Ads from home warranty companies promise their policies provide peace of mind and substantial savings if something goes wrong with your refrigerator, furnace, plumbing, or other appliances and home systems. But for decades Checkbook has urged against buying these plans, which usually cost $400 to $1,000 per year.

“They’re terrible deals,” Kevin Brasler, Checkbook’s executive editor cautions. “We’ve found that these plans aren’t worth the money. They promise complete protection but have payout limits and so many coverage exclusions that they aren’t worth the money. Worst of all, you don’t get any say in who does the work; instead, you’re stuck with whatever company the warranty companies send out—and they often send lousy contractors.”

If you look around online, you’ll find many glowing reviews about home warranty companies. But can you trust them?

Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, publisher of ConsumerWorld.org, found something curious when he looked into online reviews for American Home Shield.

According to Dworsky’s reporting, ratings for American Home Shield were higher on websites that earn commissions on the sale of its policies, including at BobVilla.com, ThisOldHouse.com, ConsumerAffairs.com, and Forbes.com. (All of these sites have affiliate disclosures asserting that the information they provide is honest and accurate, despite possible compensation from the companies rated.)

“You get a very different picture of American Home Shield if you look at websites that collect reviews, ratings, and consumer complaints, and don’t earn a commission for sales from the companies they list,” Dworsky told Checkbook.

For example, despite being “accredited” by the Better Business Bureau website, American Home Shield is listed with only 2.25 stars out of 5 on the BBB’s website, which also reports having received more than 27,000 complaints against the company in the last three years. Customers often complained about delays in getting repairs and reimbursements, and service workers who did not fix the problem.

American Home Shield averages 1.8 stars on Trustpilot, and only one star on ComplaintsBoard and Yelp.

“If you only read reviews on a site that gets paid a commission on the sale of the products they are evaluating, you may not be getting the full picture,” said Dworsky.  “You need to check independent sites as well.”

American Home Shield did not respond to Checkbook’s request for comment about Consumer World’s findings.

More from Checkbook: Should You Buy a Home Warranty?

 




Contributing editor Herb Weisbaum (“The ConsumerMan”) is an Emmy award-winning broadcaster and one of America's top consumer experts. He is also the consumer reporter for NW Newsradio in Seattle. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at ConsumerMan.com.