One of the most disappointing things that can happen is working with your brand-new camera only to have it fall from your hands or accidentally have something spilled on it. The only thing that can make that situation worse is having to pay to replace or repair your camera. Therefore, so many manufacturers and retailers offer protection plans. But sometimes it’s hard to justify the extra expense.
Should I get a protection plan for my camera? Yes, it is usually wise to purchase a protection plan for your camera. Even if you don't use it often, the extra security to your purchase is usually justified with pricey cameras. Although, the benefits you reap from any given protection plan depend on the frequency with which you use your camera, the way you use it, and what is covered by the protection.
There are several different types of protection plans, each of them unique to the manufacturer, vendor, and retailer. They are offered at various prices and timeframes and cover different or all parts of the camera. Before you decide to purchase a protection plan, you need to be aware of the fine details, whether there are multiple options for plan duration, and whether you can cancel the plan.
What to Consider Before Purchasing a Protection Plan
It can be difficult to decide whether you need to spend an extra chunk of change on your camera, especially when you’re likely already forking out thousands of dollars for the lens alone. Even when it is clear that it would be a smart addition to your purchase, the simple appearance of a dollar sign tends to scare some folks away.
On the other hand, it is comforting to know that your new camera is protected for one or two years in case anything were to happen. It can be a huge weight lifted off the shoulders to know that it won’t be exclusively your responsibility to repair or replace it. It’s a challenge to juggle between these thoughts, so there are some key elements to consider when deciding to purchase a protection plan:
- Do you have a limited budget? If yes, adding a protection plan may be the right choice for you. Yes, at first glimpse, this may sound a bit counterintuitive, but you must think about the future. If you will be unable to come up with another several hundred or thousand dollars to replace your camera in case it was lost or severely damaged, spending an extra $15 – $30 at the time of purchase will leave you better off financially.
- What is your reason for purchasing the camera? Are you purchasing the camera for work-related purposes? In that case, a protection plan may be best. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you cannot fulfill your work duties while you try to save up enough cash to get your equipment replaced or repaired.
Perhaps the most important component of this decision process is that it must be completed before you arrive at the checkout. That seems quite impossible with the way the sales associates sneak that question up on you but is essential that you think it through before committing to purchasing your camera. This way you can avoid any rash decisions that may affect the long-term security of your gear.
From my previous purchases, protection plan questions were met with an automatic “no.” It was only recently as more expensive purchases have been made and protection plans improved where I decided to pull the trigger on some of the more generous offers. I'm happy to pay for convenience, even more so when revenue is on the line. I'm sure you can relate.
Is a Protection Plan Worth it?
Because of the added layer of security that comes with purchasing a protection plan with your new camera, the bottom line is: Yes, buying a protection plan is worth it. If you want more detail on why, though, you need to consider more deeply the specific context in which you are buying this camera.
Some of the most common benefits that protection plans offer are:
- Mechanical failures: If you are facing issues with your camera’s performance in terms of core functionality, your coverage will determine whether that item is reparable. If not, you can have it replaced free of charge.
- Aesthetic damages: If you are unfortunate enough to end up with cracks on your camera lens or body, this is another component that you can have replaced or repaired under your protection plan.
Still, people who find that they do not use their camera as often as someone who uses it for dedicated hobby or professional reasons may not reap the same benefits as others. The most common benefit consumers will experience from purchasing a protection plan is peace of mind. This is also the most used selling point.
If you are someone who worries about your equipment breaking or being lost due to travel, this may be one of the most applicable advantages. Another point of appeal for protection plans is that you are not committed for quite as long as you would be with an extended warranty. You are only locked in for a few weeks, or months – which typically correlates with lower pricing as well. This said the financial investment is not too intimidating.
Should You Buy an Extended Warranty on a Camera?
Truthfully, for the average person, it is not necessary to purchase a extended warranty for their camera. An average estimate of 1 out of every 10 cameras is sent back for repairs under the protection of a warranty, which is not a thoroughly convincing ratio of users.
