With so many home warranty companies available that claim to offer the most comprehensive coverage, it may be challenging to find the best option for your situation.

If you’re asking yourself, “what does a home warranty cover,” the This Old House Reviews Team will educate you on what you should expect when purchasing a service contract, including coverage, pricing, and limitations.

What’s Covered by a Home Warranty?

Typically, home warranty coverage includes, at least in some aspects, all of the essential systems and appliances you rely on throughout the home. While the extent of coverage may vary significantly between home warranty providers, a policy will generally protect components that are necessary for operation.

It’s common for providers to break up their home warranty plans by systems and appliances. For instance, you may find a systems-only plan is sufficient when protecting your air conditioning and electrical system. On the contrary, an appliance plan provides financial assistance for when your refrigerator or dishwasher breaks down. Most home warranty companies will also include a combo plan where both systems and appliances are under warranty.

Here are just a few of the systems and appliances that are covered under a home warranty

Covered Systems and Appliances

Appliances

Systems

Refrigerator

Air conditioning system

Dishwasher

Heating system

Built-in microwave

Electrical system

Clothes washer

Plumbing system

Clothes dryer

Water heater

Oven, stove, and range

Garbage disposal

Garage door opener

Instant water dispenser

Trash compactor

Smoke detectors

Freestanding ice maker

Central vacuum

Built-in food center

Ceiling fans

Doorbell

Home warranty providers are also known for allowing policyholders to increase their coverage by including optional add-ons to a service contract.

Here are a few common add-ons provided by home warranty companies: 

  • Swimming pool and spa equipment
  • Septic tank and pumping
  • Secondary appliances or HVAC systems
  • Limited roof leaks
  • Well pump
  • Pre-season HVAC maintenance
  • Guest units
  • Extended electronic warranty
  • Pest control services
  • Food spoilage due to broken refrigerator
  • Re-key service for doors

We recommend analyzing a sample service contract before signing up for coverage to understand how extensive the coverage is for both the bundled packages, as well as add-ons.

What Does a Home Warranty Not Cover?

Not all types of repairs are covered under home warranty coverage. Here are some common equipment malfunctions that are almost always disqualified under home warranty coverage:

  • Pre-existing conditions at the time a home warranty begins
  • Damage caused by the improper installation or maintenance
  • Misuse of an appliance or system by using it for purposes other than residential use
  • Cosmetic issues

Find out the specific exclusions from a provider by asking a representative or looking for coverage limitations in a sample contract. In addition to excluded repair causes, you should also check the maximum payouts for both appliances and systems—sometimes, a home warranty company will set limits on systems and appliances and once that limit is reached, you’ll be required for paying any extra costs.

What Is a Home Warranty?

A home warranty is an annual service contract that covers repairs and replacements on major home systems and appliances, like air conditioning or a refrigerator, that have failed due to normal wear and tear. This type of home appliance insurance protects homeowners from paying too much out of their own pockets and gives them peace of mind if something unexpected were to happen.

Though similar to homeowners insurance, a home warranty is different because it’s an optional policy that helps cover the costs of unavoidable breakdowns to your home’s systems or appliances. Homeowners insurance, on the other hand, is a mandatory policy that protects your belongings from unexpected events like storm damage, theft, or fire.

Compare what’s covered by home warranties and homeowners insurance in the chart below.

Home Warranties vs. Homeowners Insurance

Issue

Home Warranty

Homeowners Insurance

Your appliances are damaged due to a surge caused by lightning.

An air conditioning system begins blowing warm air during operation.

A fire breaks out, leaving a few appliances inoperable.

The washer and dryer begin malfunctioning due to age and normal wear and tear.

When Does Home Warranty Coverage Begin?

With most home warranty providers, a 30-day waiting period is required before coverage begins. Some companies, like The Home Service Club, have only a 10-day waiting period before coverage kicks in, and some companies may allow a seamless transition with proof of uninterrupted service if there’s no lapse in coverage.

How Long Does Home Warranty Coverage Last?

In most cases, a home warranty lasts for 12 months and can be renewed after it expires. You may find discounted options are available by purchasing a home warranty in 3- or 5-year intervals.

How Much Do Home Warranties Cost?

