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By Adam Morgan, Senior Finance Editor

The Best Home Warranty Companies

A home warranty is an optional service plan that covers home systems (like electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling), as well as appliances (like refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines) for a specified amount of time, usually one year. In other words, a home warranty protects the parts of a house that make it a home.

The best home warranty:

  • Covers what your homeowners insurance does not
  • Has excellent, transparent policies and customer service
  • Allows for customization of your plan

To find the best home warranty, we read hundreds of reviews and talked to service contract experts to help us understand the inner workings of the industry. Then we got on the phone to quiz 20 providers on their coverage (multiple times), dug into each of their service agreements, and found the five companies that rose above the competition.

The 5 Best Home Warranty Companies

Other Home Warranty Companies to Consider


Best Overall

American Home Shield Home Warranty
American Home Shield
Generous coverage, a flexible plan, and honest customer service.
Pros
Transparent reps and policies
Customizable plans
Generous coverage caps
Online bill pay and claim filing tools
Cons
Not available everywhere

Why we chose it

Transparent reps and policies

During our first call with American Home Shield (AHS), we were impressed with how well the representative knew the ins and outs of her product. We poked and prodded with some finely tuned questions about the contract, but she remained composed and echoed exactly what we already knew to be true. For example, when asked what the maximum liability was for an HVAC issue, the first rep explained that AHS has no cap for HVACs unless they contain a boiler-type furnace — exactly what’s listed in the contract.

When reps didn’t have an answer, they quickly transferred us to someone in the claims department who did. We didn’t get this level of treatment anywhere else, which made AHS the most transparent about what would or wouldn’t be covered in its agreement.

Customizable plans

American Home Shield offers four plans, but we really loved its Build Your Own option — the only one like it on the market. It works like this: You pick the 10 items (appliances or systems) you want covered. If you don’t own a dishwasher, don’t pick it. If you just bought a brand-new hot water heater, slot another device in its place and maximize the value of your contract.

DIYers benefit, too: You have the flexibility to cover only the devices you wouldn’t attempt to fix yourself. The cost of a plan depends on your home and location, but prices are competitive and customization makes AHS one of the most cost-effective ways to cover the systems and appliances you care about the most — and nothing you don’t.

Generous coverage caps

Limits make or break a home warranty. If a company will only pay $500 to fix or replace an appliance, it doesn’t matter how comprehensive the coverage details are. We liked that AHS will pay up to $3,000 per item for most appliances and systems. Compare that to 365 Home Warranty, which is only liable for $3,000 during the entire life of the contract (and even that’s better than some).

Online bill pay and claim filing tools

Like all of our finalists, American Home Shield has a few online benefits that make owning a home warranty much simpler. Customers can submit and track claims on the site, as well as pay their bills. No snail mail. No phone trees. Just a few clicks.

Points to consider

Not available everywhere

When it comes time to file a claim, American Home Shield will send a qualified local technician in its network to diagnose any damage and offer solutions. With over 14,000 AHS-approved service technicians across the nation, most won’t have to worry about accessing coverage. That is, unless you live in Alaska — the company doesn’t offer coverage in the state, which means our other picks are the way to go. For those who happen to live in an area of a covered state with very few AHS-approved technicians, our other picks may also be the better option.


Best Claims Processing

Choice Home Warranty
Choice Home Warranty
Stellar claims processing and transparent online contracts.
Pros
Super-fast claims processing
Clear and transparent contracts
Free first month
Cons
Low plumbing cap

Why we chose it

Super-fast claims processing

No one wants to submit a claim, but no matter how new your house is, and no matter how well you take care of it, something is eventually going to break. When you submit a home warranty claim, it’s probably because something vital to your daily routine is no longer working and you can’t fix it yourself, so getting a repair or a replacement as fast as possible is key. Despite handling more than two million service calls every year, Choice Home Warranty sets service appointments within four hours of receiving your claim. That’s fast enough to earn Choice a perfect 10 out of 10 for claims processing from ConsumersAdvocate.org.

Clear and transparent contracts

As we noted in our methodology, we only trust home warranty companies that make sample contracts available online — that’s why Fidelity National Home Warranty didn’t make it very far on our cut list. But Choice actually goes further than most companies to make its sample contract visible. While every provider on the list hosts a sample contract or “user agreement” on its website, they’re usually pseudo-hidden via a link in an FAQ section. But Choice puts its sample contract right in the main navigation menu under “User Agreement.” That’s really convenient for reviewers like us, but also for customers like you, and speaks to the company’s willingness to be upfront and transparent about coverage, caps, and fees.