Why so few? Well, for starters, you need to look at the reasoning behind the purchase.
For those who are purchasing a camera for work-related tasks such as wildlife photographers, there is an immense amount of risk that comes along with the job and the use of their camera gear. Anyone using a camera for such purposes would very much benefit from the purchase of an extended warranty. A wedding photographer, on the other hand, will not face the same risks, and may not need it.
Most people believe that the extended warranty is not as much of a genuine service offered as much as it is an additional selling point. To be clear, the warranty is not simply another reason to spend money or an attempt for manufacturers to get deeper into your wallet. Still, certain people would not benefit from the purchase:
- Anyone who frequently shops between brands to keep up with the newest models.
- People who use their camera for personal purposes (birthday parties, family gatherings, etc.).
- Those who do not have a history of using their warranties and replacing their equipment instead.
- Warranties offered by certain manufacturers are tough to waver through, take months to fulfill, or may require upfront replacement or shipping charges.
You may fall into these categories and are still leaning toward purchasing a protection plan, there is still justification for doing so. If you have a demanding working environment where your gear is at risk of damage, you will benefit from the warranty. Apart from that, individuals who are prone to accidents (losing or dropping the camera, for instance) would do well to protect their camera with an extended warranty.
Elements of a Protection Plan
The core purpose of a protection plan or extended warranty – note that the two are not always interchangeable – is to cover your camera for a set length of time after your purchase to ensure you receive repairs or replacements as needed. This is not only for your benefit but for the company to help you to have the most positive experience for their product and keep you as a customer.
Now that you’ve begun to seriously consider purchasing a protection plan, you need to know what to expect from it. Know the
- Terms of the plan: e.g., For how long does it cover your camera?
- What it covers: e.g., For replacements, will it replace the entire body, or if you bought a bundle, will it replace the lens as well?
- Conditions: e.g., Are there certain circumstances in which your camera would not be considered for replacement or repair?
All of this information will most likely be freely available online, meaning you will be able to access if before making your purchase. Again, these are all pieces of information that you should already be familiar with before reaching the register or online cart. Knowing them will not only help you to decide whether you need a protection plan at all, but which is most suited for you.
There may be options available for the protection plan offered for your camera. If you find that the offered protection plan does not include certain elements that you need to be covered, or you require a different timeframe, bring the information along with you when you shop and, when you’re ready to buy your camera, ask a sales associate for more options. Below are a few well-known examples of reliable protection plans:
Examples of Reliable Protection Plans
You may already be sure of what camera you want to buy, but unsure of what vendor you want to purchase from. Nowadays, you are not obligated to purchase a camera directly from the manufacturer. There is an abundance of third-party vendors that offer their prices (many of them at discounted rates) and protection plans along with them.
Some of the best examples of third-party vendors offering unique protection plans are Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy. These retailers have consistently provided the best customer experience across many industries and receive some of the highest rankings for customer service and retention. That said, their protection plans are great examples of what to look for in a protection plan.
How an Amazon Protection Plan Works
There is not one specific plan that covers all cameras sold on Amazon. (That simply wouldn’t be feasible!) Instead, different plans are either unique to the camera itself or a specific category of cameras. The plans are offered at different rates varying policies and timeframes.
For example, consider the Assurant 2-Year Camera Protection Plan. This plan covers cameras priced between $50 – $74.99, and operates under the following terms:
- Mechanical and electric breakdowns: If you are noticing gradually signs of malfunction or sudden failure in either your camera’s mechanical or electrical components, you are eligible to have your camera repaired or replaced. However, this portion only comes into effect after the manufacturer warranty is expired.
- Accidental damage: This is the gold star of many protection plans and is the most common reason for people aiming to purchase any sort of additional coverage to their camera. This feature kicks immediately upon purchase and continues after the manufacturer’s warranty expires.
