Angie's List: Extended auto warranties. A value?

What's the value in getting an extended warranty for your vehicle?

Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews, surveyed members and service plans to determine when drivers need to shop around for the best deal - and when they should avoid buying one altogether.

An extended auto warranty is a prepaid service contract or vehicle service plan separate from the original manufacturer's warranty, which is included in the price of a new car.

These service plans pay for specified repairs over a defined number of years or miles after the factory warranty expires. Vehicle manufacturers, auto dealers, or independent third-party providers offer the plans.

An extended auto warranty isn't for everyone. If you change cars every three years, an extended warranty makes no sense, because the manufacturer's warranty is likely still in effect. But if you drive a car for several years, it may be something to consider.

If you do decide to buy, shop around for the best price: Don't be afraid to negotiate and make sure you understand what's covered in the contract. Ask about the cancellation policy: Most contracts can be canceled in 30 or 60 days for a full refund.

Before you sign anything, understand details/costs of the coverage, deductibles, etc. Ask if the repairs can be done by any auto repair company or if you are restricted to specific ones. And keep detailed maintenance records since many warranty plans may void coverage if you fail to do specific maintenance.

Be wary of phone and mail solicitations from third-party companies to renew your original factory warranty. Avoid high pressure tactics used by some telemarketers. Ask for details in writing. Don't provide personal financial information such as your bank account, driver's license number, credit card number or vehicle identification number to third-party companies before thoroughly vetting them. And always check with your state's attorney general office for any complaints.