American Home Shield: First-Time Homeowners with First-Time Fixes

By: Katie Corbett
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Your home should be a place for rest, not stress. But when something stops working or needs repair, it can cause anxiety over unknown costs or the quality of workmanship. To help homeowners ease the stress (and cost) of unexpected repairs, American Home Shield offers home warranty plans to cover repairing and replacing vital home systems and appliances. With American Home Shield, you can select a low-cost, flexible plan that’s right for your home, and your budget.

American Home Shield invented the home warranty industry back in 1971, and today it is the largest, most-selected home warranty provider in the country. Supported by an extensive network of repair technicians located across the U.S., one call to American Home Shield will help give you back your peace of mind.

Whenever the need arises, American Home Shield is ready to help.

Why I’m looking to buy a home warranty

There’s a light-bulb moment many first-time homeowners face. Picture it: Something breaks. Maybe the microwave decides today’s the day it goes on strike. Maybe the washing machine is making a weird thumping noise. Maybe there’s something wrong with the air conditioning and it’s 92 degrees outside. Reflex gained from years of renting tells you to call the landlord, so you pick up your cell phone to dial… Who? That’s when it hits you. There’s no building super with a tool belt to magically make this problem go away. Congrats. You’re a homeowner and it’s up to you to get this fixed.

When this happened to me I was living in a two-story craftsman, my first home after years of roommates and rentals. About 3 months after closing on the real estate transaction, I walked into my downstairs home office and the carpet was wet and a big drip hit me on top the head. I looked up and realized the hot water heater located on the second floor was leaking out gallons of water. That was an expensive welcome to first-time homeownership.

Now I’ve moved into a loft. My real estate agent tried to negotiate a home warranty into the real estate transaction, but the seller wouldn’t agree. But my agent talked it up so much that I’m now researching home warranty options and sharing with you what I discover. American Home Shield is interesting to me because it’s the oldest home warranty company in the U.S. In fact, they kind of invented the industry, so let’s see what they’re about.

Who needs a home warranty?

If you have an older home, you already know that something seems to always be acting up, but newer homes have problems, too. I recently found out that most new appliances only come with a standard 3- to 12-month warranty. So really, a home warranty can be useful at any time in the life of your systems and appliances.

While this list isn’t definitive, I discovered that you might want to consider a home warranty if any of the following apply to you.

You might want to consider a home warranty if:

  • You don’t have 1% of the home purchase price saved for home repairs (so a $300,000 home would need a $3,000 repair budget)
  • You don’t have service contracts in place for your systems
  • You’re not great about maintenance
  • You don’t know who to call for reliable repair services
  • You attempt to DIY repairs but don’t have the skills (step away from the screwdriver!)

Okay, the last bullet point is kind of a joke, but it also kind of isn’t. Some homeowners attempt to fix items themselves because they think they can’t afford a repairperson. Repairs by an unskilled party can be dangerous to the person conducting them and can cause even greater harm to the system or appliance. Leave it to a professional!

On the flipside, you might not be a good candidate for a home warranty if:

  • You do have 1% of the home purchase price saved for home repairs
  • You want to select your own repair technician

All about the Benjamins: Let’s talk cost

You may be wondering, how much does this cost? Honestly, I can’t give an exact number because it all depends on the plan you select, the service call cost you select, your location, and a few other factors. But, in general, a basic home warranty costs about $350 to $500 a year. Maybe a little more, but that’s a good ballpark number. And you don’t have to pay it all at once. Divide that by 12 months, and you can see that it’s a reasonable fee considering it covers systems and appliances that may cost thousands of dollars.

AMERICAN HOME SHIELD REVIEW: True coverage for repairs and replacements

No one plans on a household setback, but it happens. Maybe the hot water heater suddenly leaves you cold, or the garbage disposal refuses your refuse. When something in your space breaks, you only have a handful of options. You can spend thousands on a repair. You can see if the item is still under manufacturer’s warranty. Or? You can turn to home warranty coverage from American Home Shield (AHS).

With a home warranty, you get blanket protection for different components in your home, condo, or townhouse. And when something goes wrong (and something will eventually go wrong), there’s no need to scour online review sites, post to neighborhood message boards, or look through pages of search results to find a technician in your area. A service call to one phone number puts a repair specialist at your door.

If this sounds like a useful concept, keep scrolling to read our review of American Home Shield.

Agents of Shield

We know a home warranty isn’t the most riveting subject – that is, until something breaks, and then that warranty is suddenly the most interesting document you own. With a home warranty from American Home Shield, it’s like your house has its own special agent, ready to jump in and protect it as soon as an emergency call comes in.

Here’s a quick overview of the type of protection you can get from American Home Shield:

  • American Home Shield covers 11 home systems, like plumbing, HVAC, and electrical
  • American Home Shield covers 10 appliances found in the kitchen, laundry, and garage
  • American Home Shield offers a combo plan to cover both home systems and appliances
  • American Home Shield offers to repair or replace covered items, no matter the age, the make, or the model. Plus? Their contracts don’t require a home inspection beforehand, so there’s no extra work needed.