- Recurring problems: If there is a defect that persists in your camera, no matter what it is, you can get it repaired up to three times. If the problem continues after these three repairs within the same 12-month period, your camera will either be replaced, or you will be refunded. This is known as “lemon coverage.”
With the Assurant protection plan, you will not have to pay for any of the aforementioned services. All of them are, in addition to the parts and labor, free of charge to you upon purchase of your Assurant subscription. Lastly, you do have the option to cancel your Assurant plan for a full refund within 30 days – although the specifics of your cancellation and refund policy are influenced by your state.
How the Walmart Protection Plan Works
Walmart offers a 2-Year Accident Protection Plan for Cameras priced between $30 – $39.99. The unique feature of this plan is that, although the supplier is Walmart, it is supported by Allstate and managed by SquareTrade. For some, this is not a problem and does not influence their decision to purchase protection in any way.
Still, it is important to consider how communication and services may be affected by having to communicate with three different entities for assistance with a single product. This plan covers:
- Accidents: If you were to drop your camera, spill anything on it, or somehow crack any part of it, you will still be eligible for repairs.
- Screen or lens failure: Note that if you are buying the body of the camera separately from the lens, flash or other components, you may need to purchase a protection plan for each one of the items. (Unless, of course, you get a bundle wherein all the components are protected.) For cameras that do not accept different lenses, both the lens and screen are covered together under this plan.
- Battery failure: It is common for rechargeable batteries to lose their full capacity over time. If this happens to you, you are entitled to a replacement under the plan.
This plan is also a great example of why you should always read between the lines of any warranty agreement you’re offered. For instance, this policy states that you would be expected to pay a deductible for each claim you file under the plan. Since many plans are offered without additional fees, this is not something you’d typically expect – that said, remember to read the fine print!
How the Geek Squad Protection Plan Works
Best Buy is known for its amazing customer service which doubtlessly extends into the services they offer, including protection plans. Because they are a tech-centric company, it’s safe to say that you can expect more detailed protections. Best Buy Geek Squad protection can last for up to four years, twice the length of some of the most popular plans on the market.
Their focus on tech influences the details of their protection, their Camera and Camcorder Protection Plan offers a long list of benefits you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Here are a few:
- Accidental damage: A staple of many protection plans, you’ll still be able to get repairs for your camera in case of any drops or spills.
- Battery failure: If you begin to experience problems with the original battery, or it fails altogether, Geek Squad will replace it once (specific to non-disposable batteries). This is somewhat conditional as they will replace the battery only as long as it is unable to hold a charge.
- Wear and tear: This is a unique addition to the protection plan since the average protection provider does not cover damages outside of manufacturer faults or accidents. With this agreement, if issues were to arise from dust accumulation, excess heat, or defects that appear later down the road, you can still have your camera repaired within those four years.
There are several more benefits to the Geek Squad protection plan such as annual maintenance and updates, transferability, and highly specific services such as pixel and power surge repairs. Now that you know how variable protection plans can be, consider the aspects of a plan that are most important to you, and search for a vendor that best matches those needs.
Should I Get a Warranty on My DSLR Camera Body?
Again, there are a few different factors that you need to consider. Hobbyists, for example, need to consider what part of their cameras are kept the longest and more frequently used. For instance, many people switch between DSLR bodies and interchangeable lenses according to the environment that you’ll be photographing in, rather than sticking with one combination.
If you switch between camera bodies often, your decision could go either way. Since you don’t use one body all the time, the one less used is not as vulnerable to damage.
On the other hand, depending on the type of infrequent use (it is your hiking camera, for example), no matter how rarely you take your camera out, if the activity is high-risk you will certainly need the extra coverage.
Should I Get a Protection Plan for My Camera Lens?
Truthfully the answer, in this case, will always be yes. Camera lenses are often the most expensive part of the camera and are the most heavily used components. Even for photographers who are careful to add physical protection to the camera such as a padded cover, the lens remains the most neglected part of the camera.
