American Home Shield Review
- Flexible plans
- Coverage for up to 21 major components of home systems and appliances
- Knowledgeable and upfront representatives
- Won’t turn down claims because your covered items are too old
- March 23, 2018 - We’ve refreshed our data on American Home Shield to reflect current plans and contract language. AHS is the largest home warranty provider in the nation and remains our top pick for trustworthy coverage.
Our American Home Shield Review
A home warranty from American Home Shield can cover some repairs to appliances and systems in your home. A range of flexible plans plus a large network of repair technicians increase the odds that the repair you need will be covered by your contract — and completed in a timely manner.
When you sign up, you can choose to cover appliances (like your water heater), systems (like your plumbing system), both — or a mix-and-match list that you select yourself. This level of customization is unusual within the industry and allows you to pay for only the coverage you need.
It’s important to note that the home warranty industry as a whole suffers from extremely low customer satisfaction, primarily due to denied repairs and disagreements over the quality of repairs that are completed. This dissatisfaction most often stems from contracts that are vague and easily misunderstood by consumers. We found that American Home Shield does a better job than other major providers at keeping fine print to a minimum, but it’s still important to read your contract carefully before signing.
American Home Shield’s Claim
American Home Shield promises to protect homeowners from shelling out a lot of money for unexpected repairs. In return for a yearly premium, plus occasional service fees, AHS will shoulder the responsibility of repairing or replacing systems and appliances. As its advertising puts it: “Your home systems and appliances will die. Will your budget be ready?”
Is it true?
Like most home warranty companies, American Home Shield has left a trail of disgruntled customers who didn’t understand their coverage until they tried to use it. Stipulations in the fine print allow warranty providers like AHS to set the terms for repair or replacement — and in some cases wriggle out from covering you altogether.
For an AHS home warranty to provide you the peace of mind and financial benefits it promises, there are three things you need to do:
Choose coverage that you actually need.
AHS offers four plans. You can cover your home’s major systems (like plumbing and electric), appliances (like dishwashers and hot water heaters), both categories — or you can create a custom list of ten systems/appliances (the “Build Your Own Plan”).
Home warranties versus homeowners insuranceHome warranties cover systems and appliances within your home. Homeowners insurance is more broad, covering the structure of your home itself (roof, floors), liability coverage in case someone is injured on your property, plus additional coverages that vary by provider.
The option to build a plan is unusual within the industry, and ensures you’re not paying for a package that includes coverages of things you might not want or need. (If you don’t have a doorbell, for example, you’re unlikely to need it repaired.) Because of this flexibility, the odds are much better that your AHS policy will cover the things you actually want covered. But it’s still important to understand AHS will only cover the items specified in the contract. They’re not going to repair every single within your home that could conceivably break.
Don’t do anything that will nullify your policy.
Home warranties, including AHS, take certain decisions away from the consumer. Calling in your own repair guy, attempting to do maintenance yourself, or jerry-rigging an appliance for a different use will negate coverage. Failing to perform maintenance as specified by your appliance’s user manual or manufacturer can also negate coverage.
Understand what’s excluded.
American Home Shield’s contracts are more clear and generous than most, but all home warranty contracts come with serious caveats when it comes to when your warranty can be applied. An example: Your plumbing system might be covered — but this usually doesn’t include bathtubs, sinks, or showers. We offer some types, below, about how to parse through the details of your contract.
Because the majority of consumer complaints about home warranties arise from misunderstanding the limitations of the contract, we’ve put together a list of the key terms you should understand before signing on the dotted line.
Terms & Conditions
- An AHS plan covers either appliances, systems, or some combination of both. Here’s where you’ll compare the list of inclusions (the items and parts they’ll fix) and exclusions (the items and parts they won’t). Typical exclusions include items that have been improperly installed, modified, or have pre-existing flaws, those already under a manufacturer’s warranty, and cosmetic flaws that might affect how a machine looks but not how it functions.
- Every item has a limit, and every policy has an aggregate limit. A smaller limit usually means a cheaper monthly bill, just note that if your washing machine is covered up to $500 and the final bill is $800, you’ll be liable for the difference.
- In order to be reimbursed for repairs, you must contact your provider, who will then contact your repair person. You’ll pay a service fee, but won’t have to pay for the cost of the actual repair.
- AHS’ normal service window is 48 hours, and they’ll usually only pay for repairs during normal business hours. In dire situations, the company promises to expedite communications. However, the company gets to decide what constitutes a service emergency on a case-by-case basis.
- The workmanship guarantee indicates how long your provider will stand behind its work. If your fridge breaks, they send a service tech to fix it, and then it begins to have the same old issues, AHS will foot the bill for another repair, sans service fee, for up to 60 days after the original claim.
