Everyone has heard the expression "lifetime warranty". In fact, there are now many products and services that come with these so-called warranties. But, what exactly is this warranty and whose lifetime does it refer to?
What is a Lifetime Warranty?
The concept of a lifetime warranty means something different to everyone, which makes things awful confusing for consumers. Though the term is used frequently, it seems that nobody can actually agree on what this type of warranty implies. Whose lifetime does it cover? The purchaser's? The manufacturer's? The product's?
The answer is (big surprise) it depends. The duration of a lifetime warranty depends solely upon the person or company who is implying the warranty. It absolutely does not matter what the consumer thinks this warranty means. All that matters is what was implied at the time of sale by the manufacturer, retailer, distributor, or service professional.
This is why when you hear the term, you should know that it could mean any one of these three things:
Warranty Example #1
The warranty represents the lifetime of the product. If the manufacturer expects the product to last 5 years and it lasts 5 years, then it has made it the duration of its lifetime. If the product were to fail after 6 years, the manufacturer is not to blame and no claim can be made. The same thing goes if the product was expected to last 5 minutes off the shelf. While this may not necessarily be fair from a consumer standpoint, it is strategic marketing trick and, unfortunately, the most common type of warranty that is out there.
Warranty Example #2
The warranty represents the lifetime in which the purchaser owns a product. For example, if the purchaser buys a muffler and installs it on his car, but then sells the car, the warranty on the muffler is void as soon as the car changes hands. Though this is technically an incorrect use of the term "lifetime warranty", it is a very common occurrence nevertheless.
Warranty Example #3
The warranty lasts as long as the original purchaser or the product or service lives. Though most consumers automatically assume that this is what lifetime warranty means every time, it is actually the least common usage of the term.
Buying into a Lifetime Warranty
If you plan on purchasing products or services that come with a lifetime warranty, you will need to do your homework. Contact the manufacturer or service provider to determine what the warranty entails. Be sure to ask about guarantees, replacements, and warranty duration.
You should never assume that a warranty means your lifetime, because it very rarely does. The term, which once stood for something, has become nothing more than a casual marketing tool. And, while the Federal Trade Commission does offer suggestions as to how the guarantee of a lifetime warranty should be used, there are no laws or penalties for misuse of the term. Therefore, if you misunderstand the implications of a warranty, you may have no recourse that will allow you to recoup any losses you may have suffered.