Big box retailers like Best Buy and Staples offer extended warranties and are fairly aggressive about selling them. But in general, the warranties offered by the retailers are not a good deal. They are expensive, there is often a deductible, there are a lot of exclusions, and often you have to return the item yourself and wait for it to be repaired or replaced. Even Amazon is now pushing extended warranties on items when you checkout. Do you really want a warranty on that shampoo you just bought?
However, Costco is an exception in that they offer generous returns and extended warranties for their members. They offer a 90 day return policy on all electronics. They also extend the manufacturer’s warranty on electronics to 2 years.
Credit card companies will often offer free extended warranties on purchases made with their cards. Check your card agreement’s fine print to see if your card does this and what is covered.
Dell, Apple, and other computer manufacturers offer a variety of coverages as well. Usually you can choose between having to mail back the PC or have it repaired on-site at your home. These extended warranties are usually worth it. They are not expensive and computers do tend to fail eventually, so 3 years of coverage is a good idea. You can even buy coverage for accidental damage. This is great for laptops, but isn’t worth it for desktops or monitors.
Cell phone warranties on the other hand are a bit more complicated. The phone manufacturers (Apple, Samsung, etc) all offer extended warranties that cover accidental damage and screen repairs. Your cell carrier (Verizon, AT&T, Metro PCS, etc.) offers coverage for a monthly fee that also covers theft and accidental loss. There are third party insurance companies like Squaretrade that offer similar insurance. For all of the cell phone policies it comes down to this: The cost for a single repair is usually less expensive than the cost of the extended warranty/insurance. Keep in mind that all of these coverages make you pay a deductible of $100 or more per repair. If you take good care of your phones and have never dropped or lost one then the warranty isn’t worth it. But if you have a history of destroying or losing your devices then go for the coverage that gives you the most protection.
Don’t let agonizing over whether or not you should buy a warranty ruin the fun for you. Enjoy your new electronic toys and know that they will be obsolete in a few years anyway.