Choice Home Warranty’s contracts claim to provide hassle-free support for unexpected home repair, but its reputation for deceptive advertising suggests you may not get what you pay for.
Choice Home Warranty offers two plans with straightforward pricing, coverage for your major systems and appliances, and requires no home inspection. Aside from adding on optional coverage, there’s no way to customize your plan to only include the appliances you actually have, however (like you can with Choice’s competitor, American Home Shield). Its $60 service call fee is among the lowest in the industry, though, so you don’t have to worry about a high upfront cost every time you need a repair.
That all sounds good, but the company’s reputation is cause for concern. Numerous customers have called Choice Home Warranty out for using loopholes to get out of paying for repairs. It was also recently fined by the state of New Jersey for deceptive advertising practices. Those not willing to risk a similar headache may want to consider American Home Shield or avoiding home warranties altogether.
|Price||Basic Plan: $33.33/month or $370/year
Total Plan: $40.00/month or $450/year
|Best For||People interested in low out-of-pocket cost for repairs|
|Not For||People who prefer to choose their own service technicians and appliances|
|Covered Systems||Air conditioning
|Covered Appliances||Whirlpool bathtubs
Garage door openers
Ceiling and exhaust fans
Limited roof leaks
Septic tank pumps
|Service Call Fee||$60|
|Contract Length||1 year|
|In Business Since||2008|
|Better Business Bureau Rating||C+|
|Standout Features||No home inspection required
24/7 service requests
30-day service guarantee
Roof leak coverage
Choice Home Warranty claims to provide comprehensive, “hassle-free coverage” for the major systems and appliances in your home, so you’re not caught off guard by an unexpected breakdown. You can call them at any time, day or night, and they’ll send a technician out to assess the issue and either repair or replace the broken item.
Is it True?
No. Home warranty companies are notorious for their poor customer satisfaction, largely because most consumers didn’t look closely into what the contract actually covered before making a purchase. Various stipulations in the Terms of Service limit what the warranty can be used for and take decision-making power away from consumers. For example:
- “Upon request for service, We will contact an authorized Service Provider within two (2) days during normal business hours and four (4) days on weekends and holidays. The authorized Service Provider will contact you to schedule a mutually convenient appointment during normal business hours.”
- “We will determine what repairs constitute an emergency and will make reasonable efforts to expedite emergency service. If you should request us to perform non-emergency service outside of normal business hours, you will be responsible for payment of additional fees and/or overtime charges.”
- “We have the sole right to determine whether a covered system or appliance will be repaired or replaced. We are responsible for installing replacement equipment of similar features, capacity, and efficiency, but not for matching dimensions, brand or color.”
- “We reserve the right to offer cash back in lieu of repair or replacement in the amount of Our actual cost (which at times may be less than retail) to repair or replace any covered system, component or appliance.”
- “Any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred to a maximum of $1500 per claim, but in no event attorneys’ fees.”
There are also limitations on which components of the various appliances and systems are covered, which take away from the company’s claims of comprehensive protection. For example, Choice Home Warranty’s website advertises that whirlpool bathtubs are covered, but a closer look at the fine print reveals that only the motor and pump assemblies are protected. Whirlpool jets, control panels, and even the tub itself are not.
Choice Home Warranty, in particular, has received a lot of negative feedback from customers in Illinois, Florida, Texas, and Missouri for using loopholes, such as a lack of maintenance records, to deny legitimate claims. The company was also fined nearly $800,000 by its home state of New Jersey in 2015 for deceptive advertising practices.
Our Deep Dive
- Small plan selection: Choice Home Warranty has two plans available, both of which cover your major appliances and systems, including heating, electrical, and plumbing. The only difference is the Total plan includes your air conditioning, refrigerator, washer and dryer, while the Basic plan does not. Most people are going to want those big-ticket items covered, leaving them with only the Total plan as an option.
- Limited roof leak coverage: This is an extra coverage option you can add to either plan. It’ll cost you extra, but it may be worth it if your roof is getting old. This type of protection is rare among home warranty providers.
- Instant online quotes: Enter in your address, choose your plan, and any optional add-ons, and you’re immediately presented with a quote. You can choose between monthly and annual payments. If you can afford the annual payment, that’s the way to go. It’ll earn you a discount of $30 per year. You can purchase your policy right online.
- No home inspection required: Unlike some other home warranty companies, Choice Home Warranty doesn’t require new customers to submit to a home inspection prior to receiving coverage.
- 30-day waiting period: Choice Home Warranty has an industry-standard 30-day waiting period before your contract goes into effect. However, if you currently have a home warranty through a different company, Choice Home Warranty will drop the waiting period and your contract will begin immediately.
- 24/7 service requests: You can submit a service request at any time, either by phone or online. It’s important to note, though, that doesn’t mean you can expect a technician at your home within a few hours. Per its Terms of Service, Choice Home Warranty has up to two days after receiving a service request from you to notify a technician.
- Low service call fee: Compared to other home warranty providers who may charge you up to $125 per service visit, Choice Home Warranty’s $60 service call fee is pretty affordable. This is the only cost you’ll pay when a service technician comes to your home for a repair.
- Service guarantee: If repairwork done under your home warranty fails, Choice Home Warranty will send a new technician to your home and won’t charge you a service call fee for a period of 90 days on parts, and 30 days on labor.
