In This Methodology: Research Process | Comparison Factors | Provider Scores | The Team

The This Old House Reviews Team is committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers, aiming to be transparent about our review standards and research process. Our research team conducted surveys, interviewed experts, connected with providers for insights, listened to customer service calls, analyzed thousands of customer reviews, and gathered coverage data. We applied this research to our review standards and compared home warranty companies to help you decide which provider is right for your home.

Home Warranty Research Process

Throughout our research process, we focused on understanding the service, coverage, and customer experience that each provider offers.

Customer Insights

Customers share their experiences and perspectives by leaving reviews across various platforms. We’ve read more than 57,000 reviews for home warranty providers and compiled themes and insights to help you better understand the companies you’re considering. 

We read customer reviews and Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports, noting common pain points, complaint patterns, and how the company responded to customer concerns. These are the third-party review aggregators we primarily referenced for customer reviews: 

  • BBB
  • Google Reviews
  • Trustpilot
  • Yelp

We listened to dozens of customer service calls from several major home warranty providers, assessing wait times, sales tactics, representatives’ responses to questions and concerns, and the overall quality of the experience. We also conducted surveys to directly ask homeowners across the United States about their real-life experiences with home warranty providers.

Through these various sources, we’ve gained insight into the customer experience with each provider we review.

Secret Shopping

In addition to listening to customers’ stories, we interacted with companies’ websites and customer service teams as a homeowner would:

  • We browsed through providers’ websites.
  • We requested quotes online.
  • We called customer service with questions and for quotes.
  • We read sample contracts.

We requested quotes from all 50 states for every home warranty provider we researched. We then compared average monthly premiums to determine which providers offer the best value for homeowners. 

Industry Interviews

We interviewed real estate agents and other home industry professionals to give us further insight into real-life applications and trends in the home warranty business.


 

Factors Evaluated to Compare Home Warranty Companies

To rate companies, we applied the data we gathered to our review standards. We evaluated each provider in four comparison categories: coverage, value, trust and transparency, and availability and service. 

Each provider is rated across 31 factors within these categories. Each factor was assigned a point value in our review standards based on its importance to a homeowner. These standards are on a 100-point scoring system, with the categories outlined below:

Coverage

Coverage carries the most weight in our provider ratings. If you’re looking for financial protection for your home systems and major appliances, a plan’s coverage will be a driving factor in which home warranty you choose. This category rates companies based on what coverage is available, as well as how coverage caps apply.

Annual Coverage Cap

A coverage cap is the maximum amount a provider will cover for a given repair, a category of repairs, or total for the plan year. While it’s not always apparent what the coverage cap is for a given plan, we dug into the sample contracts to determine whether each company we review sets an annual coverage cap for the policy. In general, most providers break down coverage caps per item, but a few providers stipulate a total dollar amount that claims will be limited to during a plan term. 

While most home warranty providers don’t limit the number of claims you can file during your plan, all companies impose some form of dollar limit to protect their liability. Companies without a pre-set annual coverage limit were awarded more points in this category because they offer more flexibility to make multiple claims in a year.

Home Systems Coverage

Built-in system repairs are among the most costly, and many homes aren’t comfortable or fully functional without a working plumbing, electrical, and HVAC system. We rated companies highest if they had a coverage cap of $2,000 or more for each of these essential systems. 

Major Appliances Coverage

Refrigerators, ovens, and laundry machines are some of the most important appliances to homeowners. In our survey of 1,000 homeowners in 2021, we found that more than 40% of respondents would rush to repair their refrigerator, oven, or washing machine as soon as they detected signs of damage. 

We focused scoring in this category on these larger, more essential appliances because they’re likely to impact your daily life in case of a breakdown, and also more expensive to repair or replace than a smaller appliance, such as a garbage disposal or microwave. We scored providers higher if they had a coverage cap of $2,000 or more for each of these major appliances.

