You’ve just spent a good chunk of change on a fancy smartphone, and the salesperson paints you a picture of everything that could happen to your shiny new device. You could drop it on a concrete floor and shatter the screen. You could drop it in the toilet (don’t laugh—a colleague of mine just admitted this happened to her!) and render it useless. You could lose it. You could have it swiped from your purse. “You really need insurance,” the salesperson tells you.
But maybe you don’t.
Consider this: According to a November 2013 survey by Consumer Reports, only one in five respondents had to replace a lost, broken, or stolen phone. With such a small number of folks needing a new phone due to mishaps, cell phone replacement insurance seems like an unnecessary extra cost.
Cell phone insurance: A waste of money?
According to Consumer Reports, cell phone insurance can cost $7 to $11 a month. That may not seem like much, but you’ll also pay a deductible that costs anywhere from $50 to $150. And get this: Even after paying for insurance, your replacement phone might be a refurbished device rather than a new one.
One of my favorite financial gurus, radio talk show host Clark Howard, says cell phone insurance is a waste of money. Instead of an insurance plan, Howard suggests that you instead invest in a protective case. OtterBox is a well-known option, but there are many other good-quality protective cases out there. Look for a case that protects all sides of the phone and offers a bit of a lip so the screen is inset. Imagine your phone falling facedown on a hard floor or getting dinged on the edge of a doorway. Are all edges protected? A screen shield is also a good idea, as it can protect your screen from shattering if it gets a direct hit.
Repairs can be less expensive than an insurance plan
Remember, too, that phones can be repaired. Even shattered screens can be replaced for a fraction of the cost of insurance and a deductible. Ask friends for a reputable shop, or try one of the franchise kiosks that you may see in your local mall. I took my smartphone to one of those kiosks to have the screen repaired and had a great experience.
If you feel uncomfortable carrying around your expensive phone without some kind of peace-of-mind coverage, check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Your phone might be covered under “personal articles” coverage.
Consumer Reports offers one other option: When you buy a new phone, keep your old one. If you break or lose your new phone, you might be able to reactivate your previous phone or transfer your SIM card to it. Use it until you’re eligible for a new phone (if you’re on a contract) or until you can afford to buy a new phone outright.
Finally, keep in mind that phone prices are going down all the time. By the time your phone breaks or is lost, you might be able to buy a better one for less than the cost of replacement insurance and the deductible.