The Best Home Warranty

Get reassurance on your biggest investment — as long as you read the fine print
Runners-up
Home Warranty Seal
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 home warranty providers on their coverage, and dug into each of their service agreements before finding one that rose above the competition.

There’s peace of mind knowing that if your refrigerator is on the fritz, you won’t be unexpectedly set back hundreds of dollars for repairs. But we’ll be the first to admit that home warranties can be a risky investment. The industry as a whole has a terrible reputation, and groups from Consumer Reports to Angie’s List have reported on a slew of customer complaints — everything from service delays to band-aid repairs to denied claims.

So we set out to find a provider that will come through on its promises. Of the 17 home warranty providers we analyzed, American Home Shield was our top pick. Its customizable plan means you pay to cover only what you want or need, and it couples generous limits with friendly, informed customer service.

Our runners-up — Total Protect, SEARS, and First American — each had similarly generous coverage limits and knowledgeable reps, but the plans weren’t quite as flexible or affordable as American Home Shield.

The Best Home Warranty Providers

Best Overall

American Home Shield Generous coverage, a flexible plan, and honest customer service made AHS the clear winner.

American Home Shield (AHS) invented the concept of home warranties 46 years ago, so it comes as no surprise that it boasts the most complete nationwide coverage of any other provider. It also has the most transparent terms and conditions we found, and our experience with customer service was a league above the rest.

AHS 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 plan also starts at $32 per month, making it by far the most cost-effective way to cover the systems and appliances you care about the most — and nothing you don’t.

Your home warranty should cover the items that are most expensive to replace. For appliances, that includes refrigerators, dishwashers, oven/range/cooktops, and washer/dryers. For home systems, that’s air conditioning, heating, plumbing, electrical, and water heaters.

If you’re looking for a plan that covers more than 10 items, AHS has you covered too. The combo plan includes all covered systems and appliances, including built-in microwaves, garbage disposals, ceiling fans, smoke detectors and more starting at $38 per month.

No matter which plan you choose, pools, spas, and well pumps will cost and additional $7–13. Your cost of monthly coverage will vary depending on the service fee amount you choose: $75, $100, or $125. The cheaper your service fee, the higher your monthly coverage.

American Home Shield’s quote tool makes it easy to compare your options.

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 up to $1500 for most of its systems. Compare that to 365 Home Warranty which is only liable for $3,000 during the entire life of the contract.

The only exception to American Home Shield’s best-in-class coverage: it caps plumbing expenses at at $1,000 for plumbing repairs. While that’s lower than what our other top picks offer (SEARS and TotalProtect don’t put a cap on plumbing at all), 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.

During our first call with 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 from reading the contract ourselves. For example, when asked what the maximum liability was for an HVAC was, 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. The second representative we spoke with didn’t have as many answers right off the bat, but didn’t hesitate to transfer us to someone in the claims department who did.

We didn’t get this level of treatment anywhere else. With other providers, we often felt as if we were being assuaged with false assurances: No matter what we asked our American Home Guard rep, the answer was “yes” or “don’t worry about it.” AHS was completely transparent about what would or wouldn’t be covered in its agreement.

Like all of our top picks, AHS has a few online benefits that make owning a home warranty much simpler. Customers can submit and track claims on the site, and pay their bills. No paper mail. No phone trees. Just a few clicks is all it takes.

Other Home Warranties to Consider

American Home Shield is the best option we found, but if you happen to live in an area of your state that has very few AHS-approved service technicians — or doesn’t have AHS coverage period — there are a few others you should consider. All three met the same high standards to which we held American Home Shield, but weren’t quite as flexible or affordable.

TotalProtect Home Warranty No liability caps, but their coverage options aren't as flexible as AHS.

TotalProtect was a close competitor, but it doesn’t offer a custom option like American Home Shield. Where TotalProtect stands out is a 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, TotalProtect 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 (SEARS also has a lengthy workmanship guarantee.) It also doesn’t have liability caps on any major appliances or systems. In fact, there’s no maximum aggregate liability for the contract term either. So no matter what breaks down, you’re covered.