Obstructed Wall Coverage Cap

Obstructed walls are concrete or encased walls, ceilings, or floors. Some companies set a separate coverage limit if the system or appliance repair requires access through an obstructed wall. Companies scored higher if the coverage cap for an obstructed wall was $1,500 or higher.

Unique Coverage

Home warranties can include a wide variety of coverage items beyond the obvious major kitchen and laundry appliances and HVAC and plumbing systems. If you’re looking for robust coverage, additional coverage items factor into how well a provider will serve your needs. This section of the review standards awards companies for providing a variety of additional coverage items, such as roof-leak protection, additional appliance coverage, septic tank and pumping, allowances for code upgrades, and debris disposal. 

Plan Value

Plan value is the second category of factors we rated companies on. The value of a plan reflects how much coverage you get for what you pay. We considered multiple factors here, including average monthly cost, service fee amounts and options, and the overall flexibility offered by each provider to make a plan fit into a homeowner’s budget. 

Average Monthly Cost

To compare monthly cost across providers, we requested quotes for each company using the same address to ensure fair comparison. While we requested quotes for each type of home (single-family, mobile, and condominium) for our reviews, this rating specifically compares providers across an average single-family home smaller than 5,000 square feet. 

After requesting quotes from 57 providers, we found that the typical home warranty plan costs between $38.73 and $63.16 per month. The lower end of this range accounts for basic plans that cover appliances or systems, and the higher end accounts for combination plans that generally cost more. Combination plans aren’t the best option for all homeowners, so we set the comparison threshold at $50 per month. Companies with an average cost of less than $50 per month were scored higher than companies with a higher average cost.

Lowest Service Fee

A service call fee is the amount you’re charged at time of service. It’s a set amount, and you can think of it as similar to a deductible on an insurance plan. Based on our research and the quotes we gathered, the typical range of service fees is $65–$125. We compared service call fees across home warranty providers, and those with lower options rated better. Additionally, some companies provide flexible service call fees, allowing a homeowner to customize their monthly cost and service call fee to better fit their budget; these providers also rated slightly higher.

Cost Flexibility

Cost flexibility refers to the options homeowners have to customize their plan costs. This includes the ability to choose your service call fee, pay for your policy up-front for a discount, or purchase a multi-year plan. Most home warranty companies offer the option to pay for your annual plan up-front in exchange for a discounted rate or a few months free. 

Choosing your own service call fee isn’t yet industry-standard, but several companies allow customers to lower their monthly premiums by paying a higher service call fee. Multi-year policies are a perk because they can lock in your monthly rate beyond your first year. In the case of plan-length workmanship guarantees, a multi-year plan can provide you with longer-term coverage if a covered item needs to be reserviced. 

We rated companies higher for offering these types of cost flexibility options.

Trustworthiness and Transparency

Trust and transparency are important factors that work together. Transparency refers to the provider’s clarity and follow-through on policy terms and customer service. Trust is what’s earned from homeowners when providers are clear and reliable in their communication and service. To evaluate these concepts, we considered the length of the provider’s workmanship guarantee, the ease of locating a sample contract, flexibility of policy changes, and the brand’s reputation across the BBB and various customer review aggregators. 

Workmanship Guarantee

Workmanship guarantees provide homeowners with coverage in the event of workmanship or installation errors. The length of these guarantees can vary widely in the home warranty industry, but the standard is coverage for at least 30 days after the original repair. We rated companies with a 90-day or longer workmanship guarantee higher than those that offer the 30-day minimum standard.

Sample Contract

We recommend that you carefully read through a sample contract for each provider you’re considering. Sample contracts give you details on coverage caps, limitations, exclusions, and other important factors in your coverage. Due to the importance of understanding the fine print of your policy before signing up for a plan, we rated companies with sample contracts readily accessible online higher than those without them.

