Are home warranties worth the money? Expert weighs in

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Are home warranty companies worth the money?

On Monday, the ABC7 I-Team introduced you to a woman who said she went weeks without heat. She said her furnace went out and her home warranty was slow to respond.

Consumer Investigator Samantha Chatman has more on what consumers need to know before signing up.

Consumers can spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a year on home warranty policies. While some are satisfied, others say their home warranty is useless.

Every month, consumers across the Chicago area are paying money to home warranty companies in the event something like an appliance or heating system stops working.

"And I've had it for 13 years. So I've paid all this money out for 13 years so it was frustrating," said Dorothy Dee of St. Charles.

RELATED: Home warranty problems: ABC7 I-Team helps St. Charles woman with broken furnace

Dee called the ABC7 I-Team after her furnace broke. She says her home warranty left her without a fix.

After ABC7 got involved, her furnace was replaced that same week and she says she was not charged the $800 the company initially wanted her to pay.

Other consumers has similar complaints.

"You've paid hundreds of dollars, you're expecting a certain level of service you have an emergency and then you suddenly find out in fact, it's not covered for all that money you've paid," said Tobie Stanger, money editor for Consumer Reports.

Stanger says it's important to understand that a home warranty is a service contract, not an insurance policy, so there are certain restrictions and time limitations consumers need to know.

She says reading the fine print in any home warranty contract is a must.

"There's a lot that is included and you have to understand that. For example, you may think your entire refrigerator is covered when in fact the ice maker is not covered," Stanger said. "These are all things you have to look for in the contract because it may not be spelled out by the salesperson."

She says home warranties are typically sold at the time of your home purchase, but you don't have to sign on.

"I think for a lot of people, you are better off just having money set aside for emergency," Stanger said. "If you're spending $600 a year, if you save up for three years and you have a major appliance failure, you've put aside $1800. That covers a lot."

But if you do decide to purchase a home warranty, she says be sure to do your research first.

"See how many complaints there have been and read the complaints because you'll learn about the complaints people have and whether they were resolved," Stanger said.

For more information, visit Consumer Reports' guide on buying a home warranty.
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