Warranty School Part 3: Put Your Warranty to Work

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Many people buy items with warranties, extended warranties, or service plans, and luckily, never need to use them, but in case the day comes when you need to use your warranty, make sure you get the best possible service.

The best way to use your warranty is to make sure you’re covered in the first place. New purchases often come with a stack of warranty information documents in the box—hold on to these! File them (or scan them), with your proof of purchase, in case you need to refer to them later.

Product registration is another way to keep track of your warranty options, and sometimes, in doing so, you may get added benefits from the manufacturer, like priority support, future discounts, and recall notices.

Even though it may be a chore, make sure to read through those warranty documents to make sure you know what is—and what is not—covered. Knowing what to expect if and when you need warranty services may inform your decision, depending on how you use your device, of whether or not to buy additional warranty protection or a service plan. And when the time comes to use those warranties, knowing what is covered will help manage your expectations and ensure you’re getting the best possible service through your plan.

Be prepared to prove your device or machine is still covered by its warranty, extended warranty, or service plan when seeking out service. This will most likely involve providing documentation, such as receipts, a service contract, or product registration (see—we told you to keep that stuff 🙂 ).

Make sure you know who to contact. Depending on the warranty or service plan, you may need to contact the store where you made your purchase, the manufacturer, or a third-party service provider. Some providers—like ComputerCare—cover warranty repairs on certain brands, and can be more convenient than reaching out to the original manufacturer. (You can see what warranty repairs we perform here.)

So what do you do if you’re out of your warranty period, or the damage isn’t covered?

It can be very frustrating to find out your damaged device is no longer covered by its warranty. If this is the case, you can still get it repaired, but it may cost labor and parts to do so.

Do your research. Will the cost to repair your device be more or less than replacing the item? Before you make any decisions, find a service provider who can offer an estimate before repairs are completed.At ComputerCare, we charge a flat diagnostic fee to determine what is wrong with your device (Apple devices are diagnosed free of charge!)—but if you choose to use us to do your repairs, the fee is waived. And before any work is done, we provide you with an estimate, so you’ll know if it will be more cost effective to fix or replace. We charge a flat labor fee, and give you the option to stick to your machine’s brand for parts, or to use a third party.

Whether you’re in or out of your warranty period, we’re here to help! Learn more about our hardware repair services here.

Part 2: Are You A Candidate For An Extended Warranty?

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In the first post in this series, we discussed the various types of extended warranty and service plan options you can purchase to protect your new electronic device. The big takeaway: read the fine print to make sure you know what kind of protection you’re buying. But should you buy one at all?

Like all insurance, extended warranties provide peace of mind, but they’re also a bet. You’re paying for a service in advance that you might never use. So before you sign up, consider a few questions.

Is this a big-ticket item? If you’re purchasing a pricey item, like a fancy laptop, the cost of an extended warranty might make sense when you consider how much you’d pay to replace the device if it fails. But for lower ticket items, an inexpensive tablet for example, the cost of the service plan might actually approach the replacement cost for the device.

How long is the term? As we discussed in our last post, all extended warranties are not created equal. Some begin when the manufacturer’s warranty ends, others start as soon as you purchase the device. So, a three-year extended warranty might actually only give you two years of added protection. And according to Consumer Reports, most electronic devices that fail due to a defect do so in the first year.

How likely is the device to fail during the warranty period? Before you make a call on the warranty question, it can pay huge dividends to research how good the product you’re buying is. If you’re armed with the right information, the decision becomes much easier. Consumer Reports, for instance, suggests that the repair rate for computers (desktops and laptops) is 24 percent. Again, that’s an aggregate rate, and a good percentage of those repairs will occur during the period covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty. But different brands and models have wildly different failure rates.

How are you going to use the device? If you’re purchasing, say, a desktop computer with a good track record for reliability that’s going to sit on a desk and never move, you probably don’t need damage protection. But if you’re buying a pricey smartphone or a laptop that you’ll take with you everywhere, you might want to consider an extended warranty. Some manufacturer’s extended warranty programs, like AppleCare, provided limited coverage for accidental damage such as cracked screens and other failures not related to a hardware defect. If you’re prone to dropping your phone, tend to spill coffee onto your laptop keyboard or are simply unlucky, a manufacturer’s extended warranty might be worth the price.

How important is the device to your business/life? If you rely on a computer, smartphone or tablet for work or fun (and really, who doesn’t?), then you need to ask yourself how easily you could cope with not having it. If, as mentioned above, you’re not sure you’d be willing to pay the original purchase price immediately to replace a broken or lost device, would you be able to make do without it?

Finally, another thing to consider before purchasing an extended warranty is whether you’re already covered. Many credit cards, for example, provide purchase protection that offers some of the same coverages for damage and loss that an extended warranty provides. So you might not be buying much with an extended warranty.

