Apple Archive

Sometimes an Extended Warranty Can Be a Real Lifesaver

- 2006.06.02

Sometimes hardware just has "issues". Take the slightly Sony video camera that I was using this week to film a project. It was one of the models with onscreen buttons (a touchscreen).

While that seemed like a great idea, it actually served to make things a lot more difficult to control. Just to fade in or out of a scene involved going through at least three, if not four, different levels of onscreen menus.

It took so long for me to complete the project not because of the complexity of using the video camera, but because the "great idea" of having a touchscreen was ultimately a failure. Two out of three times the "buttons" just didn't work, and you never knew which was the time it wouldn't let you stop recording, stop playback, rewind, or select a fadeout.

So what to do with a year-and-a-half-old Sony video camera that's not working properly?

Generally, the warranty would be done, and we would be forced to pay for a repair. Depending on whether I took it to a dealer or back to the store, we could be looking at paying the same price to have this older one repaired as buying a new video camera - especially since similar models can now be had for under $400.

Thankfully, though, the owners of this camera had decided to purchase the extended 4-year "performance service plan" from Best Buy.

I've found that these extended warranties can be expensive for certain things, and the items that you cover under them tend to rarely break down. In this case, though, it obviously made sense, as it saved us the repair costs.

I took the video camera into Best Buy, and they didn't even check the information (address, phone, etc.), simply asking me if the information on the warranty plan was still correct. It was, and they took the camera in without even scrutinizing it. For all they knew, it could have been dropped or exposed to moisture, but reading up on the plan, it even covers accidental damage. Pretty impressive.

Perhaps it's worth the extra money. Or perhaps not. I guess we'll see exactly whether the camera is repaired/replaced in the 14 days that was quoted to me.

But what about buying a plan for a computer? Macs come with a one-year warranty, which provides what most people need - something to cover their machine for the first year in case any faults are glaringly obvious in their new purchase. Quirks are expected to develop later on during ownership.

AppleCare can be purchased for an additional amount of money (depending on the computer model). It covers the machine for an additional two years (three years of total coverage) and gives you telephone support for those additional years.

When is it worth purchasing the extended warranty?

While your circumstances may vary, I've found that a desktop Mac sitting at home is significantly less likely to fail than a notebook computer that you bring with you everywhere you go. For instance, if you purchase a MacBook Pro, it might be advisable to look into a longer warranty if you plan on traveling with the machine.

Some stores, such as CompUSA, offer their own repair/replacement guarantees, and I've heard stories of people bringing their older PowerBooks in and actually having them replaced by newer machines under the extended warranty.

In hindsight, buying the warranty for this video camera was an excellent idea. Sure, it might not have failed and the money would have been wasted. But since it did fail, the peace of mind that it would not cost anything additional for the repair was worth the cost of the warranty. Plus, it's still covered for another two-and-a-half years after we get it back from being serviced.

My general rule: Expensive portable devices that are complicated (including notebook computers, video iPods, and digital cameras) are generally worth getting a warranty. Things that sit at home, such as a TV set, are worth thinking twice about spending the extra money.

Ask yourself, did your last one fail? If not, this one probably won't either. LEM

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