The daily mail bombards us with warranty solicitations warning of dire costs for breakdowns in our homes and cars. Now there are warranties offered to cover the cost of repairing the water and sewer lines between your house and your utility provider’s main service line. These warranties are usually offered as an insurance policy with reasonable-looking premiums of just a few dollars per month. But are utility warranties really necessary?
Warranty scare tactics
These utility warranty solicitations can be frightening. Their envelopes warn of water and sewer line repairs that will cost you thousands of dollars. The letters inside often bear the logo of your local water and sewage service provider. Purchasing these utility warranties supposedly brings peace of mind.
The reality is that these policies are usually a waste of money. They use worst-case scenarios to frighten homeowners into buying an insurance policy for an event that rarely happens. When problems arise with the water or sewer lines between your home and the street, repairs are seldom as costly as advertised. Real peace of mind comes with education.
The kernel of truth
There’s a kernel of truth in the scenarios these utility warranty solicitations describe. The municipal government or private utility companies supply services to homes in cities. While repairs beneath the street and beyond are the utility’s responsibility, homeowners are responsible for the water supply line and main sewage drain from the house to the provider’s main conduit at the street.
But repairs are rarely needed. Unless your home was built before the 1960s, your water supply line is probably made of either PVC, galvanized steel or copper. These materials have life spans of 40 to 80 years. Unless your home is older than this, your chances of having to make major repairs are less than 1 percent, according to research.
And even if your water or sewer lines develop issues, resolving them is generally not as expensive as these solicitations claim. The typical sewage line problem is a clog that requires nothing more than clearing with a plumbing snake. Cost to have a professional do this: maybe $600. Replacing the pressure control valve on a water supply line will run you around $500.
Homes built before the 1960s likely have galvanized iron pipes, not steel, for sewage. Over decades, these pipes corrode, crack and crumble. Resolving problems with them requires digging out the old pipes and replacing them, which can cost several thousand dollars. If you own or are interested in buying an older home with a galvanized iron sewage pipe, it’s a good idea to have a plumber inspect the lines from end to end with a camera.
The ugly little secret
Having the utility company logo on the warranty company’s letterhead means that the utility company endorses the need for the warranty, right? Not necessarily. Utility companies often allow their logos to be used because they get a cut of the premiums you pay if you sign up.
The bottom line on warranties
The bottom line is that unless you live in a home older than 60 years, the chances of having a repair bill in the thousands is small. Purchasing a utility warranty means you could pay premiums for many years to cover a relatively inexpensive repair you could afford to pay without the warranty.