At ComputerCare, we see devices that need repair for all kinds of reasons, some common and a few that are spectacularly weird. But one thing we know is that devices will fail and accidents will happen. An extended warranty may or may not be worth it for you, but you’ll be better off making a thoughtful decision well before you need to repair or replace your device.

Part three in our warranty series will cover how much an extended warranty plan will cost.

Part 1: Demystifying Warranties

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Warranty Series Introduction

If you’re investing in a new computer, smartphone, tablet, or other electronic device your hope is that it’s going to last. But what if something goes wrong? Depending on the problem, for some devices it makes sense to get a repair while for others the cost of repair might make replacement a better option. In either case, a warranty can be the only thing that stands between you and an expense you didn’t bargain for.

Of course, the term “warranty” is often used generically. In fact, there are basic warranties, extended warranties and service plans, each with its own limitations, advantages and drawbacks and it’s important to know the difference. To decide whether a basic warranty, extended warranty or service plan makes sense for you, it’s important to first understand what they are and how they work.

Part 1: Standard warranties, extended warranties and service plans: what’s the difference?

What is a basic warranty?
Normally, when you purchase a high-ticket item, the manufacturer makes a commitment to stand behind the product. This is called a manufacturer’s warranty, standard warranty or basic warranty. In short, the manufacturer promises to repair, replace or refund the cost of a defective product for a certain period of time. Although not required by law, basic warranties are included in the purchase price of many devices and products. Of course, every basic warranty is unique, with varying durations and covered defects.

What’s an extended warranty?
Often when you buy a device or other product, the manufacturer might offer you the opportunity to purchase an extended warranty that prolongs the terms of a basic warranty, typically from 1-3 years. Unlike standard warranties, these manufacturer-branded warranty programs – like Apple Care or Samsung Premium Care – cost extra and are sold separately. On the plus side, extended warranties will sometimes include additional protections as well as a longer term. So, for example, you might get limited coverage for accidental damage (like a cracked screen) in addition to protection against failures that are no fault of your own (a failed hard drive, for example). It’s also important to note that some manufacturers offer several flavors of extended warranty depending on the type of product, with varying terms and coverage, or warranties that cater to the specific needs of businesses or consumers.

What is a service plan?
Depending on where you buy your product, you might also be offered the opportunity to buy an extended service plan. These plans are like extended warranties, but are fulfilled by third parties rather than the manufacturer. In most cases, they kick in after the basic warranty expires. They are often cheaper than manufacturers’ extended warranties but might not be as generous in terms of the defects they cover or the repairs they’ll provide. They also might not give much choice in terms of who repairs your product and they may not guarantee to use the same parts as the original product.

All warranty programs are limited by conditions and restrictions. It’s important to understand the basics of how a warranty works in order to make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Simple answers to common questions about warranties

How long does a warranty last?
It depends. The only way to find out is to check the warranty document to see when it begins and when it expires, as well as any conditions that may void coverage.

What parts and repair problems are covered by warranty?
Again, it depends. Read to see if any parts of the product or certain types of repairs are excluded from the warranty. In some cases, warranties oblige you to pay for labor costs. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind to look for criteria that could prove costly or problematic to comply with, such as a requirement that you ship heavy or large objects to a distant address for service, or that you return the item in the original box. The majority of laptop warranties will cover hardware problems that are not caused by the owner, such as defective keyboards, monitor problems, modem or other issues with internal components. A laptop warranty will also spell out what actions on your part will void the warranty. Something as simple as opening the case and breaking a seal can be enough to void a warranty, even if you just wanted to take a peek inside.

How do I enforce a warranty?
It depends (are you sensing a theme here?). It’s often the manufacturer who provides you with a warranty but it can also come from the seller or even a third party (if it’s an extended service contract). Check the contact information and inquire before buying if you’re still uncertain. But expect to be asked to provide some proof that the product is still within the warranty period (either a receipt or some other proof of purchase).

Who performs warranty repairs?
Large technology vendors such as Apple, Lenovo, HP and Toshiba will perform warranty repairs but also have designated authorized service providers (ASPs). ComputerCare is qualified to service Apple, Lenovo, HP and Toshiba products covered under their warranty. We use the same parts and specifications as the manufacturers. Service conducted by anyone other than the manufacturer or an authorized service provider typically voids the warranty. In the warranty of a laptop or a smartphone the manufacturer will state how repairs will be completed and whether they will use new, used or refurbished parts. The warranty will also provide details on where servicing will take place.

What is a limited or conditioned warranty?
Certain warranties provide coverage only if you keep or use the product as directed. For example, a warranty may cover only personal uses—as opposed to business uses—of the product. As such, it’s important to check that the warranty will meet your needs.

Is an oral warranty binding?
Don’t take a salesperson’s word that the manufacturer will provide free repairs; make sure to get it in writing. If not, you may not be able to get the service that was promised.

Our next installment on warranties will help you determine if you’re a candidate for an extended warranty and what to consider before making the leap.