Best Home Warranties 2017
Home warranties are essentially insurance policies that provide repair and maintenance services for major home systems and appliances. In a calamity, while the home's structure is covered by home insurance, the possessions inside generally are not. Home warranties then provide three forms of coverage: appliance, system, and combination. Depending on the chosen plan, certain items may or may not be covered.
Home warranties are ideal for homeowners who are not in a financial position to cover the unexpected costs of repairs or replacements of home systems or appliances. With a predictable payment schedule and minimal premiums, having a home warranty makes it easier to finance repairs or replacements. Instead of having to find and communicate with contractors, the home warranty company takes care of it.
When selecting a home warranty provider, consider the balance between the items that are specifically covered, the limit on what the home warranty company will pay out, the cost of general service, and the average deductible cost. If the basic premium is very low, then the deductibles will likely be very high, and only a limited number of items will be covered. Companies that offer customized deductibles are highly recommended, so you only have to pay for the systems and appliances you actually own.
Before finalizing a home warranty agreement, look at the fine print. Take into consideration the appliances or systems that are covered, the contractor pool, and whether there are any financial restrictions on coverage. Check that the company has a solid reputation, and be sure to research their customer service and claims history.
Top 10 Companies
- Far and away the trusted industry leader
- They have paid out over $3 billion in claims in the past 5 years
- Nationwide network of more than 13,000 contractors
- More than 1.6 million customers
- Best reputation in home warranty industry
- Award winning service
- Save 10% on any plan
- Dedicated account managers
- Choose your own service technicians
- Longest work guarantee
- Unlimited number of repairs
- Strong Online Reviews
- First Month Free + $50 Savings
- 24/7 Claims Hotline
- No Inspection Required
- Fast, Reliable, local Technicians
- Dedicated Support Team
- Strong online ratings and reviews
- 24/7 service team schedules repairs fast
- No home inspection needed
- Extensive list of system and appliance coverage
- 2 plans to fit your budget
- Award winning service!
- No claims allowed in first 30 days
- Claims may be subject to caps for the length of the policy
- $60 Service Fee, $75 Cancellation Fee
- Thousands of local service providers across the country
- Easy online quote form (just your info & home address)
- Special Offer: Call now to receive $100 off plus two months free plus free roof leak coverage
- Specialized Service Solutions
- 24/7 Claims Service
- Dedicated Customer Service Professionals
- First Month Free with Annual Contract
- Home Inspection not Required
- 24/7 support whenever your appliances fail
- Large network of independent prescreened contractors and qualified technicians
- In business for over 30 years
- Good coverage on home systems
- Does not cover pre-existing issues
- They will replace items that fail if they can't be fixed regardless of age, make or model
- 24/7 Claims Service
- Pre-Screened and Licensed Local Technicians
- Coverage regardless of make, model or age
- Monthly and Annual Plans
- No claim limits
- 1 Month Free With Purchase Of Any Single Payment Plan
- Plans For As Low As $1 Per Day
How We Compare Home Warranties
Coverage refers to the specific systems and appliances that your home warranty includes in their plan. In order to determine the value of a given plan we looked at the cost of the premium and service fee in comparison with the amount of items covered, the payout limits (caps), and the cost of any additional items.
Most home warranties provide a system plan an appliance plan, and maybe some kind of hybrid plan of the two. Some items that are universally covered by all home warranty companies include:
Washer & Dryer
Garage Door Opener
We gave extra points in this area for the companies that allow customers to customize their plans, either by adding or choosing which specific items they need coverage for. Companies with a robust list of add-on features also score highly. However, the highest ranked are those whose standard plans included items that would mean additional costs with other companies, such as whirlpools, sump pumps, septic tanks, and central vacuum systems.
Some items that would generally be considered add-ons include:
This is not a matter of ranking the lowest costs versus the highest. We looked at the relationship between covered items, payout caps, cost of service fee, and deductible. A given company might offer a rock bottom premium, but you can be sure you’re getting a plan that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. We looked for a robust list of covered items at competitive prices, with additional items included.
Some home warranties offer you the ability to customize your deductible and/or service fee. We rank these plans highly, as they give the customer more control of their plan, allowing them to tailor it to their individual needs and financial situation.