With everything that the lens is exposed to and all the work it does, it would be wise to purchase protection. Like the camera body, you may find yourself alternating between different types of lenses. There is also a chance of switching between different models and manufacturers. As a result, you will be buying more than one plan.
If you will need protection for more than one lens and don’t have too wide a variety of lens types you need, your best bet may be to purchase a bundle including more than one lens and protects them all under one policy.
What Is the Difference Between a Protection Plan and an Extended Warranty?
There is quite a lot of confusion surrounding these terms, as they can be used interchangeably in some instances – even when they shouldn’t be. A protection plan can be referred to as a “warranty,” and an extended warranty can be called an “extended service plan…” this list goes on concerning confusing terminology that doesn’t necessarily make customers want to purchase the coverage.
At the most basic level, any sort of protection over your camera that is provided by the manufacturer can be loosely referred to as a “warranty.” A warranty is an agreement from the manufacturer to the consumer to replace or repair malfunctioning or damaged parts of the item, or the entire item itself, within a specified timeframe, beginning from the day of purchase. These coverage plans can also be offered by the dealer.
No matter what it is called, these plans are all contracted agreements between the consumer, dealer, and/or manufacturer. Once it is purchased, the manufacturer cannot (and will not, as they have no reason to) back out of it. However, much like insurance claims, you may find issue with how they classify the deficiency. I've never had an issue with this, but there are horror stories online.
There are other plans, though, that differ just a bit more on their purpose and function. For example, another type of protection plan known as the “service contract” is meant specifically for service after the original warranty expires. You can typically expect this type of plan to be offered by the dealer, as the original warranty would be provided by the manufacturer for a limited time.
What to Expect from a Service Contract
Those who benefit from an extended warranty will likely appreciate service contracts as well. Again, those whose cameras double as work equipment are in the greatest position to reap the most rewards for having longstanding coverage for their gear. For service contracts specifically, there are unique benefits that may suit your needs should you decide to purchase extended coverage.
When you agree to a service plan, you gain access to coverage for things that may not have been addressed in the original warranty. For example, in many manufacturer warranties, issues that are considered eligible for coverage are those that occurred during the manufacturing and design stages exclusively.
Under this protection, if there is an event that results in damage to your camera after the point of purchase, such as a strong impact after dropping it, there is a strong chance you will not be entitled to repairs. Of course, for some, this is quite alright – especially if they will not be using their camera too often. For others, this can be a great risk to their career or hobby.
With a service contract, you can rest a little easier: Supplemental coverage will offer you the added advantage of being guaranteed repair from certain accidents such as a spill or dropping your camera. Further, specific components of the camera may be covered that were not before. So, if ever there is a partial malfunction, you can have it repaired with no worries.
Can You Get a Refund on a Warranty?
After all the consideration you’ve done, you might start to wonder if you have an out if you’ve made the wrong decision on purchasing an extended warranty. Your circumstances may have changed, or you may have changed the manner with which you use your camera. No matter the reason, it can be reassuring to know that there is a way to back out of the agreement on your end.
Whether you can receive a refund on a warranty is highly dependent on the type of agreement you entered and for how long it extends. Some warranties are certainly available for refund, while others are a one-time purchase that is non-refundable. For instance, a warranty that is meant to last for only a few days is not likely to be refundable, while one that covers your camera for years likely will be.
At this point, it is important to note that not all warranties are optional. Some are offered with the product on the condition that, should you disagree with the terms of the warranty, you will not be legally allowed to use the product. Instead, you would be expected to return it within a specified timeframe per the manufacturer’s return policy.
Despite how foreboding this may sound, it is still to your benefit. In such an instance, you are guaranteed protection for your camera and rid of the burden of deciding whether you need the added assurance or not. Overall, to know the terms under which you can or cannot request a refund for the warranty, you would need to check the policy that was agreed upon.