Free first month

When you sign a home warranty contract with Choice, it’ll waive your first month’s premium. That won’t make a huge dent in your annual bill, but it’s a nice housewarming present that isn’t particularly common among home warranty providers.

Points to consider

Low plumbing cap

It’s normal for home warranty providers to put liability caps on appliances and systems to limit how much they’ll pay for repairs or replacements (with the exception of TotalProtect, which doesn’t place caps on anything). But each provider has its own unique caps based on its estimates of average costs and how much it’s willing to pay. Choice’s cap on plumbing systems is $500 per contract term — not abnormally small by any means, but small compared to American Home Shield’s $1,000 plumbing cap. If you live in an older house or apartment building, that extra cap space could make a huge difference.

Best for
New Homebuyers

The Home Service Club
The Home Service Club
Flexible, customizable coverage options for new and growing homes.
Pros
Flexible coverage plans
Tons of online resources
Generous caps on major systems and appliances
Cons
Potentially high service fees

Why we chose it

Flexible coverage plans

The Home Service Club offers two primary plans for homeowners: “Standard Coverage” covers 18 of the most common systems and appliances, while “Comprehensive Coverage” extends to 15 additional categories. However, Home Service Club also offers more than a dozen stand-alone coverage options you can add to either plan — coverage for things like pools, free-standing freezers, sprinkler systems, and roofs, plus a six-part utility line package. If you're a new homebuyer, that coverage flexibility is ideal, since you’ll probably add new appliances and systems to your home over time.

Tons of online resources

Another reason Home Service Club is a great choice for new homebuyers is its wealth of online resources and how-to guides. Some home warranty company websites are nothing more than advertisements to get a quote, but Home Service Club has one of the most extensive FAQ sections we’ve ever seen, plus dozens of articles designed to help you take care of your home, avoid claims, and estimate the cost of repairs.

Generous caps on major systems and appliances

With the exception of TotalProtect, almost all home warranty companies place “liability caps” on certain systems and appliances — a predetermined limit to how much money they’ll pay for a particular replacement or repair. Some warrantors put $500 caps on everything, but Home Service Club tailors its caps based on the average cost of repairs. Heating and air-conditioning systems, for instance, have a generous $2,500 cap per contract term, while refrigerators are capped at $750.

Points to consider

Potentially high service fees

Every home warranty company charges a “service fee” whenever one of its approved service providers visits your home to inspect a claim. Many charge a flat rate between $60 and $75, but Home Service Club’s fees are either $65, $95, or $125. However, the good news is that you can choose your own fee rate among those three options when you sign up for coverage, and the higher your service fee, the lower your monthly premium.


Best Workmanship Guarantee

AFC Home Club
AFC Home Club
The longest guarantee on repairs and replacements in the industry.
Pros
Extended workmanship guarantee
High consumer ratings
Cons
Not available in three states

Why we chose it

Extended workmanship guarantee

Whenever a home warranty company sends a service provider to your home to make a repair or replacement, it usually offers a “workmanship guarantee” — a period of time during which it’ll waive your service fee if anything goes wrong with your repairs. An older version of this review praised Sears Home Warranty for its 180-day workmanship guarantee, since most companies only offer 90 days for parts and 30 days for labor. But AFC Home Club goes further than any company we’ve ever come across: It guarantees workmanship through the life of your contract.

High consumer ratings

One of the benchmarks we use to grade home insurance companies is customer survey data from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. Neither organization conducts surveys on home warranty companies, but a few other organizations do. AFC Home Club averages four out of five stars with more than 700 users at Consumer Affairs, and it fares even better with ConsumersAdvocate.org, scoring an “Excellent” 9.3 out of 10 based on 143 user reviews.

Points to consider

Not available in three states

As of May 2019, AFC Home Club doesn’t operate in California, Hawaii, or South Carolina. However, we spoke with a company representative over the phone who said that AFC Home Club is actively trying to expand into California and South Carolina. There are no current plans for Hawaii, he added, because of the difficulty of sourcing service providers there.

Best for
Generous Liability Caps

TotalProtect Home Warranty
TotalProtect
No liability caps, but less customizable coverage.
Pros
No caps on most appliances and systems
Thorough coverage
Long workmanship guarantee
Cons
No custom options
Slightly more expensive

Why we chose it

No caps on most appliances and systems

TotalProtect doesn’t have liability caps on any major appliances or systems. In fact, there’s no maximum aggregate liability for the contract term at all. That means you won’t have to worry about footing the bill if you run into a string of broken appliances. Of course, a few appliances and systems do have a cap, such as the $1,500 cap on geothermal and water source systems (underground heating systems or water supply plumbing systems), but even these are generous.