We recommend the “Combo” plan because it’s the most comprehensive. It includes the most expensive, repair-prone systems and appliances, plus other, uncommon or inexpensive items like central vacuum systems, doorbells and chimes, garage door openers, smoke detectors. At $44 per month, it’s about $5 more expensive than AHS’s combo plan. But in terms of coverage, it’s right on par, plus whirlpool tub coverage, which AHS doesn’t offer. Appliance and system plans are also available, starting $23 and $35 per month, respectively. Like American Home Shield, you can choose your service fee ($75, $100, or $125).

There’s no live chat option on the site, so plan to call TotalProtect directly if you have any questions. Otherwise, TotalProtect is a strong, slightly more expensive alternative to our top pick, American Home Shield.

SEARS Home Warranty The most expensive coverage out there is backed by the SEARS name (for better or worse).

Just like TotalProtect, SEARS Home Warranty impressed us with a 180-day recall period. We also liked that customers get a free heating and cooling maintenance check every year, and select East-coast customers (plus a few in California and Michigan) get the added perk of discounted oil changes and tire rotations at Sears Auto Centers. There’s a $1,000 limit for liability on your pool (and ultra-premium appliances), but everything else is covered by a generous $10,000 cap. Another perk: The site has a live chat option, which makes it easy to get your questions answered without the hassle of waiting on the phone.

Now for the not-so-good. SEARS is one of the most expensive providers out there. Plan for plan, it’s consistently around $10 more expensive (per month) than American Home Shield. Its “Whole House Warranty” is a full $20 more per month for the same items, plus water softeners. SEARS offers two service fee options: $75 or $100.

What’s more, the future of the business is unclear. In early 2017, Business Insider reported that Sears Holdings (the parent company that oversees 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.

First American Home Warranty Its flat-rate service fee is the lowest of our top picks, but AC coverage costs extra.

First American Home Warranty gets a blue ribbon for having the most organized contract of all our top picks. It still looks like a legal document, but it clearly lays out the what each plan does and doesn’t cover.

It’s $25-per-month “Basic” plan is comparable to the appliance-centric plans found in our other recommendations. And it’s only $300 if you pay upfront, which is a pretty great deal paired with a flat $75 service fee. (Choosing a $75 service fee elsewhere would bump your plan up by about $100/year.) 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, that’s a pretty competitive price.

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. Another bummer: First American has a 30-day recall period, which is the lowest of all our top picks.

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 only check to see if they can cover the property address) and there’s no information in the contract or on the site — which, to us, is a significant oversight. If you’re interested in purchasing a home warranty, get a quote for your address before you spend any amount of time reviewing the plans.

Who should get a home warranty?

Homebuyers and sellers benefit the most.

According to a 2014 industry study, homes with warranties spend approximately 11 fewer days on the market and sell for an average $2,300 more — around $1,800 more than what the seller probably spent on the home warranty. Sellers benefit from the extra incentive, and buyers get the peace of mind that they won’t have to pay for repair after repair out of pocket.

But before you purchase a home warranty, ask the seller or your real estate agent if they have any documentation on manufacturer warranties — the manuals should indicate if they are still in effect. The manufacturer’s customer support channels should also be able to help. If all of the major appliances are already covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, you won’t want to duplicate that coverage with a home warranty.

And, if you’re moving into a brand-new home, be sure to ask your real estate agent about the possibility of a builders warranty. Some new homes come standard with 6- to 12-month warranties on systems and appliances, courtesy of the contractor.

Homeowners with lots of older appliances save too.

Based on user-submitted data, Home Advisor found that the median repair cost for common home appliances like fridges, ovens, and washers is around $200, and the most expensive repairs tend to max out around $350. Repairs for heating units, air conditioning units, and other big-ticket systems average between $160 and $500 with a max of about $1,000. When an appliance needs multiple repairs or has to be replaced altogether, you might be on the hook for double or triple that price.

If multiple appliances or systems are nearing the end of their average lifespan, a home warranty can save you a lot of money and grief. The trio of a busted AC compressor, a leaky fridge, and a snapped dryer belt — three fairly common issues for aging appliances and systems — can easily exceed the cost of a home warranty and service fees.

The Best Home Warranty Companies: Summed Up

Home Warranty Companies

Best For…

1

American Home Shield

Flexible Plans

2

Total Protect Home Warranty

No Liability Caps

3

Sears Home Warranty

180-Day Workmanship Guarantee

4

First American Home Warranty

Lowest Service Fees