Different people will use their new HDTVs differently so there is not a standard for buying these warranties. You need to look at the warranty being offered and compare it against you lifestyle. For example: You are buying a 20-inch TV for a third bedroom that is going to be used more for looks, more then likely you do not need that warranty. But if that same TV is going to be used as an office TV to watch MSNBC for 12 hours a day and the warranty costs 10-20% of the starting price of the TV; then yes, I would buying it.
 
[More after the jump]

The very first thing you need to consider when buying the warranty is your usage. Do not look at the price yet; determine how much you plan on using it and for what. Start with how much you watch it everyday, but do not forget the amount you leave it on just for “noise” or for the dog.

The average time for Americans is six hours a day. Two in the morning for the news and “noise:” four in the afternoon for the kids cartoons and primetime. Those six hours a day equates to 2100 hours a year. If you see yourself using this TV as a primary set, then consider the warranty every time.

Once you have determined how the set is going to be used, take a look at the cost and benefits. Retailer’s warranties may vary greatly in cost but so can their benefits.

There are some very good questions you can ask the salesman to determine how good the warranty coverage is.

1.    Who does the service work?
2.    How long is the turn around time? Loaner TV?
3.    Who backs the warranty?
4.    Is there a deductible?
5.    How many bulbs do you replace in this DLP/LCD RP?
6.    When does it start?
7.    It is in-home service, right?
8.    Do I have to have original paperwork?

Lets take each one so I can expand on the importance of them.

1.    Who does the service work?

This first question can tell you a lot. If the salesman does not know then that person probably does not work out of the store. In fact, the serviceman may be sub-contracted which means the store would not have that much control on the quality of the workmanship due to lack of accountability. Avoid this. You want the salesman to know who the warranty is done by; it is great if they can even tell you their name.

2.    How long is the turn around time? Loaner TV?

Lets say you live 45 minutes away from a large town, but that large town is just a suburb of a larger metropolitan area 1:30 hours away. The repairman could be coming up from the larger city, which would mean it could take days till your TV is fixed. Lets say the repairman cannot fix the TV in your home, how long would it take to get fixed if they have to send it to a service center? Can you get a loaner?

3.    Who backs the warranty?

Most large stores warranties are actually someone else. Circuit City uses GE service contracts and serviceman. The warranty would still be honored if they go the way of Montgomery Wards. So if you are buying this TV at a going out of business sale, make sure a good company backs it.

4.    Is there a deductible?

Wouldn’t it just be terrible if you spent $400 on a service contract and then be slapped with a deductible of $49 just to have the TV looked at? Do not buy a warranty if it has a deductible. It should be a one time cost.

5.    How many bulbs do you replace in this DLP/LCD RP?

DLP/LCD projections are ran by lamps and they need to be replaced. I do not know of a manufacture that covers the lamp under their OEM warranty any more. It is a user replaceable part and they expect the consumer to replace it when they have burn through it. (think ink-jet cartridge) These TVs are not designed to be on 6-8 hours a day but if you are going to buy one and use it as a primary TV, make sure you know how many bulbs the warranty will replace. Check out the cost of the bulb from the manufacture (do not ask the salesman) and if the cost of the service plan is less then one bulb, buy at least a short two-year warranty. You will use it if this TV is going to be a primary TV.

6.    When does it start?

Lets say you are buying a TV for Christmas now but do not plan on taking delivery of it till right before the 25th. The warranty should not start till you receive the TV. With that being said, buy the TV if you think it is a great deal, but do not take delivery till you need it. That way your warranty is not being used even if the TV is sitting in the basement till the new media room is finished.

7.    It is in-home service, right?

Please make sure that the warranty is in-home. You do not want to be responsible to bring a big plasma or rear-projection to a service center.

8.    Do I have to have original paperwork?

If you talk to 10 different people they will tell you 10 different bad experiences with warranties, but the most popular story will have common thread of Best Buy. They are notorious of not servicing something if they do not have the original proof of purchase. Not an in store copy but the original receipt.

The salesman should be able to answer all of these questions and if they cannot, find someone that can. These are important questions that you need to know. The extended warranties are a big money maker for retailers but they are important to consider in your HDTV purchase.

Salesman will love to talk about the service contracts and if you bring up the subject early, there is a good chance you could get a better deal. Shop around for extended warranties before you go to the store via the Internet. Most stores will not match the price of other retailers because they are all different and they will use the comparison of “not Apples to Apples.” But it does not hurt to ask. Sometimes they will met you half way or even give you all of the difference.

The most important thing is to understand how you plan on using the HDTV and how the TV works. You may want to glance back at the HDTV Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Kind. Do not simply discard the salesman warranty pitch but rather, look at the service plan to see if it relates to how you plan on using the TV. Listen and ask those eight questions.

Did you buy a service plan on your HDTV? Why or why not?
 

In this article: hd
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