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Is it worth paying for boiler cover?

Our annual boilers survey has revealed a surprising nugget: those who pay for boiler cover could be better off forgoing their contract and paying for repairs on an ad-hoc basis. Do you pay for boiler cover?

Almost half of gas and oil boilers will develop at least one fault that needs a repair within the first six years of its life. Of course, getting yourself a Which? Best Buy boiler is a good idea, and drops this to fewer than two in five.

Despite the likelihood that your boiler will eventually develop some faults, we’ve found most people who own a boiler would be £50+ a year better off without boiler cover.

We compared the cheapest servicing contract (£183 per year), which includes an annual service, against the experiences of 5,322 Which? members who don’t have cover. Instead, these members paid for repairs on an ad-hoc basis as well as a yearly boiler check-up. The great majority (93%) are still better off without boiler cover to the tune of £50 or more.

My boiler servicing story

I’ve owned my combi gas boiler for just over three years now, having inherited it when I got the keys to my two-bed flat. I’ve never paid for boiler cover, but I have incurred some costly repairs. Here’s my story (violins).

About two years ago I woke up on a bank holiday weekend with water leaking from somewhere within the casing of the boiler. Being a bank holiday it was difficult to get hold of a plumber, but eventually I found one who was willing to interrupt his weekend to come out and take a look. He diagnosed the problem as a couple of corroded washers and came back the following day to replace them. The cost of the parts that needed replacing – £15. Total cost of call-out and repair on a bank holiday – £261. Ouch.

As a result of that rude introduction to boiler maintenance, I now pay £85 for a service each year to keep my boiler in good working order.

So in the three years I have owned my boiler, I calculate that it has cost me £431 to maintain it. This is the first time I’ve added it up and that seems like a lot for three years – I keep my fingers crossed that I won’t need any more costly repairs going forward!

My experience tallies pretty well with the results of our survey – even though I had a pretty costly repair to shell out for in one year, one of the unlucky few; I would have had to pay at least £549 over the last three years for even the cheapest boiler cover contract, so I am now more than £100 up.

I’ll continue to pay for an annual service and then any repairs as they come up as, despite my bad experience, I don’t see much value in a servicing contract at the moment. I might get scalded again with costly repairs, but for now it feels like an acceptable risk.

Your boiler servicing stories

So, how about you? I would love to hear about how much your boiler has cost you. Are you, like me, in the 93% who are better off without insurance? Or one of the unlucky 7% who have incurred very costly repairs?

Further, are we giving boiler cover too much of a hard time? It would be great to hear from those of you who have had great value from one of these contracts.


You really can’t expect a boiler to be reliable if you don’t use it as the boiler design engineers intended. Modern condesning boilers can be highly reliable if used with embedded controls.

Complexity of controls is highly subjective, and many of the controls in question are highly intuitive to use. Thats why most of the said controls require minimal user intervention and when required are easy to change the settings.

Really the question is when will the UK adopt working practices (no inhibitor, modern controls, filters) to give what the public want (reliable heating systems)

ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer…

Last year I installed a very simple central heating programmer that a friend’s elderly parents had purchased. They had struggled with a more sophisticated one ever since they had moved into their bungalow and were struggling to see the small text. All they wanted was something that could easily be set to come on and go off at specified times with a manual override. Within a few days they reported back that they were delighted. I could give several similar anecdotes.

The fact is that many people struggle with complex systems even if you and I can cope. Address that and more people will be interested in using more controllable heating systems. ALL controls on all need to be highly intuitive to use. Designers need to adapt to the needs of users.

I rather suspect that if you opt for a more sophisticated system it cost significantly more and there might be the opportunity to charge more for servicing.

Heating for most people is not a very interesting subject, and in the first best world does nothing other than sit in the background doing what it should. The need for intervention is a failure of the engineering behind the system. Embedded controls provide a stable room temperature that rarely needs fiddling with.

I have many elder clients too and initially were very reserved about the technology, but in the end just loved the fact that the system needs no adjustment…

As for cost these controls are neither more expensive to buy or install than simple on-off controls, in terms of maintenance do not generate extra costs. After all all we are talking about is a few bits of electronics.