Thorough coverage

Like American Home Shield, TotalProtect’s plans offer thorough coverage. We’re particularly impressed with the Combo plan — the most comprehensive option. It includes the most expensive, break-prone systems and appliances, plus other uncommon or inexpensive items like central vacuum systems, doorbells and chimes, garage door openers, and smoke detectors. The plan also adds whirlpool tub coverage, which AHS doesn’t offer. You can always opt for the cheaper but less thorough appliance and system plans as well, starting at $23 and $35 per month, respectively.

Long workmanship guarantee

TotalProtect impressed us with a 180-day recall period. Faulty replacement parts or repairs may not be immediately noticeable; we like that TotalProtect offers an extra degree of protection for its customers.

Points to consider

No custom options

TotalProtect was a close competitor for the top spot, but it doesn’t offer a custom option like American Home Shield. The plans that TotalProtect offers are thorough, but there is a chance you’ll be paying for coverage you don’t need — most homes don’t have a central vacuum system, for example. For the most cost-effective and customizable protection, AHS is a better bet.

Slightly more expensive

Speaking of cost, a plan with TotalProtect is a touch more expensive than one with AHS. At $44 per month, TotalProtect’s Combo plan is about $5 more expensive than the similar AHS option. The difference is minimal, but it adds up over time, making AHS the more affordable and flexible choice overall. If you’re strongly considering TotalProtect but on the fence about its higher monthly fees, we recommend calling and asking if it’ll price-match — in our experience, sales reps are often willing to cut a deal.

Other Home Warranty Companies to Consider

Landmark Home Warranty

A great option for Western states

As of May 2019, Landmark only operates in six states: Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Utah, though website says that it plans to expand nationally soon. But it offers great coverage options and generous liability caps, and it boasts a stellar A- rating with the Better Business Bureau — a rare feat in the home warranty industry, given that many customers submit complaints simply because they didn’t understand what their contract covered. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Landmark has also made Utah Business Magazine’s “Best Places to Work” list two years in a row, so you know that it treats its employees well, which usually means that it treats customers well, too.

Sears Home Warranty

Generous coverage caps, but an uncertain future

While there’s a $1,000 limit for liability on your pool (and ultra-premium appliances — think high capacity or “professional series”), everything else under a Sears plan is covered by a generous $10,000 cap. Given that many home warranty providers cap their coverage at $500, the generous cap makes Sears one of the more reliable providers when it’s time to file a claim.

However, the future of the business is unclear. In August 2018, U.S. News reported that Sears Holdings (the parent company that oversees its home service agreements and retail stores) could be nearing bankruptcy, in which case there’s no guarantee it would be able to satisfy ongoing home warranties. In October, Sears had officially filed for bankruptcy. By January 2019, the company cleared the air on this topic by providing new information for Sears Home Warranty customers. According to a statement posted on its website at the time, all coverage provided through Sears Home Warranty will be honored and not affected by the “decision to restructure under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.” This reassuring promise is due to the independent underwriting company Sears uses – Cross Country Home Services. It’ll be able to provide warranty coverage and customer service even though the future of Sears Holdings is still unclear.

First American Home Warranty

Good coverage and low fees, but shorter recall periods and limited availability

First American Home Warranty offers a flat $75 service fee for all of its plans, which can lead to great savings. Pairing the fee with the $25-per-month Basic plan (comparable to the appliance-centric plans of our other recommendations) would only cost $300 for the year if paid upfront, which is an excellent deal.

However, First American has a 30-day recall period, which is the shortest of all the providers we reviewed. That means some people may miss out on service fee reimbursement for faulty replacement parts or repairs. Also, there are eight states, including New York and Illinois, that First American Home Warranty does not service. The other six are a mystery. None of the representatives we spoke with knew what they were (they can only check coverage for the property address you give) and there’s no information in the contract or on the site — which, to us, is a significant oversight.

Guide to Home Warranties

How to get the most out of your policy

Review the basics

If we had to distill the entire subject of home warranty contracts down to one point, it would be this: A home warranty contract works to minimize the provider's liability. Like all insurance companies, home warranty providers only make money if they pay out less than they take in.

Don’t expect them to be extremely specific about the line they draw on coverage. Some contracts, like Sears', list all items that are covered and those that aren’t. Others, like First American, say “all parts and components” are covered, followed by a list of exclusions.

Either way, if you don’t see a specific scenario, part, or issue explicitly outlined, it is most likely not covered. Our finalists are free of major red flags, but we'd also encourage you to check out our additional tips for reading your contract in our FAQ section below.

