What Is a Lifetime Warranty?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Lifetime warranty is a confusing term that means only what the manufacturer defines it as. In other words, every lifetime warranty can be different and can be specifically defined by the manufacturer of the product, seller of the warranty, or producer of a service. In fact, many times the term can be such a headache, that other terminology like a time limit is offered with warranty. A four-year warranty, for instance, is much easier to define than a lifetime warranty, though it may still have some unexpected loopholes.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Both words in the phrase “lifetime warranty” need further definition since people’s conceptions of them may change how they interpret these warranties. First the very word lifetime is open to interpretation. Lifetime typically does not mean the person’s lifetime or the length of the time they own a product. Instead it usually means expected life of a product. In testing, manufacturers may determine how long something will last and then give it a true lifetime age. That would mean people getting a lifetime warranty should ask what the life of the product is, as defined by the manufacturer or business offering the warranty.

The word warranty is as subject to many misunderstandings. Warranty usually doesn’t guarantee replacement, but instead guarantees repair of the malfunctioning part. A guarantee, in contrast, may mean replacement. Warranties also specifically state that the product has to have been used as suggested by the manufacturer, and any damage resulting from misuse may void the warranty completely, which means no repair or replacement is offered. This is true even if an area of damage occurs somewhere that isn’t related to the malfunctioning part. This may be “evidence of misuse” and cause the warranty to become null.

While there is no reason to avoid products that carry a lifetime warranty, there is reason to inquire about the meaning of warranties. This is especially the case if a person is being asked to pay for one. Again, usually stores that sell extended warranties never imply that they last for a lifetime. More often, people attach this warranty to products sold on the Internet, on infomercials and elsewhere. The warranty is meant to give confidence in the product and result in a sale. According to most business standards, it is absolutely fine for the seller to allow the buyer to interpret this warranty in any way they want, with many falsely thinking they’ll get replacement on product as long as they live and own the product.

This means it’s always up to the consumer to figure out how to interpret their warranties. These by no means imply that a product is bad. However, if the warranty is the selling point, customers need to figure out just what they’re buying.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


And let's not forget that lifetime warranty could be worthless if the company goes out of business (and that's very likely, sadly). Plus, have a look at the specifics of most lifetime warranties. There is usually only a very narrow set of circumstances in which the warranty will apply.

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