Home Warranty Services
We evaluated 10 well-known home warranty providers, and after careful research identified the 4 best home warranty companies for 2018. To come up with our top selections, we analyzed consumer review sites, investigated Federal Trade Commission information, consulted home repair professionals and checked the Better Business Bureau. While many companies provide home warranties, we found four who stand out for key buyer needs: Best Service (Choice Home Warranty), Right Coverage Right Price (Select Home Warranty), Best Coverage (Total Home Protection) and Best Value (American Home Shield Corporation).
In this guide, we’ll not only share our home warranty reviews, but we’ll also discuss the basics of a home warranty, including what they cover – and what they don’t. By the time you’re finished reading, you should be prepared to make a wise home warranty purchase, which means getting the best coverage for your budget and warranty needs.
- Know typical home warranty limitations
- Understand how services are billed
- Insist on reading your warranty contract
Tips for a Wise Buyer
Your home is one of your most valuable investments. Wanting to protect it makes a lot of sense, so consumers often turn to home warranty services to help them. Finding the right home warranty means getting the two “Cs” right: Coverage and Company.
Finding the right coverage will make sure you have the exact protection you need – without paying more than you must. Finding the right company will make sure your needs are quickly addressed, and your warranty claims are honored appropriately.
Home Warranty Coverage
Your first task before researching companies is to understand what a home warranty is – and what it isn’t. Home warranties generally cover the repair and replacement of mechanical and electrical systems, such as air conditioning, plumbing, garage doors, and other predefined home features. These services are different from health insurance in that you can’t make claims on anything that might go wrong. Rather, home warranty coverage is limited to the repair or replacement of covered items that have broken from normal use.
Warranties do not replace insurance
Home warranties are not meant to replace home insurance for disasters like fire, flood or robbery. Instead, a home warranty works in combination with home insurance to protect you from large unexpected expenses. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation gives home warranty guidance, further stating a home warranty contract is not an insurance policy.
Home Warranty Limitations
Home warranty coverage will not repair everything that can break in your home. For instance, a warranty may pay to replace leaky shingles on the roof over your living room, but not shingles over the back patio.
Home warranties do not cover pre-existing conditions. For instance, if you have a broken motor in your garbage disposal, but it wasn’t caught in your pre-move inspection, it likely will not be covered. Additionally, warranties are less likely to pay for things like knobs, buttons, or cosmetic trim; they designed to replace the more expensive parts of your appliances, such as motors, heaters, or fans.
Finally, “new home warranties” are specific types of warranties offered by the builder and that cover the construction and integrity of a home. According to the FTC, the Federal Housing Authority and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs require new home builders to purchase warranties to protect buyers of new homes with FHA or VA loans. These warranties are typically not what most consumers are looking for when searching for a home warranty service contract like those covered by this guide.
Home Warranty Costs
If a problem with your home causes you to call a home warranty company, you will likely be charged a fee beyond your warranty premium. Most warranty services will charge a fee for coming to your home (called a “trade service call fee”). This fee can’t be avoided, as the service call is required to determine if the repair will be covered by your warranty. This service call fee is generally due at the time of service to the service provider.
Most warranties are charged up-front as a one-year contract, but some may bill monthly. Your company will give you the option to purchase additional coverage for things like pools and spas, or other items that are not considered “standard”. You should always do the math to see if the extra cost for expanded coverage will be worth it over a year – especially for the kind of appliances that would need repair.
Home Warranty Coverage
While most of the websites and customer reps for each company will have laid out the main points of the service coverage, you should always read the contract – in full – before buying. As terms can change frequently, new coverages or exclusions may have been added since the time the website was created or the sales rep was trained. A contract is binding and the only thing you can truly count to determine what is (and what is not) covered.
Read the fine print
A well-written contract will clearly spell out the covered items and exclusions for your warranty. An A/C unit, for example, should have language stating if the filters, ductwork, motors, and wiring are covered. Try to get as much information as possible on both the covered and excluded items. See what would happen if a repair falls outside of these conditions. Will they be covered? Print out a copy of your contract from the day you sign it to prove the coverage at the time you purchased your service plan.
Our Search for the Best Home Warranty Companies
1. We searched for a comprehensive list of home warranty providers
2. We narrow down the results based our expert-guided criteria: customer service, coverage, & value
3. We brought you the best home warranty companies for consideration
There are many home warranty companies competing for your business, so we found the best options for you. We began with 10 of the most popular home warranty companies and narrowed those down to 3 final recommendations.
The approach we took to narrow down the top home warranties was as follows:
1. We started with a comprehensive list of home warranty providers
To start, we identified 10 initial companies that were most talked about in advertising and homeowners groups, because they are most likely to be considered by consumers.
2. We checked for a wide service area and coverage type
While there are plenty of smaller, regional companies, this guide focuses on general recommendations for the majority of U.S. homeowners. Therefore, companies that had a small service region or didn’t cover the most common repairs were excluded from our final selection.
3. We examined the purchase process
If the act of getting service was too confusing or difficult, the company was removed. We wanted to see our final picks with the easiest methods of requesting info (both online and via phone), as well as a quick sign-up process once chosen. We also looked to see that there were multiple ways to get customer service and call for repairs when needed.
4. We followed our wise buyer recommendations
We looked for companies that clearly stated their coverage limitations. To make sure our recommendations had a reputation for delivering on warranty claims, we visited the Better Business Bureau and removed any companies that received a D rating or below. Finally, if there were pending FTC actions against a company that were showing as unresolved, we cut it from our list.