Look for exclusions

The opening paragraphs of a contract often lay out the items that the provider is responsible for. This can include both systems and appliances. Appliances are self-contained units like a washer, fridge, or microwave, while systems are a bit more intricate or costly — think an HVAC system, hot water heater, or the electrical wiring throughout your home.

Most companies then list exclusions — the things they won’t cover. These will vary depending on your contract, but some we ran into repeatedly include items with preexisting defects or improper installation, items under recall, commercial grade equipment, and repairs or replacements requested before your contract starts. Understanding the exclusions will help you ensure that your contract is giving you the protection you’re paying for.

Common exclusions
  • Items with preexisting defects or improper installation. If the flaw existed before your contract began, most providers won’t cover it. Even if you didn’t know about the issue, it can still be excluded, since clues like water stains can tip off service techs to problems years in the making. One of the reasons we liked American Home Shield so much is that it does cover preexisting problems so long as the issues aren’t easily detectable via a visual inspection (does the unit look healthy?) and a simple mechanical test (does anything strange happen if you turn it on and off?).
  • Repairs needed due to secondary damage. Some providers state that they aren’t responsible when an uncovered appliance damages a covered appliance (or vice versa). If a plumbing problem causes your washing machine to go haywire and only one of those items is on the warranty, this clause could leave you responsible for repairs.
  • Units that are covered by another warranty or insurance. A home warranty is always considered “secondary coverage.” If your refrigerator is still under its five-year manufacturer warranty, your provider will expect you to go to the manufacturer for repairs.
  • Repairs that you arranged on your own. If you dial up a local plumber for a sudden leak rather than submitting a claim through the warranty company, expect to pay for it out of pocket.
  • Units that are under recall or have factory defects. Manufacturers are responsible for replacing or repairing these faulty items.
  • Necessary upgrades demanded by law. This stipulation means your provider isn’t responsible for, say, asbestos removal, or for updating your refrigerator to a model that doesn’t use Freon (which is being phased out by 2020).
  • Commercial-grade equipment. Some providers won’t cover high-capacity “professional series” equipment, like a 100-gallon tank water heater, since these appliances often come with generous manufacturer warranties.
  • Repairs or replacements requested before your contract officially starts. A 30-day initial wait period is typical.
  • Repairs or replacements requested while your account is in the red. If you’ve fallen behind on payments, the provider is not obligated to service your claim.

Pay close attention to the repair timeline

When it comes to home warranty contracts, Jennifer Englert, attorney for The Orlando Law Group, told us to “carefully read any portions of the contract which discuss how quickly after you request a repair it will be completed. Read what happens if the repair does not work, or if the vendor who comes to make the repair cannot get the job done. Coverage is not usually an issue under these contracts, but how repairs get done — and when — vary from company to company.”

A little extra attention in these portions of your contract will ensure reliable repairs or replacements later on.

Ask questions

Home warranty contracts are often complex by design. Evan W. Walker, Esq. of the Law Office of Evan Walker, explained that a home warranty contract “is not written to be understood by the consumer.”

In that sense, it is important to ask your home warranty provider any questions you have about its policies. The best will have friendly and knowledgeable representatives that provide thorough answers to your questions, no matter how many you have. We’re happy to report that the reps from each of our home warranty finalists were up to the task.

Negotiate prices

Don't be afraid to ask for a lower price. All service contract prices are negotiable — that’s why we recommend getting a quote over the phone. Online, there’s no way to pitch for a more competitive rate.

Case in point: During one of our calls, we were quoted $570 per year. We told the representative that our budget was $450. He responded, “Okay, let me work on this,” and 30 seconds later he returned to inform us that they were running a special promotion that brought our bill down to (you guessed it) $450. That’s not to say that a little haggling will always score you a $120 price drop, but it may be well worth your time to try negotiating a deal.

How much protection do you need from a home warranty?

A home warranty can help cover the repair or replacement costs of common household appliances such as water heaters and refrigerators. However, knowing how much protection your appliances will need can be challenging, especially if you aren’t certain how much longer your appliances will last. Sure, you might have a pretty good idea of how long that brand-new dishwasher will last, but what about the oven that came with the house? How old is the range and stove and just how much money will you need out of your home warranty to cover that eventual cost?

