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What does a home warranty cover?

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by Jessica Render ConsumerAffairs Research Team
American Home Shield, Home Warranty of America, Choice Home Warranty, First American Home Warranty, Select Home Warranty, Cinch Home Services and Liberty Home Guard
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Home warranty coverage

Home warranties provide coverage for major home systems and appliances. However, coverage details depend on your warranty provider and plan.

The best way to know what's covered and what's not is to read the contract, but the following items are covered under most major home warranty plans:

  • Air conditioners
  • Heating systems
  • Ductwork
  • Electrical components
  • Plumbing
  • Water heaters
  • Garbage disposals
  • Refrigerators
  • Ranges, ovens and cooktops
  • Clothes washers/dryers
  • Dishwashers
  • Built-in microwaves
  • Ceiling fans
  • Garage door openers

Most home warranty providers also offer optional coverage for specialty items like pools, spas, septic pumps, well pumps and secondary appliance units.

What does a home warranty not cover?

Generally, home warranties do not cover issues related to:

  • Preexisting conditions
  • Unusual wear and tear
  • Improper installation or maintenance
  • Code violations
  • Items typically covered by home insurance
  • Commercial-grade appliances
  • Items under manufacturers' warranties

Home warranty vs. home insurance

People often mix up the terms home warranty and home insurance.

  • A home warranty is a service contract that pays for repairs to essential home systems and appliances that break down due to normal wear and tear.
  • Home insurance protects homeowners against costs associated with loss or damage from natural disasters, fires and theft.

If you have a mortgage on your home, homeowners insurance is usually mandatory, while a home warranty is always optional.

Covered by a home warrantyCovered by homeowners insurance
Home systems like HVAC, wiring and plumbingDamage to the structure of your home
Home appliances like refrigerators, microwaves and dishwashersLoss or damage to your personal property
Supplementary needs like locksmith servicesPersonal liability

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    Home warranty coverage FAQ

    Does a home warranty cover my roof?
    Not all home warranty providers offer coverage for roof leaks, but some do. Many of these providers cover roof leaks in their home warranty plans, while others offer roof protection as an add-on service for their standard plans. Roof damage can require costly repairs, so it may be worth adding roof coverage if it doesn’t come standard.
    Do home warranties cover fireplaces?
    Home warranties don’t usually cover fireplaces. However, your home warranty may cover the gas lines to your fireplace, which are considered part of your home's heating system. Check with your provider to confirm.
    Does a home warranty cover old appliances?
    A home warranty covers any specified appliances in your home, regardless of age. It typically won’t cover preexisting conditions that your older appliances may have by the time you sign up, though.
    Does a home warranty cover HVAC?
    Most major home warranty providers include air conditioners and heaters in their covered systems. However, given the potential for significant expenses, a home warranty company will do everything it can to repair an HVAC system before replacing it. Check your contract’s fine print to see what components are covered, and check the maximum coverage limit for air conditioning and heating units. Remember that you're responsible for any cost above this amount. If your home is at risk of AC issues, it’s worth looking for a provider with a generous per-item coverage limit.
    Does a home warranty cover garage doors?
    Typically, home warranties cover the motors that open garage doors but not the actual doors and tracks. It’s a good idea to check your contract for specifics.
    Does a home warranty cover plumbing?
    Typically, yes. If you have a home warranty system or combo plan, it should cover your plumbing system. When reviewing home warranty options, check sample contracts to see which parts of plumbing systems are covered.
    Does a home warranty cover electrical issues?
    Most home warranties cover a residential electrical system’s major components, such as direct current wiring, light fixtures and built-in exhaust units. However, not all plans cover associated items and issues, such as faceplates, circuit overloads and accessory wiring.
    Does a home warranty cover mold?
    Generally, no. Home warranty plans do not typically cover the detection, identification, removal or repair of hazardous or toxic materials, including mold.
    Does a home warranty cover windows?
    Home warranty plans generally do not cover structural elements like windows. If you purchase a newly built house, it may come with a builder's warranty or a new construction warranty, which could cover windows.

    Here's what you should look for in a home warranty contract

    If you're buying a home warranty plan, always read the contract before you sign. Specifically look for coverage details, exclusions and limits:

    • Understand what’s covered: Your contract should list what parts, items and situations it covers.
    • Look for exclusions: A “covered” appliance or system may only be covered for certain parts and exclude other features. Often, your contract will list these exclusions under each covered item. However, it may have them listed in separate “exclusions” or “notes” sections, so verify to be sure.
    • Check coverage limits: Your contract should list any limits on the number of units covered, the size or type of the unit covered, and the maximum dollar amount covered per contract term. You’re expected to pay out of pocket for expenses that exceed the dollar limit listed in your contract.

    Sample home warranty contracts

    You can find sample contracts for popular providers online before you ever sign on the dotted line. Reading through these documents should give you a good idea of what you can expect from your plan once you move forward.

    Warranty CompanySample Contract
    american home shield logoAmerican Home Shield Sample Contract
    first american home warranty logoFirst American Home Warranty Sample Contract
    choice home warranty logoChoice Home Warranty Sample Contract
    select home warranty logoSelect Home Warranty Sample Contract
    cinch home services logoCinch Home Services Sample Contract
    the home service club logoThe Home Service Club Sample Contract
    liberty home guard logoLiberty Home Guard Sample Contract

    Coverage exclusions

    Coverage inclusions and exclusions are where a home warranty provider lists the specifics of a plan’s coverage. While your plan may state that you have coverage for broad terms like “refrigerator” or “electrical,” that does not necessarily mean that all parts and components in those items are covered.

    For example, let’s say your home warranty plan says it covers the kitchen refrigerator. The fine print of your contract might look something like this:

    Included

    • Individual components
    • Individual back-end parts
    • Integral freezer units

    Excluded

    • Racks and shelves
    • Ice makers and ice crushers
    • Beverage dispensers and water lines
    • Leaks and food spoilage
    • Hinges, glass and lighting

    Home warranties generally provide coverage for items related to the essential function of each system or appliance. However, they may not cover nonessential items. In the case above, if a rack or shelf breaks, that doesn’t affect the essential function of a refrigerator, which is to keep cold.

    Coverage limits

    Home warranty providers don’t pay more than the limits listed in your service contract. A home warranty company might list these limits on a per-item or per-term basis. These limits typically range from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the provider. Expect to see language in your contract like:

    “[Provider] will pay up to $1,500 per contract term for access, diagnosis and repair or replacement of [item].”

    If a repair or replacement ends up costing more than the coverage limit in your policy, the warranty company may offer you a cash payout instead. In this case, you’d receive funds up to your coverage limit but then need to make up the difference yourself to have the item repaired or replaced. You may also have to provide documentation to your warranty provider that you used the cash payout to make the repair.

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    Bottom line

    While home warranty plans offer coverage for systems and appliances, they don't always cover everything that can go wrong. Before signing anything, always read your home warranty policy and carefully review the fine print for coverage exclusions and limits. Next, read about the different advantages of home warranties for sellers vs. buyers.

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    Profile picture of Jessica Render
    by Jessica Render ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    As a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team, Jessica Render is dedicated to providing well-researched, valuable content designed to help consumers make informed purchase decisions they can feel confident making. She holds a degree in journalism from Oral Roberts University.