Not all home warranties are created equal, however. Purchasing the most expensive warranty is no guarantee of great service or broad coverage. Nor is it an assurance you'll be dealing with a stable company.
'As with any important purchase, consumers should do their homework before choosing a home warranty company,' says Victor Mandalawi of Edison, N.J.-based Choice Home Warranty, a leading supplier of residential service contracts (home warranty) across the United States. 'They should thoroughly read any contract before signing so they understand what's covered - and what's not - and can be confident the warranty they choose will provide the coverage they need.'
Mandalawi offers some tips for evaluating and choosing a home warranty:
* Know what you're buying. 'If you purchase a home warranty thinking a certain item will be covered, only to find out later that it isn't, you'll be disappointed and angry,' Mandalawi says. Carefully review the terms of any warranty you're considering so you know before enrolling what the agreement covers.
* Look for an established company. The real estate boom and subsequent market collapse spawned many 'fly-by-night' organizations. Check a company's credentials to ensure you won't be taken in by a less reputable one or one that's on shaky financial footing. Choice Home Warranty is an Inc. 5000 company with the resources and financial strength to make good on all legitimate claims.
* Seek flexibility from your warranty company in terms of the plans it provides. One size does not fit all when it comes to home warranties. A warranty company that provides different plan options - like Choice Home Warranty, which offers Basic and Total plans - is more likely to have a plan that fits your needs.
* Be sure the plan covers the basics, including electrical, heating and plumbing systems; water heaters; plumbing stoppages; stoves, ovens, ranges, cooktops and built-in microwaves; HVAC ductwork; exhaust and ceiling fans; appliances such as dishwashers and garbage disposals; jetted bathtubs; and garage door openers.
* Look for the ability to upgrade or tailor your plan. Choice Home Warranty's Total plan covers all the basics plus refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, and air conditioning systems. In addition, you can also purchase coverage for sump pumps, central vacuums, septic tank pumps, stand-alone freezers, well pumps, pools and spas, septic systems and second refrigerators.
* Consider availability and responsiveness. If your stove stops working the day before a long weekend when you'll be cooking up a storm, and your warranty company doesn't offer 24-hour service, you may find yourself without a stove for an extended period of time.
* Evaluate the fee structure. A home warranty should clearly spell out what you will pay for a service call - ideally a reasonable, flat fee - and how the warrantor will compensate you if a covered item can't be repaired.
Finally, look for transparency. Does the company you're considering make its standard agreement available for review online, like Choice Home Warranty? 'It should be easy for you to review and understand a warranty agreement,' Mandalawi says. 'If a company balks at providing a full agreement before you sign, or offers an agreement that requires a legal expert to decipher it, take your business elsewhere.'