Plans can be divided into three basic types, according to their coverage. Systems plans cover systems such as AC, heating, and plumbing. Appliance plans cover individual items like dishwashers, washers, dryers. Finally, Combo plans offer both appliances and systems. Some companies also provide the option of fully customizable, Build-Your-Own plans, in which consumers can pick and choose the specific items they need covered.
Covered systems refers to all of the systems that the company offers coverage for, even if you have to pay additional fees, including but not limited to: heating, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and plumbing.
Covered appliances are all of the appliances that the company offers coverage for, even if you have to pay extra, including but not limited to: dishwashers, garbage disposals, and refrigerators.
Specialty items are ALL of the items which require special coverage levels and/or fees, usually with special benefit limits. These include pools, spas, well pumps, and septic tanks.
Exclusions refers to the items or systems which the company absolutely will not cover. Generally, companies will refuse coverage for improperly maintained items, or that showed problems during the original home inspection.
Benefit Limit Type
Benefit limits are usually caps set per item (in that the company will pay X amount of dollars and no more for repairing the piece of equipment). However, some companies also have benefit limits per term, essentially setting a cap on their total spending for a specific period of time.
Typical Appliance Benefit Limit
Most companies place a benefit limit on covered appliances within the warranty. This usually remains around $500-$1,000, but some companies will go as high as $3,000.
Typical Systems Benefit Limit
Most companies place a benefit limit on the covered systems within the warranty. This generally stays at approximately $1,000, but can vary between $500-$2,500.
Coverage Fine Print
Coverage fine print refers to any additional info on coverage, exclusions, or limitations of liability.
If you were to take even the most perfunctory look at home warranty reviews online you’d probably notice a trend very quickly: there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground. Reasonably level-headed reviews are rare, with most customers skewing heavily towards detailed horror stories. There's also the occasional case of suspiciously effusive customers, as we've found that some companies employ slightly unethical tactics for positive feedback, such as offering discounts.
We found that the main causes of disgruntlement generally have to do with items not being covered under the policy, or excessive waiting times for contractors. The first problem can be remedied fairly easily by customers themselves, by thoroughly reading a company's sample contract before signing with them. Most of these complaints can be attributed to the fact that many customers are actually unclear as to what’s covered. You need to go into a home warranty contract with your eyes wide open. Take an inventory of the systems and appliances in your house and make sure they are mentioned in the contract. Also, read carefully what is NOT COVERED for each individual system or appliance and determine if these exclusions are relevant to your home and needs.
Since home warranty customer reviews are so polarized, we drew from as wide a pool as possible in determining how a given company ranks in terms of customer experience. Along with thousands of reviews submitted by our own Consumers Advocate readers, we also factored in customer feedback from other high traffic websites such as Yelp, Consumer Affairs, homewarrantyreviews.com, and considered independent 3rd party reviews from sites like reviews.com, safesmartliving.com and comparisonshopping.com. We also took into consideration each company’s BBB rating.
The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) is a non profit 501(c) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. All NHSCA member companies have an NHSCA issued Company Code. This six digit code signifies that you are dealing with a professional and reputable provider that is known and established in the industry. Members of the NHSCA are reputable, licensed home service contract providers in good standing.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is an organization that emphasizes business transparency. In conjunction with their own internal ratings, they allow users to post positive, negative, and neutral reviews.
Contract & Price20%
In recognition of the often restrictive nature of home warranty plans, potential customers should have access to a sample of a company’s contract up front. We prefer home warranty companies that provide an example contract online, either on their webpage or as a pdf. Contracts should be easy to understand and clear, with very little room for interpretation. If you’ve read the contract thoroughly and still cannot honestly determine whether your system or appliance will be covered, or what the payout limit is (if any), then we see that as a red flag.
It's also important to consider whether your company has a waiting period before coverage takes effect, a fairly common practice. Still others offer more limited coverage in the first month before becoming fully effective. Finally, consider the home warranty provider’s cancellation policy. Most home warranty contracts are for one year. You are generally allowed to cancel within the first 30 days if you’ve not made a claim, for a small service fee. After this time period it’s more difficult, and some companies bill an additional month after cancellation. We preferred the companies that make their cancellation process painless, and less complicated.
