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Money Fix: Extended warranties may not always be worth the money

$20 bills.

$20 bills. Credit: iStock

Should you buy an extended warranty? Is the "protection" worth the money?

"Consider them for products you'll keep a long time that tend to break or need replacing. I want some type of warranty or insurance on my cellphone. I've never had a phone that didn't break or get stolen," says Ashley Feinstein, a money coach in Manhattan.

Work the numbers: How much will the extended warranty cost you over the life of the product, and what would your expenses look like if you didn't purchase it? Weigh the costs and benefits. If the cost of the warranty is more than the cost of replacing the product, it's not a smart buy.

Self-insure: Save money monthly just in case you need to replace your item, says Cheryl Reed, director of communications for Angie's List in Indianapolis.

Investigate: While self-insuring might work for a cellphone, a car or major appliance is another matter. An extended warranty might be a better option. If you go for an extended warranty, realize it isn't a cure-all. For example, items in a car that eventually break or wear out are not covered, says John Giamalvo, a senior analyst in Manhattan for car site Edmunds .com. Warranties can come in tiers, such as gold or silver; be sure to ask what the difference is.

Check other protection: Your credit card may extend the warranty for you, if you use it to buy the product. Some products might be covered by your homeowners insurance.

Says Bruce Clark, a Northeastern University business professor in Boston, "For most people, they're not worth the extra cost."

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