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Published: Jan 02, 2024 8 min read

Knowing what a home warranty covers can help you choose the best plan possible for your home repair needs. So what exactly does a home warranty plan cover? That depends on your specific policy, but most policies generally cover systems such as plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling, and major appliances like refrigerators and washing machines.

However, you should know that many home warranty companies have a long list of terms, limitations and exclusions. This is why you need to read your service contract to understand exactly what is covered (and what’s not) along with the reasons your home warranty claims can be denied. This guide will give you a better understanding of what a home warranty covers.

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What Do Home Warranties Cover?

As mentioned, home warranty coverage is extremely specific. If you don’t know exactly what to expect, you’ll be disappointed if you don’t think you're getting your money’s worth. Here are more details on what you should know about home warranty coverage.

What is home warranty coverage?

Let’s start with what home warranty coverage isn’t. Home warranty coverage is not homeowners insurance which covers damage from covered incidents such as storms, fires and vandalism. Even the best homeowners insurance companies will not repair or replace home appliances or systems that break down. That’s where a home warranty comes in.

A home warranty, also known as a service contract, is an agreement between a homeowner that pays for the plan and the home warranty company. The contract typically includes an annual or monthly fee for the protection of home systems and appliances, such as plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling, and major appliances like refrigerators, water heaters, and washers. If something goes wrong with any of these covered items, the home warranty company will pay for the costs of eligible repairs or replacements minus your home service call fee.

What does a home warranty cover? Coverage depends on your specific policy, but typically includes:

  • Plumbing and electrical systems
  • Cooling and heating systems like air conditioners and ductwork
  • Major kitchen appliances like refrigerators, cooktops or ranges, dishwashers, and built-in microwaves
  • Laundry room appliances like washing machines and dryers
  • Doorbells, garage door openers, ceiling fans, central vacuums

One major plus that comes with having a home warranty is the fact that you can use it to protect appliances no longer covered by a manufacturer’s warranty (barring improper maintenance or other conditions laid out in the policy.) Many policies also come with optional add-on coverage for everything from swimming pools to septic systems. You can often find coverage for small appliances like ice makers, too.

Keep in mind that mortgage lenders usually don’t offer home warranty coverage. Warranty plans are largely bought through a specialized home warranty provider like American Home Shield or Select Home Warranty. Check out our list of the top home warranty companies to get a breakdown of each.

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What does a home warranty not cover?

Home warranties have coverage limits, of course, which is why it’s important to read the fine print. Many policies may exclude coverage for pre-existing damage and repairs required due to normal wear and tear, or certain appliances such as window air conditioning units or, in some cases, additional appliances that the homeowner installed after purchasing the policy.

You should also remember that even the best home warranty companies have limits on how much money they will pay per repair or for specific types of repairs, known as coverage caps. And they also have deductibles or service fees

For instance, if your air conditioning system fails, your warranty may have a cap of $1,500 on HVAC repairs per year. There are many similar coverage caps, but this is an example of how they could work.

Other things that may not be covered:

  • Duplicate appliances (such as a second freezer or appliances for a second kitchen)
  • Smaller appliances like a countertop oven
  • Components like knobs, shelves and drawers
  • Certain appliances without maintenance records (such as an HVAC system)
  • Breakdowns caused by lack of maintenance
  • Improper installations, repairs or modifications
  • Malfunctions due to sediment, rust or corrosion
  • Structural features like floors, windows, and doors
  • Damage from mold, wood rot, or roof leaks

You should also know that your home warranty may not cover repairs that their service providers deem as ineligible. There are many reasons a repair may be ineligible, but the decision is based on the service contractor’s assessment and the home warranty company’s discretion.

For instance, if your dishwasher breaks down and the problem is related to your plumbing system or to electrical issues, your repair may not be covered. In cases like this, you will still pay the service fee even if your repair is considered ineligible. Additionally, If you have to deal with several trades to address a problem, you could end up paying several service call fees to remedy the situation.

What is the duration of home warranty coverage?

A home warranty contract typically lasts between one and two years and may even go up to three years. If you choose to pay the price of your warranty at once, as opposed to a monthly premium, you’ll typically get a discount. If you sign up for a longer contract, you may get an additional discount. Some warranty companies may allow you to stack these discounts, making your home warranty cost even more affordable.

When does home warranty coverage begin?

Most policies may have a waiting period before coverage begins, usually around 30 days. This is usually because the company will not cover pre-existing damage or repairs due to normal wear and tear. Some home warranty policies are effective the day you sign up for coverage, though this is less common.

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Home Warranty Coverage FAQs

Do home warranties cover HVAC?

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Yes, many home warranty policies cover HVAC systems. However, these companies will only cover these systems if you can prove that they are getting regular maintenance, as evidenced by service records.

What does a home warranty cover when buying a house?

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Home buyers should know that a new home warranty can provide coverage for items included in the sale, such as plumbing, electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, major kitchen appliances, laundry room appliances, garbage disposals, doorbells, garage door openers, ceiling fans and central vacuums.

If there's a pre-sale home inspection, the warranty company may not cover anything wrong with the piece of real estate that is highlighted in the inspection report. This could be considered a known pre-existing issue and, therefore, would not be covered.

Does a home warranty cover air conditioning?

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Yes, many home warranty policies cover air conditioning systems. However, you may have to show regular maintenance records for the repairs to be covered.

What is covered under a home warranty?

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The specific coverage of home warranties varies from company to company. Generally, most policies cover plumbing and electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, major kitchen appliances, laundry room appliances, garbage disposals, doorbells, garage door openers, ceiling fans and central vacuums. You can pay an additional fee to cover additional appliances and systems.

What does a one-year home warranty cover?

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A one-year home warranty generally covers plumbing and electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, major kitchen appliances, laundry room appliances, and more. The same coverage you get for one year can usually be extended for two or three years.

Summary of Money's What Does a Home Warranty Cover?

Ultimately, a home warranty can be a great way to protect your investment in your home and add peace of mind. Unlike popular housing myths that conflate home insurance with home warranties, this coverage can provide another layer of value and protection for one of your most important assets.

These service contracts can be a great way to protect your home and budget in the event of unexpected repairs. However, it is essential to understand the terms of the service contract before signing up for coverage. By understanding what a home warranty covers and the potential limitations of your policy, you can make an informed decision on whether or not a home warranty is right for you.

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