In order to get an exact quote, you’ll need to contact Choice Home Warranty by phone or use its online quote tool. I tested quotes in several major cities and found the rates were consistent across all of them — the Basic plan costs $33.33 per month and the Total plan costs $40 per month. You can choose to pay in monthly installments or a single annual payment. If you can afford to do so, choose the annual payment, as this will save you $30 over the course of the year.
If you add optional coverage to your plans, expect those rates to rise. And if your home is over 5,000 square feet, you’ll have to pay a $250 surcharge.
You should also note that Choice Home Warranty reserves the right at any time to give you cash instead of repairing or replacing your broken item. By the company’s own admission, that cash may not always be enough to cover the full cost of a repair visit or a new appliance, so there may still be times where you end up paying out of pocket.
And then there’s the non-monetary costs to consider. Choice Home Warranty doesn’t let you choose which appliances you get or when your repairs are done. If you’d like to hold onto that decision-making power, you may want to reconsider buying a home warranty altogether, since no home warranty company offers that option.
Cheaper (or Free!) Alternatives
It’s a good idea to get quotes from multiple home warranty companies before settling. Every company has its own set of standard features and different rates based on where you live and what type of coverage you have. Some companies also give you a choice between different service call fees and choosing a higher amount could result in a lower premium. Look at all your options and decide which home warranty provider offers you the best coverage at the best rate.
If a home warranty doesn’t seem worth the investment to you, you can always set aside money on your own instead. Set up a savings account for unexpected home repairs and put a little money away each month. If you can spare $100 per month, you’ll have $1,200 by the end of the year to put toward future repairs. That should be enough to cover most home repairs.
Take some time to do the math and figure out whether a home warranty is a smart purchase for you. If you don’t think you can afford to maintain an emergency fund, a warranty might make sense. But if you can set aside some cash every month, it might be better to forego the warranty. That way, you retain full control over what service technicians you use and what new appliances you get.
Home warranty customers are generally unhappy with the services they receive. Part of that comes from misunderstandings about what is and isn’t covered, and part of it has to do with companies not always living up to their word. Choice Home Warranty, in particular, stands out as being a bad offender. If you’re interested in checking out some other options, consider these:
- American Home Shield: American Home Shield allows you to create custom home warranty plans, so you’re not paying to protect systems and appliances you don’t have. You also get a choice between a $75, $100, or $125 service call fee. AHS’s plans cover all the same items as Choice Home Warranty, plus instant hot/cold water dispensers, trash compactors, smoke detectors, and more. Among home warranty providers, AHS also stands out as offering the best customer service.
- The Home Service Club: Like American Home Shield, The Home Service Club gives you three choices for your service call fee, enabling you to lower your premium by opting for a higher out-of-pocket cost when you request service. The Home Service Club’s Standard plan protects all your major appliances and systems, while the Comprehensive plan adds in extra coverages, like pest control and gas leaks, that aren’t found with most home warranty providers. Its rates are pretty affordable, so this is a good company to consider if you’re on a budget.
- America’s 1st Choice Home Club: America’s 1st Choice Home Club offers three plans designed to suit all budgets. The Bronze plan covers only your heating, air conditioning, and water heater, while the Silver and Gold plans are more comprehensive, including your electrical and plumbing systems, as well as all major appliances. You must contact America’s 1st Choice by phone to get a quote.
- First American Home Buyers Protection: First American’s Basic plan covers major appliances, but if you’re looking to cover the systems of your home as well, you’ll have to step up to the Premier plan. Unlike most home warranty companies, First American lists air conditioning as an optional add-on, so you’ll have to pay extra for that. You can purchase your policy in a few minutes right from the company’s website.
What Others Are Saying
- NBC 5 in Chicago picked up a story about a woman who purchased a Choice Home Warranty policy and was then denied assistance when her furnace broke down. She says the company used a loophole in the contract to deny the claim and expresses her displeasure with the warranty: “It gives you a false sense of security that you are covered if something happens.” Choice Home Warranty later agreed to pay the woman, provided she promised to stop speaking to the media.
- Action 9 News investigated a similar claim in Florida. Choice Home Warranty denied the claim, stating it was outside the scope of the warranty. Yet when the woman paid a repairman to come fix the problem, he confirmed the repair should have been covered under the warranty. The customer was disappointed with the service she received: “What’s the good of having a warranty if they’re not going to cover it?”
- Click 2 Houston notes that Choice Home Warranty has the highest number of Better Business Bureau complaints of all home warranty companies in the Houston area. It also points to repeated attempts by the company to deny claims on the grounds that systems and appliances weren’t maintained properly. It warns about the dangers of purchasing a home warranty without reading the fine print: “Consumers thinking of using a home warranty company should make sure to read the exclusion clauses in the plan to look for vague language. Also, plans may have a section that caps the total amount the company will cover in repairs at a certain dollar amount.”
- FOX 4 in Kansas City, Mo., shines a light on another case where a man’s claim was denied due to supposedly improper maintenance. He sent maintenance records to Choice Home Warranty, but they still refused to pay. The article also discusses the difficulty he had when speaking to a Choice Home Warranty representative over the phone: “All I got was another claims representative who told me everyone there is a manager…Go figure.”
The Bottom Line
Choice Home Warranty’s limited flexibility and its reputation for deceptive advertising should give you pause. If you choose to purchase one of its home warranties, do your research and make sure you know exactly what you’re buying.