Terms & Costs
- An AHS home warranty contract runs for an industry-standard 12 months. You can sign up for a single year as a First Year Customer, or get automatically renewed year after year as a Renewal Customer.
- You can let your policy lapse after the first year, or notify them of wanting to opt out of renewal as your term approaches. But if you want to cancel after your first 30 days but before 12 months are up, you’ll have to pay a cancellation fee.
A Closer Look At American Home Shield’s Features
|Price||Varies by location and covered items|
|Best For||People who want a flexible warranty they can customize to their needs|
|Falls short||People who prefer to select their own technicians and appliances|
|Covered Systems||Air conditioning, including ductwork
Heating, including ductwork
Instant hot/cold water dispensers
Built-in microwave ovens
Free-standing ice makers
Garage door openers
Built-in food processors
|Service Call Fee||$75, $100, or $125|
|Contract Length||1 year|
|Years In Business||47|
|Better Business Bureau Rating||B|
|Standout Features||Flexible plans tailored to your needs
30-day waiting period
No home inspection required
Network of 11,000 independent contractors and 45,000 service technicians
24/7 service requests
Our Deep Dive
American Home Shield Home Warranty Plans & Pricing
- The premium is worthwhile if you need to make large repairs: The policy quote we obtained from AHS would cost $516 annually plus $100 for every service call. A $1,500 repair would justify the monthly payout, but if the repair amounted to anything less than $1200, we’d have saved money by just pulling money out of an emergency savings account. We’d suggest running your own numbers before buying: AHS’s online quote tool is quick and simple: It only asks for your address and email, then generates quotes for all four plans.
- AHS reps can help you choose the right coverage: American Home Shield offers four plans — a Systems plan, an Appliance Plan, a Combo plan, and a Build-Your-Own option. Over the phone, representatives will work with you to customize your policy during the quote process. One tester’s home doesn’t have air conditioning, so the rep removed that from coverage to lower her rate. When speaking with reps via online chat and phone, we found them polite and helpful across the board.
- No home inspection required: Unlike many providers, AHS doesn’t require home inspections before signing off on your warranty. Some providers use these inspections as a chance to omit older appliances from your contract (read: things more likely to break).
- You can choose your service fee: When you set up your plan, you choose a service call fee of $75, $100, or $125. This is the one-off cost you’ll need to pay if you need to request a service tech. Higher service fees will lower your monthly premium: Testers who chose a $100 service call fee saved $9 per month over the lower $75 fee. If you’ve got relatively new appliances and aren’t expecting multiple catastrophes to strike per year, we’d suggest opting for a higher service fee.
American Home Shield vs. The Competition
American Home Shield vs. Total Protect
Total Protect offers a six-month guarantee on all repair work: If you continue to have issues even after the problem has been “fixed,” they’ll send a technician to do follow-up work at no additional charge. American Home Shield only guarantees work for three months. TotalProtect also doesn’t place a liability cap on most systems and appliances, versus American Home Shield’s $3000-per-item limit. But there’s no option to build your own plan, which means you may be stuck paying for coverage you don’t actually need.
American Home Shield vs. Sears
Sears has an impressive $10,000 cap on repairs and offers coverage similar to American Home Shield, plus a six-month guarantee on repairs. But monthly premiums are more expensive. The Sears plans we received quotes for were generally about $10 more expensive than comparable quotes from American Home Shield.
American Home Shield vs. First American Home Warranty
First American Home Warranty lacks the flexibility of other providers. Their two plans don’t cover certain systems, like air conditioning, that come standard with most home warranty companies — this coverage costs extra. But if you’re mainly interested in kitchen appliance coverage, it can't hurt to call and get a quote. Like Sears and Total Protect, First American has no "choose your own" plan.
What Others Are Saying
If you want to protect your budget from inevitable repairs, AHS is the best of a bad situation.
Angie’s List reports that home warranty companies have the dubious distinction of being one of the worst-graded categories on their website. When we reviewed home warranty companies, we found that all of our finalists scored “B” ratings, with plenty of disgruntled customers. Even American Home Shield, despite being our favorite, fell into this category. Customer complaints typically center around denied claims, and so it bears repeating: Before you sign your contract, make sure you understand the claims process and exactly what is or isn’t covered by your plan.
The Bottom Line - American Home Shield Review
Only you can decide if an American Home Shield warranty makes sense for your home. Consider the age and value of your home systems and appliances. Do the math to figure out how much you’d be set back if some of your larger items failed. Measure if the potential savings are worth the exchange of freedoms and limitations that come with any home warranty. Then spend some time quote surfing.