Warranties for Laptops????
Making the decision whether or not to purchase an extended Warranty has always been a controversial subject. I myself have never been a big fan of Extended Warranties, especially the ones that are offered by the Retail stores themselves. However, is some cases the warranties offered by the Manufacturer can be very worthwhile especially on high value items. For those of you going off to college, this only complicates the decision making process. There are a few questions you have to ask yourself before making this decision:
School Programs - One very important thing to check is to see if the school you are going to attend offers any special programs for purchasing laptops. Some institutions offer great deals on Laptops with warrantees by the schools IT department. This eliminates the need to go running back to some retail store or to ship your computer off for service.
Type of Computer - The one real exception to my general feelings about Warrantees is with Apple Products. Apple tends to focus its' on efforts on cosmetics, flash, pizazz, thinness and technology and very little on ease of fixing and reparability. With great looks and style comes difficulty in taking apart. Their products are generally more expensive in the first place and are not really designed with repairing in mind. Their overall philosophy seems to be, replace with the latest and greatest rather than repair. Thus the general increased difficulty to repair and the fact that most all parts are proprietary and have to come from Apple, the overall cost to repair can be VERY expensive. If you are purchasing an iMac or Macbook, then I would absolutely recommend purchasing the Apple Care Program which is a 3 year extended Warranty with unlimited phone support. If you are purchasing a MacBook from BestBuy or anywhere else, I would NOT recommend purchasing any other Warranty accept the one from Apple directly.
Purchase Value - The Purchase price of laptop can be anywhere from $200 to well over $3000. Obviously, it would not be worth spending $100 to get a warranty on a computer that you can replace for $200. However, if you happen to be looking at an Ultra-Book or some other higher end laptop, spending a couple of hundred on an extended Warranty may make sense. I find that if the purchase price of the computer is over $1200, an extended warranty may make sense to some users.
A Few Words About Warranties in General
There are many types of warranties and what each covers can be very difficult to decipher. Some warranties only cover manufacturer defects. Others may cover the hard drive but not the battery and most do not cover software issues like virus infections or problems with the Operating system. Most do not cover accidental damage like dropping your laptop or spilling a cup of coffee on the keyboard, although some do offer this as an extra coverage option. Another big question is how does the company or Store handle warranty repairs? I have had clients tell me that when they returned their computer to the retail store for repair, it had to be shipped back to the manufacturer for repair and they were without a computer for more than 4 weeks. If you cannot be without your computer for this much time, then this form of warranty would be next to worthless to you. One of the best Warrantees that I have run across is from Dell where they will send someone to your home or office the next day to fix any problem with your computer. I have had them show up and replace screens and full motherboards in less than an hour. Now if you depend on your computer and cannot afford to be without it for days, weeks or even months, then this type of warranty may be very worthwhile for you. To give you an example: If you are purchasing a Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook for $1600, the 3 year in-home support would cost you $199. Not a bad deal if you really need your computer up and running and you don't want to deal with the hassle of returning it to the store or having to pack it up and ship it back to the manufacturer.
Length of Time - One important factor is the period of time that the Warranty covers? Most laptops are designed to last about 3 years (thus the reason you usually do not see anyone offer extended warrantees beyond 3 years, even Apple). I have found that most problems do not start until after the 2nd year, so a 2 year extended warranty usually does not make any sense. Keep in mind that most laptops automatically come with a 1 year warranty from the manufacturer, but you usually will need to ship it back to them for repair.
Warranty Process - I highly recommend you understand the repair and warranty process should something go wrong. What exactly is covered? Do they come to you to fix it or do you need to take it to them? Do you have to ship it back to them? Who pays for shipping? How long will the process take? What happens if they cannot fix it or the problem comes back? At what point will they actually replace the computer? Example: With the Standard HP/Compaq warranty, you call support and if they determine that you need to send it back, they send you a pre-paid box for you to pack up and ship the computer back to them. The total process usually takes about 2 weeks or more.
Location - If you are purchasing the computer from a retailer and you have to take it back to them for service, it is important to know if they have locations that are near where you are going to use the computer. If you happen to be going off to school and they do not have a store location near school, you may be out of luck or you will have to wait until you go home to get it repaired.
DIY Repairs - The most common computer problem other than Virus infections and software issues is a failed hard drive. If you happen to be a handy person and often work on your own computers, then making this and some other repairs may be less expensive than the cost of the extended warranty. For example: A replacement hard drive can be purchased for less than $70 and if you are able to install it and reinstall the Operating system yourself, then this is a good deal.
YOUR DATA ?? - One of the biggest complaints that I hear about getting Warranty repairs, other than taking too long, is Data recovery issues. When sending back your computer for repair this does not include recovering data or backing up your data. The manufacturer will often tell you that you should take your computer to a local shop to have them back up your data before sending it in because they cannot be responsible for any data on the computer. If you are going to have to do this then you might as well just have the local shop fix it as well and forget using the warranty at all.
The bottom line
If you are considering purchasing an extended warranty, make sure you totally understand what is covered and what is not. Also, ask concise questions as to the exact repair process and how your repair will be handled and by whom?