With the help of our top pick, we put together this handy table of the average appliance life span and repair/replacement costs in order to help you find the right home warranty to protect your appliances:

Appliance/System
Average Life Span
Estimated Repair or Replacement Cost
Water Heater
10-11 years
$200-$1,200
Washing Machine
8-12 years
$200-$700
Range/Oven
10-15 years
$175-$997
Central AC/Heating
15 years
$172-$4,000
Refrigerator
6-15 years
$150-$1,300
Dishwasher
8-10 years
$100-$690
Microwave Oven
9 years
$100-$400
Dryer
8-12 years
$58-$645

Home Warranty FAQ

What is a home warranty?

While home insurance covers the structure(s) of your home, a home warranty covers the systems and appliances within it. In exchange for paying a monthly or annual premium, your home warranty provider will repair or replace appliances and systems when they fail — subject to specific limitations, as laid out in your contract.

What is the average cost of a home warranty?

If we’re being thorough and looking to cover both appliances and systems, plans can range from $540 to $840 a year. Of course, you might not want a combo plan for your home warranty and, in that case, the prices can be lower. Bear in mind that prices can vary. For example, our top pick would have you paying $540 per year for either an Appliance Plan or a Systems Plan. In addition to this, however, you can also customize your plan with American Home Shield, and that can impact how much or how little you’ll end up paying each year.

It’s definitely worth contacting a representative and shopping around for a price on a home warranty to fit your needs at a cost you can afford.

What’s the difference between a home warranty and homeowners insurance?

Homeowners insurance covers the structure of your home and most belongings inside. It typically doesn’t cover major systems or appliances unless the damage occurs in a covered type of “sudden and accidental” event (such as a fire) — so wear and tear would not be covered. A home warranty covers damage to specific systems and appliances regardless of the cause (but does not cover structure or other belongings).

What does a home warranty cover?

For the most part, you can expect that the mechanical components of a unit or appliance — the parts necessary for function, like a drain pump in your clothes washer or the pilot burner in your water heater — are covered. But the inert plastic bits, like knobs and covers, usually aren’t.

If all that’s wrong with your appliance is a cracked knob or dial, this repair is usually deemed “cosmetic.” You’ll have to hit up Home Depot or call an independent handyman to replace these parts. In any case, reviewing your contract and checking with your warranty provider is the best way to determine the exact amount of coverage your warranty will provide for each appliance.

How do I make a home warranty claim?

Your contract should specify what steps you need to take to make a claim. Usually, you’ll be instructed to call a 24/7 customer service hotline, but keep an eye out for contracts that state the company is closed on holidays (a problem we ran into with America’s First Choice).

After you call the hotline, many contracts stipulate a 48-hour wait period as they get in touch with a service technician, who will then reach out to you to set up an appointment. But again, pay attention to the specifics: Weekends and holidays can combine to kick you up to four days of waiting with companies like First Choice.

What if an appliance repair or replacement doesn’t work?

Because not all problems are an easy fix, make sure a recall period or workmanship guarantee is present within your contract. If you discover that your unit is still not working properly within this timeframe, the service provider will schedule a second appointment at no charge. TotalProtect and Sears come with impressive 180-day recall periods, and American Home Shield offers a respectable 60 days. But many home warranty providers don’t offer them at all.

How does a home warranty company decide between repairs or a replacement?

Home warranty companies will replace a unit when they determine it’s “beyond economic repair.” If you qualify for a replacement, the company will either choose a base model for you (the standard unit, zero enhancements, and the color of the company’s choice) or give you the cash to purchase on your own. Fair warning: If the old unit needs to be carted away, you’re usually responsible for disposing of it.

Is a home warranty part of closing costs?

Yes. Since closing costs include all expenses associated with buying a home, the home warranty would also be part of those costs. In most cases, you (the buyer) would be responsible for covering this fee upon purchasing the house. However, in some circumstances, the seller or Realtor might pay as part of a contract.

Can I cancel my home warranty?

You should have 30 days after first signing up to cancel your contract without penalty. After that, you’re liable for a one-time termination fee. First American charges a $50 cancellation fee, for instance, while American Home Shield charges the same amount as your monthly payment.

Most contracts are good for one year, but companies like Home Warranty of America, TotalProtect, and Sears automatically renew your contract at the end of 12 months. We’d recommend always reading through the renewal information to make sure pricing hasn’t increased and that none of the terms or conditions has changed.

The Best Home Warranty Companies: Summed Up

American Home Shield
Choice Home Warranty
The Home Service Club
AFC Home Club
Total
Protect
Best for
Flexible plans
Claims processing
New homebuyers
Workmanship guarantee
Generous liability caps
Service fee
$75, $100, or $125
$60
$65, $95, or $125
$60
$75 or $100
Customizable coverage
Recall period
60 days
90 days parts, 30 days labor
90 days parts, 30 days labor
Life of contract
180 days

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