The cost of a home warranty contract will depend mainly on the provider and the type of coverage you choose. On average, purchasing a basic package generally starts around $300 a year. For more comprehensive care, you should expect to pay about $600 for a warranty that includes up to $20,000 worth of protection.

How Much Do Service Fees Cost?

Policyholders are also responsible for a service fee, or a deductible, which is paid to a technician once they arrive on the scene to diagnose the malfunctioning system or appliance. Throughout the industry, these fees generally range between $75–$125 per issue.

If you’re still not sure which home warranty company is right for you, compare some of the top providers in the industry.

Provider

American Home Shield

Select Home Warranty

Get a free quote

Visit Site

Visit Site

Plan options

3 + optional add-ons

3 + optional add-ons

Max covered items

23 items

18 items

Monthly premium

$40–$58

$36–$38

Deductible

$75–$125

$75

Additional benefits

ShieldPlatinum™ includes coverage boosts and free roof leak coverage

Gives customers two free months of coverage when they sign up for a plan

Because plan pricing will vary based on where you live, the square footage of your home, and the plan you choose, we recommend getting a quote from all three companies so you can compare coverage options and pick a plan that provides you with the best coverage within your budget.

Read the following company reviews to learn more about the home warranty companies we recommend:

Our Top Recommended Provider

American Home Shield is considered the founder of the home warranty industry and provides coverage for 49 states, excluding only Alaska. According to its profile on the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the company was accredited in 1997 and currently boasts a B rating.

The This Old House Reviews Team recommends American Home Shield as the best home warranty coverage provider for its 24-hour access for claims submission, flexible packages, and generous coverage caps.

American Home Shield Plans

Systems and Appliances

ShieldSilver™

ShieldGold™

ShieldPlatinum™

Price

$49.99/month

$49.99/month

$59.99/month

Air Conditioning

Heating System

Ductwork

Electrical

Doorbells

Smoke Detectors

Smoke Detectors

Ceiling Fans

Plumbing and Stoppages

Water Heaters

Water Dispensers

Central Vacuums

Refrigerators

Ranges, Ovens, and Cooktops

Clothes Washer

Clothes Dryers

Built-In Microwave

Trash Compactors

Freestanding Ice Maker

Garage Door Opener

Built-In Food Centers

Coverage Boost

Roof Leak Coverage

American Home Shield also offers several add-ons for policyholders to extend their protection for more expensive equipment:

  • Electronic extended warranty
  • Pools and spas
  • Well pump
  • Septic pump
  • Guest Unit up to 750 square feet

To receive a personalized quote from American Home Shield, fill out this online form, or call 844-529-9298.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team is committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers, and we aim to provide transparency in our review standards and research process.

Our research process includes speaking with representatives from more than 40 home warranty providers, requesting quotes, and asking clarifying questions to gain insight into each provider’s benefits and downsides. We also analyze sample contracts from each company to understand specific coverage terms.

To rate companies, we apply the data we have gathered to our review standards. These standards are on a 100-point scoring system, which is detailed below:

  • Coverage (35 points): Providers are scored based on breadth and depth of coverage. We focused on key home systems (HVAC, plumbing, and electrical), essential appliances (refrigerator, ovens, and laundry machines), and unique coverage items (such as roof-leak coverage and code violation allowances). Coverage scores are weighted by taking into account coverage caps and other limiting factors, meaning providers with greater range of coverage and higher coverage caps score the highest.
  • Value (30 points): A company’s plan value is a reflection of how well it serves the customer in comparison to what the customer pays for the policy. We accounted for monthly costs, service call fees, and cost flexibility (such as customizable service call fees, discounts, and multi-year policies).
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency (21 points): Trustworthiness and transparency are a reflection of how well the provider considers the customer’s interests. We scored items such as the length of workmanship guarantees, online availability of a sample contract, policy change flexibility, and ease of cancellation. Additionally, we scored items that reflect industry reputation and customer satisfaction, including analyzing brand reputation across the Better Business Bureau and third-party customer review aggregators.
  • Availability and Service (14 points): Quality of customer service is key to customer satisfaction. We dug into each provider’s guaranteed response times, claims processes, service flexibility, emergency availability, and more.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.