Home Warranty Reviews
After our evaluation, four companies were selected for their excellence in all categories: Choice Home Warranty, Select Home Warranty, Total Home Protection and American Home Shield Corporation.
Choice Home Warranty Review
For most consumers, customer service is more important than saving money. Fortunately, it seems Choice Home Warranty offers excellent service without charging extraordinary prices. This company has received some of the best verified buyer reviews from customers who needed work done quickly. To move quickly on warranty repairs, Choice Home Warranty contracts with local service providers across the United States. Based on customer feedback, most repairs are done without a long wait and resolved to customer satisfaction.
In fact, most customers emphasized the friendliness and professionalism of the Choice service providers, even though the trade service call fee is lower than average (just $60). Choice seems to consistently display high marks. Customers stated their issues were not only resolved satisfactorily, but service contractors left their workspace clean and tidy, and are knowledgeable about maintenance issues.
It’s likely this high satisfaction is the result of Choice’s decision to make sure all their warranty repair technicians are fully licensed, insured, and vetted. We like that because it should increase odds the repair work is done safely, correctly, and right the first time.
Select Home Warranty Review
Right Coverage Right Price
What we like about Select Home Warranty is their combination of affordable pricing and extensive coverage. Reading through the fine print of their terms of service, you’ll find relatively few exclusions to covered systems. For instance, all the components of the oven and range are covered except for the vent hood. In 2017, the company’s services were recognized by the Home Warranty Awards with the “Best in Service” award.
In the event Select customers need to make a claim, there is a phone number and online form for customers. Claims can be submitted 24/7 to the claims center. There is a $60 dollar service call fee for a trained technician to visit your home in the event of a repair.
Home warranty shoppers at Select Home Warranty can choose one of three packages: Bronze, Gold and Platinum. The Bronze plan covers appliance, the Gold plan covers major systems including heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical. Platinum plans cover both appliances and systems. Premiums start at $36/month.
For more information, read our full Select Home Warranty review.
Total Home Protection Review
Total Home Protection has lots of optional coverage features, such as pools, wells and beyond, so it’s no surprise they earned our award for best overall coverage. If you find that they put in a faulty part, or their work didn’t hold up under regular wear, they will come out and redo the repair for no additional charge.
The Total Home Protection options are best for buyers who need the most generous warranty protection. Like other warranty providers, Total Home Protection has coverage caps, but they, should be enough to fix most home systems or replace major appliances. The Platinum plan offers the most coverage, and it can be extended to cover additional items as needed. That way,
you won’t end up paying extra for coverage you do not need.
Read our full Total Home Protection review.
American Home Shield Review
American Home Shield’s major benefit is its configurable coverage. With four main plans and several add-on options, customers can mix and match their coverage a la carte style to protect just what they want and nothing they don’t. In fact, American Home Shield makes it easy to select the appliances and systems you want from their website before you even submit a quote. In addition to providing three base plans (Systems Plan, Appliances Plan, and the Combo Plan), you can Build-Your-Own by choosing 10 or more covered items for one price.
They are also one of the only companies on the market to offer three pricing plans for their trade service call fee charges, ranging from $75 – $125 per house call. Pool and spa, septic pumping, and well pump plans are also available for an additional charge. With value in mind, American Home Shield goes a bit further than other companies with their discount buying program. Whether your item is covered, or not, you can replace it from their catalog of brand-new, but discounted appliances, which they offer as a perk to those with an active service contract.
Finally, American Home Shield has service contracts that cover many items in full – without exclusions. Examples include ceiling fans, smoke detectors, clothes washers and dryers, ranges and garage door openers. While they still don’t cover pre-existing conditions or neglect, this generous coverage offers good value to customers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do home warranties only cover new homes?
While there are “new home warranties” that cover new builds and the materials of a brand-new structure, that is just one type of warranty available. In fact, most warranties purchased by consumers are for existing homes and the appliances inside them, also known as “service contracts.”
Can I get a home warranty for an older home and appliances?
Remember, home warranties don’t cover any pre-existing damage or conditions. This means that wear and tear on your home or appliances won’t be covered. That doesn’t mean that a warranty won’t cover older items. Instead, home warranties won’t cover items that were damaged before the warranty went into effect, and the burden to prove when the damage happened is on you. There are plenty of companies that will be happy to cover your older, well-maintained home (and its contents) for the right price.
What is the difference between homeowner’s insurance and a home warranty?
While both are recommended for homeowners who want the most coverage for their home, they offer very different protections. Home insurance is most useful in the event of damage or loss from a disaster, robbery, or fire; it can also provide liability coverage if someone gets injured on your property. A home warranty can be used for normal wear and tear and for smaller claims that happen throughout the course of home ownership. While mortgage lenders may require a home insurance policy, they rarely require a home warranty.
What if my home insurance covers something that is also covered by a warranty?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, your home insurance generally covers four areas: the structure of your home; personal belongings, additional living expense, and liability. In the case of a coverage overlap, your home warranty likely won’t pay. Most have contract language protecting them from paying out on claims that can be paid by someone else.
Can I see a home warranty contract before I purchase?
Yes. Not only is this possible, it is recommended. You should always see exactly what will be covered in any home warranty service before you spend money on one. If you meet resistance in getting a copy, consider going with a different company.
Home warranty services have limits, and consumers are often surprised to find that reasonable expenses are not covered. All of these warranties have very specific contracts as to what can be repaired or replaced, and these guidelines do not cover everything. The final responsibility is with the consumer to read the contract and know what’s in it before they buy and to choose a company that offers just what they are looking for (and nothing extra).