But we know some of you are thinking, “Nah. I have home insurance. I don’t need this.” Key difference: home insurance covers big accidents. If a tree falls on your outdoor A/C condenser, then yes, you would probably call your property insurance company. But home warranties cover the more routine problems that arise – the inevitable wear and tear.

Pipes clog. Appliances break. It happens. Why pay more to get things back to normal when it does?

What’s covered?

American Home Shield is specific on exactly what’s covered.

The American Home Shield Systems Plan Covers:

  • Air Conditioning w/Ductwork
  • Heating w/Ductwork
  • Electrical
  • Doorbells
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Plumbing (incl. stoppages)
  • Water Heaters
  • Garbage Disposals
  • Instant H/C Water Dispensers
  • Central Vacuums

The American Home Shield Appliances Plan Covers:

  • Refrigerators
  • Ranges/Ovens/Cooktops
  • Clothes Washers
  • Clothes Dryers
  • Dishwashers
  • Built-in Microwave Ovens
  • Trash Compactors
  • Freestanding Ice Makers
  • Garage Door Openers
  • Built-in Food Centers

The American Home Shield Combo Plan Covers:

  • All items in Systems Plan
  • All items in Appliances Plan

AHS states the Combo Plan is the most popular plan, and the best value (we’ll get into pricing later in the review). They also offer a build-your-own plan option, and additional coverage for pools, septic systems, and other special components. They offer detailed information on terms of service and exactly what’s covered in each plan before you purchase.

Do people really use this?

You may be wondering if people really use this service – because that’s what I wanted to know.

On their website, American Home Shield states that they have over 1.7 million customers and in five years alone (from 2013 to 2018), they paid more than $2 billion in home warranty claims, so it does seem widely used.

I also went online to check out what others had to say about using American Home Shield so I looked for reviews online and found some from the Better Business Bureau.

Joel E. said his family had “been American Home Shield customers for decades” and that “they have consistently been extremely helpful in making home repairs.” Wow. Decades. I’ve never had a relationship that consistent with anyone or anything. (Don’t judge!)

I thought that must be an anomaly, but then right by Joel’s review was this testimonial from Bruce K. stating he, “had American Home Shield for over 10 years now and would highly recommend them to anyone.”

Followed by words from Patty N. that said she, “had AHS for 4 years now” and that “the vendors they send are professional and fix the problems right away, usually within a 24-hour period.”

That sounds good but that got me thinking when I read the word “problems,” how many problems can you call them about? A quick search of the American Home Shield website yielded the answer that, “there is no limit to the number of service calls you can make during the term of your agreement.” And they state that their customers average just under two service calls a year.

We have been American Home Shield customers for decades. They have consistently been extremely helpful in making home repairs. We will continue to be loyal customers.”

Father Gives Son Ride On Shoulders As Family Leave House

OK, but how does this really work?

One person’s experience is subjective. But 200 people’s experiences? That number weeds out the disgruntled negatives and the sappy fluff. We studied the most recent American Home Shield home warranty reviews online to find out what exactly millions of customers across 49 states really thought.

Contractors

Warranty programs cover repairs and replacements, and it takes a local vendor/repair contractor to determine the exact damage of your appliance. American Home Shield has a network of 13,000 local, licensed, and insured contractors ready to respond to your service call. You place a service call or hop on the website to chat with a technician at AHS, who then assigns a local contractor to come to your home. American Home Shield answers service request calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A service professional will be at your house within 24 hours a whopping 98% of the time. Awesome, right? This is where the experience can take a turn.

The good and the bad

Most people love their contractors and namedrop them in their reviews. But since contractors are location-based and often work on emergency scheduling, a slow or busy contractor can start the whole experience on a bad note. People hate waiting. If the contractor can’t come immediately, and you’re sitting there with a broken water heater waiting to take a shower, you’re not going to be happy. Reviewers noted that the wait for their contractor to arrive, and then an additional wait for parts to be ordered, left them less-than-thrilled.

Conversely, other reviewers shared that their contractors arrived when they said they would, and had the part needed to fix their problem in their truck. Or, that their contractors were super helpful in explaining the problem, and swift to return when the replacement was selected. There was more praise for good contractors than complaints about bad ones. Keep in mind that without American Home Shield, you’d still have to find a professional repair person to come fix your problem. The wait may take even longer, and you may have to call around to find one in your area. You won’t know how much the price will be, and you won’t have a third party vetting the contractor to make sure they are licensed and insured.

Since contractors are not employees of American Home Shield, but vendors, we recommend taking the customer reviews which focus on the contractor with a grain of salt. A bad vendor in Iowa won’t visit a home in South Carolina. Look for your location when it comes to vendors and request a different one if the time frame does not work for you.