Policy Change Flexibility

Policy change flexibility accounts for factors such as free cancellation within 30 days and the freedom to transfer the policy if you move to a different property or sell your current home. Most home warranty companies allow you to cancel your policy for a full refund within the first 30 days, but some will deduct a cancellation fee between $45 and $75 if the state legislature allows it (your state’s sample contract will specify whether it’s legal to charge a cancellation fee in your state). Companies that don’t offer free cancellation or free transfer did not receive any points in this category.

Brand Reputation

Brand reputation includes how the company is viewed by third-parties and its customers. We calculated a brand reputation score based on ratings from the BBB and customers’ reviews and ratings on the BBB and Trustpilot.

Availability and Service

Availability and service include factors that influence how easy it is to work with the company as a homeowner. We considered how quickly a claim is responded to and how long it will take a technician to arrive at your home, what channels are available to you to file a claim, whether emergency services are available, and whether you have the option to choose your own technician. 

Guaranteed Response Time

Companies that guarantee a response time of less than 24 hours are rated higher than those that take longer, especially 48 hours or more. 

Claims Process

Ease of filing a claim can make a difference when you’re dealing with a home system or appliance breakdown. Companies typically allow homeowners to file a claim through one or more of these channels: by phone call, online, and by smartphone app. Those with more options for filing a claim rated higher in our scores.

Service Flexibility

Flexible service makes home warranties more convenient for homeowners. We rated providers with emergency services and the ability to choose your own technician higher than those that did not offer these types of options.


 

Factor Weights for Rating Home Warranty Companies

As mentioned above, all of these factors are assigned point values that total to 100 points. We score each provider across all 31 factors in our review standards to achieve a total score out of 100. 

Category Percent of Score
Coverage:

  • Home systems coverage
  • Major appliances coverage
  • Annual coverage cap
  • Additional coverage items
  • Obstructed wall coverage cap
40%
Value:

  • Average monthly cost
  • Lowest service fee
  • Cost flexibility
30%
Trust and Transparency:

  • Workmanship guarantee length
  • Sample contract availability
  • Policy change flexibility
  • Brand reputation
16%
Availability and Service:

  • Guaranteed response time
  • Claims process
  • Service flexibility
14%

How to Interpret Company Ratings

Home warranty providers that score 90 to 100 offer excellent coverage, claim response times, and policy and cost flexibility. Providers that score 80 to 89 are very good; typically, these providers didn’t earn as many coverage points due to lower coverage caps, shorter workmanship guarantees, higher monthly fees, or longer claim response times, but they still offer excellent value if their coverage plans meet your home’s needs. 

Providers that score 70 to 79 typically have scored lower across several categories and don’t often make it into our top recommendations, but it can still be worthwhile to compare these policies to find the best fit for your home and budget.


 

How To Choose the Best Home Warranty Company for You

Use these tips to find the best home warranty for your specific coverage needs:

  • Determine your coverage needs: Determine which items in your home you want to protect before deciding on a plan. Many companies have plans that cover appliances only, plans that cover systems only, and plans that cover both systems and appliances.
  • Request multiple quotes: Request quotes from at least three providers before making your final decision. Timothy Meenan, JD, who serves as executive director and general counsel for the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC), recommends that homeowners shop around because there may be another provider with similar coverage at a lower price. He noted that providers are competitive and “trying to do things better, faster, cheaper, and give more consumer choice.”
  • Read sample contracts: Comparing contract details for several home warranty providers is a great way to determine which home warranty is best for your needs. All home warranty companies provide a sample contract, which details home warranty coverage limits, exclusions, and the provider’s claims process.

 

About This Old House Reviews Team

The This Old House Review Team is an independent editorial team of subject matter experts who champion the categories and home services we recommend. From the beginning stages of research to the published review articles, our team works diligently to center the reader’s interests by identifying common pain points, connecting with people with firsthand knowledge and experience, and crafting content that meets the needs of our audience. We aim to help first-time homebuyers, potential sellers, budget-conscious homeowners, and others from all walks of life streamline their decision-making process for selecting their home services.

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