Do you really need that warranty for your gadget?

by Nate Hoffelder

Nate has been blogging about gadgets for over a decade, first at the online forum MobileRead, and later at his blog, The Digital Reader. He prefers Android over iOS. Windows over MacOS, and is annoyed by redundant product names like Apple's Apple Watch.

April 23, 2023

This blog inspired me to take a look at all of the warranties for my various devices, and I am beginning to think I may have been wasting my money.

Here’s the thing. A warranty is only worth it if you think there’s a good chance that the device might fail or be damaged, and thus need to be repaired. If you expect that the device will outlive the warranty and die a natural death, or at least last long enough that it has no more use or value, then a warranty really isn’t worth buying.

Here are four questions you can ask to decide whether you need a warranty for one of your gadgets:

  1. Are you going to use your gadget a lot in public or shared spaces?
  2. Do you have roommates or coworkers in close proximity? 
  3. How fragile is your gadget’s hardware? 
  4. What is the chance that your gadget might get dropped or have something spilled on it? 

In my case, none of those are applicable.

For example, I wrote this post on a 3 year old iPad. It is in great condition, and I expect it to last at least another couple years. It has in fact already outlived its two year warranty, thus making the warranty a waste of money.

Or take my work laptops. I always get a warranty on my laptops, but as I look back I now realize that my laptops have (almost) always outlasted their warranty, before suffering a severe hardware death. It really makes no sense for me to even get a warranty on a laptop at this point (not unless I plan to intentionally kill the laptop before the warranty expires, which is unethical).

The one exception to the above example was Dell, whose warranty is worthless. That actually raises another point: A warranty you can’t use is not worth buying in the first place.

Or take my smartphone, for example. I just replaced my smartphone after losing it somewhere, and I did not get a warranty on the new one. Instead I got a case for it – the same case design that helped its predecessor survive 4 years of getting dropped.

It’s also arguably not worth buying a warranty if the gadget is cheap. For example, my current Kindle Fire was one of (I think) six that I bought in a Black Friday sale in 2018 (seriously). I originally got them to use as raffle prizes, but I also gave one to my mother when her Kindle Fire died, and then I also used one to replace my Kindle Fire when it died.

I think I paid under $20 bucks for each tablet, a price point where I really don’t think it’s worth paying for insurance, Heck, I don’t think the Kindle Fire at the $49 retail is worth insuring; they aren’t great hardware, but they still manage to outlive their warranty.

Your mileage may vary, of course. If the gadget in question is going to be used by a kid or college student, or if it is going to frequent a busy public space, then the chances of it getting damaged are going to increase.

For example, I regret not getting a warranty on the iPad I was told to buy for my teen-aged brother. He broke it in less than 3 months, which I should have expected (he was at a boarding school).

But for me that was the exception, not the rule.

What criteria do you use to determine whether a warranty is worth the expense?

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