A company's annual premium is the fee paid to them in exchange for a year-long policy. Some home warranty providers require annual premium payments, but others offer a variety of different payment options to choose from.
The value of being able to look through and thoroughly evaluate a company's contract before making a final decision cannot be overstated. As mentioned above, one of the most common complaints with home warranties is customer's unawareness of the specifics of coverage.
Most home warranty contracts are for one year. You are generally allowed to cancel within the first 30 days if you’ve not made a claim, for a small service fee. After this time period it’s more difficult, and some companies bill an additional month after cancellation. We preferred the companies that make their cancellation process painless, and less complicated.
Home Inspection Required for Contract?
Many, though not all, companies require a home inspection by a company representative before finalizing the contract. This establishes the condition of every home system or appliance at the time the warranty begins.
Claims & Service20%
Every home warranty company will have restrictions both on what they specifically cover and under which circumstances they do so. We’d love to be able to solely recommend companies that honor every claim, and fix or replace every appliance or system quickly and without any sort of hassle. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of the home warranty marketplace. What we can do is look at all of the major players’ restrictions and point you towards those who provide the most comprehensive coverage. We focused on contracts with clear restrictions that are easy to understand and not subject to interpretation when push comes to shove. We also looked for reasonable stipulations We like companies who will cover pre-existing conditions, and don't require that you produce maintenance records documenting the upkeep of a system or appliance.
Many companies charge different service fees for different appliances or systems. Most have higher premiums for things like termites, roofing, well pumps, etc. The service fee a customer must pay in order to get service, also called a deductible, diagnostic fee or copay, can vary greatly between companies and depending on the appliance or system. Generally, this can range between $50-$300. This is different from the monthly or annual premiums, which are paid for the warranty in general.
The waiting period is the time the customer must wait after enrolling before he/she can submit a claim. This is commonly around thirty days.
Certain companies only allow repairs from their exclusive, in-network contractors, whereas others will allow the use of any contractor. The latter usually occurs if they are unable to locate a local technician in their network, in which case the customer must pay the bill upfront, and the company the reimburses the cost.
Service Recall Period
The service recall period refers to the period for which the company will guarantee a service after it has been performed. If the item breaks again within this window of time, the company will typically service it again for no additional fee.
24/7 Claims Department?
Most home warranty companies maintain a 24/7 claims department, which can be especially useful when the appliance or system breaks down when it's most needed (as air conditioning systems are wont to do in the middle of a heatwave).
Customer Questions & Answers
What is a home warranty?
A home warranty is a service contract that will help repair or replace systems and appliances in your home in the event they are not covered under homeowners insurance. It is meant to protect homeowners from unexpectedly high costs resulting from sudden failures. Beware that not all systems and appliances are covered, so make sure to carefully read the policy’s fine print before purchase.
How do home warranties work?
Home warranties work similarly to any other type of insurance. Homeowners or renters pay a yearly fee to their home warranty provider in exchange for their coverage of home systems and appliances. When a system or appliance ceases to function, the homeowner submits a claim with the warranty company. The home warranty company then contacts a local service technician to make a house call, who decides whether to repair or replace the broken item. In exchange, the homeowner pays a visitation fee.
Are home warranties worth it?
Home warranties are worth it if the homeowner engages in an educated decision-making process. This is achieved by weighing the benefits and disadvantages of the policy, as well as by carefully reading its fine print. By knowing the exact coverage details and parameters, the customer ensures there will be no surprises down the line.
How much does a home warranty cost?
The cost of a basic home warranty plan generally ranges between $300 and $600. The cost of an enhanced plan, with its wider range of coverage options, can span anywhere from an additional $100 to $600. Furthermore, home service fees can fall between $75 and $125, depending on the warranty company, the service provider, and the appliance or system in question.
What do home warranties cover?
Although specific coverage varies depending on location, basic home warranty policies will cover common appliances and systems, such as air conditioning units, refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, garbage disposals, and plumbing fixtures. If a specific and necessary item is not included in the basic warranty, then an enhanced warranty may be a worthwhile investment.