The ‘few bits of electronics’ can cost a fortune to replace. For example, I recently wanted a simple circuit board for a popular stairlift and it would have cost £400 + VAT. You will know how much circuit boards for boilers cost.

People often get charged for parts that are not faulty. For example, last Christmas I watched a boiler service engineer replace a Worcester-Bosch circuit board and another part on behalf of a friend. Fortunately the engineer was still there when the intermittent fault recurred. I have sympathy for any engineer who has to deal with an intermittent fault, but had I not asked for the original parts to be replaced, that could have been an expensive repair. My sympathy disappeared when I realised that he had claimed 45 minutes travelling time and his previous call was less than ten minutes away. My fault for signing the job sheet without reading it.

Unless boilers are different from other domestic products, adding additional electronics will substantially increase the product cost, even if the additional components are not expensive.

22 December 2014

You entirely miss the point! Installing as the design engineers intend with embedded controls enhances reliability not decreases it!

Most worcester boilers are dumbed down for use with on-of controls specifically for the UK, so you have already entered the high maintenance costs game by buying that boiler.

I disagree. You are ignoring too many factors. No-one else is going to be interested in our discussion, so I wish you Merry Christmas.

Alec Morrow says:
17 January 2015

I agree with all of the above except the implication that boilers cannot give the service life. Condensing boilers are designed to run at as low a temperature as possible without compromising comfort and should be operated by a modulating controller to achieve that. Such controls are not generally available in the UK, and are poorly supported by the manufacturers, so it is no wonder that issues arise.

Unfortunately the public are set up to think that boilers will always have issues and until they start saying enough is enough, it will stay that way!

Maddie says:
23 January 2015

Just wanted to make a comment about house insurance, more specifically boiler cover. I have always been sceptical about Insurance and paying out for warranty etc and have found generally that you end of paying quite a bit extra for what you invariably do not need. We have a Worcester oil fired boiler which I have always found very reliable boilers. We decided however, to take out an Emergency Home Cover policy( as we have had a lot of trouble with our drains) with Swinton Insurance. Back in October our boiler kept ‘locking out’ we called out our local engineers and in the space of 4 weeks they came out on at least 5 different occasions and changed numerous parts before finding the fault and fixing it. This would have been a very expensive episode for us. But I cannot fault Swinton, the whole episode was so quick, no problems or questions, very smooth. Not what you really expect from an Insurance company, good on them!

Whatever you do DO NOT USE 24/7 part of Home Serve, despite being informed 3 times that the boiler was broke prior to a service visit they are refusing to repair the fault. They would not pass me over to the repair section, nor to customer complaints, gave me a incorrect email address and came up with none existent faults, apparently it is common practice to find 3 reasons in order to default on the repair contract. !!! They offered to fix it for £345 and 2 days labour. As I am an OAP they would reduce this to £300 The fault concerns the pump cost £60 time to fix 30 minutes max
Anyone else experience this and is there anything that can be done?

[Sorry, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Duncan – Is the Homeserve company that operates in the UK wholly or partly American owned and connected with the one you have referred to? While the UK company does not have a particularly good reputation it does not seem to have given rise to the same degree of service failure complaints as you have described above, but I. Griffiths’s story tells about very bad customer service which might or might not be typical.

There is a Which? Conversation about Homeserve, mainly from the angle of the cost and poor value of the cover. I have not gone through it – there might be other reports about poor customer service or poor repair work. See –

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I asked about any American connections with Homeserve because your previous post was mainly about American problems which I did not consider relevant. You have also introduced an American dimension into your latest post which I don’t think helps if Homeserve is a wholly UK company.

I don’t think commenters here have defended Homeserve particularly so I don’t understand your criticism of contributors and the “regulars”.

I don’t understand your references to NGO’s either – it is a meaningless term that stands for Non Government Organisation so it describes anything that isn’t part of HMG.

I. Griffiths was describing bad work and customer service in relation to the boiler [i.e. right on topic] – which has nothing to do with the ICO or Ofcom – so I am getting rather confused by what you are trying to put across, Duncan.