Is a home warranty worth the money?

Worried your dishwasher, fridge or HVAC might break? A D.C.-based consumer’s group warns against buying a home warranty.

“What you’re getting is really bad insurance from a financial perspective,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org.

The coverage costs between $400 to more than a thousand dollars yearly, but you still have to pay for service calls.

“It’s going to cost you $75 to $125 or more; you have to pay the service fee,” Brasler said.

The warranties typically don’t pay for expensive repairs such as leaking water heaters, basement moisture issues, heating system humidifier, home security system wiring or solar heating system. A lot of them don’t cover roofs.

“Things they do cover, like major appliances don’t cover the things that most often break — like ice makers,” Brasler said. “They’re looking for ways to deny claims as opposed to doing what they say they’re going to do. They say they’re going to offer total protection and they really don’t.”

The biggest problem with home warranties, according to Brasler, is that the companies choose who does the work, they don’t guarantee the work and the service providers often “do really lousy work.”

“They clearly aren’t doing enough screening of these companies. A lot of the complaints we see is about lousy workmanship,” Brasler said.

If you’re still interested, Brasler said you’re not alone. Promises of “total protection,” and “you’ll save money,” are alluring.

Still, consider yourself warned.

“The vast majority of consumers who buy these plans won’t save money at all, and many of them are really aggravated by service they get from these companies.”

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has provided information to help consumers make smarter choices for more than 40 years.

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