Repairs vs. replacements

Another common issue is some people want repairs, and some want replacements, and the contractor suggested the wrong one. This is more of a “you can’t please everyone, all the time” matter than a true criticism. If you call hoping for a new washing machine when your old one just needs a simple repair, you may be disappointed.

Home warranties aren’t the equivalent of Santa Claus. Some of the negative reviews center around wanting replacements for equipment that can be fixed. Some wanted a repair, and had to get a replacement. The replacement may not include the brand you want, based on factors like age and how much the old model is currently worth.

Replacement options range depending on the product. Three options for a washer could include two different brand name washers and a cash-out option to buy your own. Some people don’t mind having two different brands, as long as they work! A GE washer and a Samsung dryer both get the clothes clean, so who cares if they aren’t the same brand? But if it’s important to you to have both brands the same, or in the same model family, then you may have to pay a little bit more out-of-pocket for an upgrade paired with a cash-out and reimbursement from American Home Shield.

In good news, if you have a cash-out, you may ALSO get a reimbursement to cover that extra out-of-pocket expense. Sweet! And since you are given options for your replacement, there is a very good chance one of those options is your existing brand.

The replacement arrangements are made by American Home Shield, and it is delivered and installed by a licensed contractor. This takes a ton of pressure off your shoulders, since someone else is handling the nitty-gritty details.

Reviewers with big items — like entire HVAC systems and ductwork and all the other complicated things hiding inside the walls that keep the house cozy — are above average in their praise, with the majority of those with large-scale home projects leaving glowing remarks for American Home Shield.

Service fees

Speaking of out-of-pocket, guess who won’t have to pay as much? You! Depending on your plan, your service fee for the contractor visit can range between $75 and $125. Reviewers knew this was coming, and very few had anything negative to say about it! You know upfront what the cost will be from your contract, and the beauty of a home warranty protection like this is that you know your problem will be looked at with this one-time fee. Some reviewers said their contractors tried to add on fees, but your contract should cover exactly what you pay to American Home Shield. If something breaks that is not covered in your American Home Shield contract, then, yeah, you have to pay. But that can be nipped in the bud by selecting a broader range of coverage with American Home Shield that can include all systems and appliances, plus coverage for your real estate transaction.

Costs vs. no coverage

A solid positive thread among American Home Shield customer reviews is that the cost of service fees and premiums is much less than paying for repairs without coverage. We were surprised to see that very few reviewers had anything to say about the costs of the premiums. Many reviewers noted how many years they had been with American Home Shield, and how satisfied they were with their service plans. It seems that the cost of a yearly warranty contract is very low on customers’ minds. Many customers expressed that they would be hard pressed to find the extra money for the repairs needed without a service plan.

What do the experts say?

The movies have the Oscars. TV has the Emmys. Home warranties have, well, The Annual Home Warranty Awards. (It’s no red carpet, but it is an honor!) The 2018 Home Warranty Awards names American Home Shield the Top-Rated Company of the year. And it’s not a one-time win. American Home Shield received the Best in Service award in 2014, and the Top-Rated Company of the year in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

  • The Better Business Bureau gives the company a B, with an average middle ground of 3.02 out of 5 stars based on 2,067 Customer Reviews.
  • Home Warranty Reviews website sees contributors giving American Home Shield 4 out of 5 stars for all 4 categories of Customer Service, Service Timelines, Repair Service and Overall Rating.
  • Consumer Affairs gave American Home Shield 4 out of 5 stars based on 7,696 ratings submitted in the last year.

Final verdict

American Home Shield founded the home warranty industry over 45 years ago, so I like that they have a decades-long track record. They have network of 14,000 contractors in 49 states who are regularly evaluated to ensure they are meeting American Home Shield standards. They seem to offer more benefits as standard, versus their competitors. The biggest negative seems to be that you can’t select your own repairperson.

So, I have my quote from American Home Shield in hand (get a free quote on their website) and what’s keeping me from purchasing is that I’m at a point where I do have money set aside for repairs. But I like the ease of a home warranty, so personally, I’m still running the numbers.  But after reviewing industry options, American Home Shield stacks up as a top company.

The House Method way

There are a number of home warranty programs on the market, but none have been doing it as long as American Home Shield.

  • We like that their pricing model offers options and allows a customer to pay a consistent monthly fee and a set flat rate when service is requested on a covered item
  • They cover items in basic plans that their competitors don’t
  • If they can’t repair they’ll replace or offer an alternative
  • No home inspection or submission of maintenance records needed

We also like that they have a Better Business Bureau “B” rating – sure, it’s not an “A” but they’ve been around since 1971, and have helped millions of people, and we all know it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

Shot of a happy young couple relaxing in the kitchen in the at home

Take a minute to learn more about an American Home Shield home warranty and pick your plan today.

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