The Best Home Warranty
Generous coverage, a flexible plan, and honest customer service made AHS the clear winner.
- Its “Build Your Own Plan” covers 10 or more appliances and systems of your choice.
- Appliance-only, systems-only, or combo plans are also available.
- High limits are designed to cover the cost of most repairs or replacements.
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 an industry plagued by a bad reputation. Then we got on the phone to quiz 17 providers on their coverage (multiple times), dug into each of their service agreements, and found the one that rose above the competition.
How We Chose the Best Home Warranty
To even be considered in the running for “the best”, each company had to share its sample contract online. Tim Meenan, executive director and general counsel for the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC), told us the SCIC recommends that all home warranty companies make it easy to find and review its contract. You shouldn’t have to call a company, survive a sales pitch, and surrender your email just to see the company’s coverage details.
It’s important to read the fine print of a home warranty contract before you sign, because it’s the small, contractual specifics that determine what happens when something breaks. So, we dug into service agreements — the section of the contract that details what the company will fix and the maximum amount it’ll pay out — to look for straightforward policies that were free of major red flags such as unreasonable or confusing coverage requirements.
We compared the maximum coverage amount each warranty provider will pay, either for single repairs or for a year’s worth of maintenance. Some caps are generously high: American Home Shield will pay up to $1,500 per item and TotalProtect doesn’t limit their coverage at all.
By comparison, most other providers cap their coverage at $500, which generally won’t cover the repair or replacement costs of important appliances or home system components — replacing even the most basic refrigerators could cost up to $600. We focused on providers with caps above $500 to ensure they could see us through an expensive repair or new replacement.
Reliable customer service
Home warranty complaints often stem from misconceptions about what a policy will cover, so we looked for providers that went out of their way to be upfront and transparent about their product. We called each company multiple times with questions about coverage and the claims process to see how we'd be treated as policyholders. We passed on companies like Choice Home Warranty, whose sales reps consistently kept us on hold or ignored our questions and launched right into a sales pitch.
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, the first rep explained that AHS has no cap for HVACs unless it contains 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.
American Home Shield has four plans to choose from, 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) that 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 of its 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).
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
Low cap on plumbing
The only exception to American Home Shield’s best-in-class coverage: It caps plumbing repair expenses at at $1,000. That’s lower than what our other finalists offer (Sears and TotalProtect don’t put a cap on plumbing at all), but it will most likely be enough to cover the most common repairs or replacements. A broken sump pump is generally the most expensive plumbing issue you might run into, and replacing it costs around $500.
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.
Why we chose it
Where Sears Home Warranty stands out is its 180-day “workmanship guarantee” — that’s twice as long as AHS. If you experience problems with a repair or installation up to six months after the fact, Sears will waive the service fee. Faulty replacement parts and incorrect repairs aren’t always immediately apparent, so we liked that TotalProtect went the extra mile.
Generous coverage caps
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.
Sears Home Warranty customers get a free heating and cooling maintenance check every year. Most home warranty plans require you to perform routine maintenance in order to remain eligible for repairs and replacements. This includes preventative measures like flushing scale build-up out of a tankless water heater, plus normal, cyclical cleaning, like a once-annual AC system cleaning.
We appreciate that Sears helps us maintain our homes and avoid rejected claims. Select East-coast customers (plus a few in California and Michigan) also get the added perk of discounted oil changes and tire rotations at Sears Auto Centers — not as widespread as we’d like, but still a nice feature.
Points to consider
Sears is one of the most expensive providers out there. Plan for plan, it’s consistently around $10 more per month than American Home Shield. Its Whole House Warranty is a full $20 more per month for the same items, plus water softeners. Over the years, the prices will add up making our other picks a better choice for those who want more cost-effective plans.
What’s more, the future of the business is unclear. In early 2017, Business Insider 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 response, the CFO, Jason Hollar, stated in a blog post that Sears is “a viable business that can meet its financial and other obligations for the foreseeable future.” If that changes, its customers can always cancel their agreements.
Why we chose it
Most generous coverage caps
TotalProtect also 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 $1500 cap on geothermal and water source systems (underground heating systems or water supply plumbing systems), but even these are generous.
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, 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.
Just like Sears, TotalProtect impressed us with a 180-day recall period. As we mentioned before, 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 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 that 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 AHS. At $44 per month, TotalProtect’s Combo plan is about $5 more expensive than the similar AHS option. The difference is low, 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 they’ll price-match — in our experience, sales reps are often willing to cut a deal.
Why we chose it
First American Home Warranty gets a blue ribbon for having the most organized contract of all our finalists. It still looks like a legal document, but out of all the contracts we compared, First American Home Warranty’s was the best at clearly laying out the what each plan does and doesn’t cover.
Flat-rate service fee
When you request a repair under a home warranty plan, you pay a one-time service fee that covers parts and labor. Most providers allow you to choose a rate ranging from $50–$125, and the cheaper your service fee, the higher your monthly premium.
First American Home Warranty on the other hand, offers a flat $75 service fee for all of its plans which can lead to great savings — choosing a $75 service fee elsewhere would bump your plan up by about $100/year. 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.
A basic plan with First American will offer reliable coverage for the essentials. All your regular kitchen appliances are included, plus a few extras (water heater, electrical, ductwork, and a well pump). If you are primarily looking to cover your kitchen, First American is a competitive and affordable option.
Points to consider
Its most comprehensive plans are considerably more expensive
If you only need protection for basic appliances First American is a solid choice, but If you’re looking for a more comprehensive plan, know this: You’ll have to upgrade to its “Premiere” plan ($41 per month) to cover your furnace, and AC coverage is only available as a $9-per-month add-on. That makes First American about $10 more than American Home Shield per month, and it comes at the expense of less flexibility — no customization options.
Shorter recall period
Another drawback: First American has a 30-day recall period, which is the shortest of all our finalists. That means an unlucky few may miss out on service fee reimbursement for faulty replacement parts or repairs.
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
1. 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, says it covers “all parts and components,” then follow it with 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.
2. 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 pre-existing defects or improper installation, items under recall, commercial grade equipment, and repairs or replacements requested before your contract starts. Understand the exclusions will help you ensure that your contract is giving you the protection you’re paying for.
3. Pay close attention to the repair timeline
When it comes to home warranty contracts, Jennifer Engler, 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.
4. 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 their 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.
5. 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 and 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 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.
Home Warranty FAQs
The Best Home Warranty: Summed Up
180-day workmanship guarantee
Lowest service fees