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Consumer Reports: Computers may be worth an extended warranty

August 11, 2011 | 11:13 am

Laptop Is Consumer Reports softening its stance on extended warranties?

Certain items, such as computers, might be worth the coverage, the product review magazine suggests in its August issue.

A third of laptops and desktops break by their fourth year, often plagued by malware or failing hard drives, the report said. And although many may be cheap enough to just replace, researchers said that warranties may be a good call for frequent travelers or teenagers, especially those with credit cards that extend the coverage for free.

But for many other products, Consumer Reports seems to be sticking to its usual mantra: That springing for protection may not justify the cost.

Appliances tend to keep working for several years after purchase, throughout the extended warranty period, according to the report. Products that do break during that period tend to malfunction in spectacular fashion: with 30% performing poorly and half failing entirely.

But even then, according to a study of 27,404 readers with 53,218 glitchy home products, the median cost of repair is $150. That’s just a few dollars more than the $142 price tag for a warranty, which researchers said are offering increasingly sparse coverage anyway.

Still, consumers who take their chances could face major headaches come repair time. Consumer goods such as home theater systems and gas cooktops are more complicated and involve many more parts than they did a decade ago.

Repairing breakdown-prone products, such as refrigerators with ice makers and front-loading washers, could cost significant time and money, according to Consumer Reports. 


Peace of mind from extended warranty? Maybe not

Consumer Reports dings new Honda Civic

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg