A warranty is kind of like health insurance–you don’t known how much you need it until you do. Unfortunately, most shoppers don’t pay attention to warranties until it’s too late.

It’s important to have a good warranty because repair costs can run into the several hundreds of dollars. And cost can be just one part of a frustrating process to get a broken TV fixed. The experience can be so unpleasant, many just give up and buy a new TV.

That’s why a warranty should factor in to your buying decision. And it’s important to know that not all warranties are created equal. One of the first things you should note about a warranty is its length.

Most manufacturers offer a one-year parts and labor warranty. Some Sony HDTVs come with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty. Vizios come with a two year (for sets over 30 inches). Some stores will offer extended warranties, either for free (Costco) or for a substantial fee (Best Buy). Certain credit cards also extend warranties of products purchased with them.

HDTV Brand Warranty
Sony Link
Samsung Link
Panasonic Link
Vizio Link
Westinghouse Link
LG Link

More warranty summaries here.

Probably the most important thing to know about a warranty, and the hardest info to find out, is how and where the TV will be fixed. If it is under warranty, most manufacturers will pay to have a local repairman come to diagnose and fix your HDTV. This is more likely to be the case if you have a larger HDTV (bigger than 40 inches). If new parts are needed, the manufacturer will ship them to the repairman, who will install them.

Some manufacturers, like Westinghouse, will fix the TV for free, but will require you to send the TV in to one of their service centers. Shipping costs can run from $50-$200 depending on the size and packaging of your TV.

Extended Warranties

At the cash register, almost all stores will ask if you want to purchase an extended warranty for your HDTV. According to Consumer Reports, extended warranties are generally a waste of money, because:

  • Some repairs are covered by the standard manufacturer warranty that comes with the product.
  • Products seldom break within the extended-warranty window—after the standard warranty has expired but within the typical two to three years of purchase—our data show.
  • When electronics and appliances do break, the repairs, on average, cost about the same as an extended warranty.

Extended warranties are only recommended for individual products that are known for breaking down, and only then when the warranty is cheap and repair costs high. Generally, modern brand-name HDTVs don’t fit this profile. In fact, Consumer Reports found that only 3% of its HDTV owners required repairs for their sets.

The Repair Process

Just because your broken HDTV is under warranty doesn’t mean you won’t have any headaches. The Internet is full of nightmare stories of repairs taking months, and the parts used to fix the television having the same problems as before. If your TV breaks down, you should be prepared to be without a television for a while unless you can get a loaner or have an extra one.

Helpful Links:

LCD Buying Guide: Summary of manufacturer’s warranties

Consumer ReportsWhy You Don’t Need an Extended Warranty