A lifetime warranty is something you might see included with the purchase of a variety of products, including everything from new furniture to household appliances. This term refers to the manufacturer’s guarantee that they’ll repair or replace defective parts at no additional cost to you.

Although the word “lifetime” is included, it often refers to the suggested life of the product when used as intended, or it may refer to the length of time a specific product is in production. The warranty may extend a few years afterward, but no matter what type of coverage you get, it’s important to understand what all the different terms mean. 

What does a lifetime warranty guarantee?

What is a lifetime warranty guarantee? The guarantee applies to consumer products like fixtures, furnishings, and appliances and typically covers specific components or parts of a product. Sometimes, you may also get a complete home warranty, although this warranty type differs in how it works for the consumer. In most cases, defective parts that break due to no fault of your own are covered under a lifetime warranty. This may include things like a refrigerator compressor, a recliner mechanism, or a faucet handle. It’s important to read the fine print to find out exactly what’s covered under a specific lifetime warranty and what isn’t.

As with any type of warranty, there may be some items that aren’t covered, or some may not be covered if they break under certain circumstances. For example, parts that break due to normal wear and tear usually won’t be covered under a lifetime warranty policy. Cosmetic issues due to abuse, improper handling, or neglect may also not ,apply.

If you have an appliance that hasn’t been properly maintained, anything that breaks likely won’t be covered. In most cases, you’ll see terms like “defects in materials and workmanship.” This means the product or part of the product must have a known defect, or there were defects in the product found during production. If neither of these applies, there’s a chance the warranty won’t cover your issue. Labor to repair the item also may or may not be covered, depending on the reason you need to file a warranty claim.

Limitations of lifetime warranties

Though the word “lifetime” is included in the term, there are usually time limits and other limitations that apply to a lifetime warranty. While each of these limitations varies per manufacturer, consumers should know what they are before they attempt to file a warranty claim.

You can typically locate time limits and other limitations in the fine print of your warranty or on the company’s website. Most consumers assume that a lifetime warranty covers issues for the life of the product, but that’s usually not the case. Here are some things to look out for, including some of the most common fine print details you may find on various lifetime warranties:

  • Some warranties provide limited coverage based on the manufacturer’s suggested life of the product, not necessarily forever.
  • You may need to mail in a warranty registration card or register your product online before a warranty is activated.
  • In some instances, a lifetime warranty only covers a product as long as it’s being made, but it may extend a few years past that time. Once the product is no longer made, it’s usually not covered.
  • You might need to ship a defective part back to the manufacturer before it can be replaced.
  • Some companies cover the cost of labor, but in most cases, they usually only cover the cost of the new part. You’re often responsible for paying for the repairs out of pocket.
  • If you need to file a claim, you must go directly through the company that makes the product. Most lifetime warranties don’t cover parts or labor provided by a third party.
  • You may need to provide a receipt that includes the date of purchase when you file a warranty claim.
  • Some states may have different laws regarding consumer warranties, so check with your local attorney general’s office or consumer protection office if you need to find out more.

Realities of lifetime warranties

When you purchase something with a lifetime warranty, it gives you peace of mind. But in many cases, the reality of what a lifetime warranty offers is quite different from what the consumer typically expects. What does a lifetime warranty mean versus a limited lifetime warranty? 

  • Lifetime warranty: This warranty protects you against defects in materials and/or workmanship and usually has an extended time limit if you ever need to file a claim. Many lifetime warranties cover all parts and components of a product rather than just a few. In most cases, you must be the original purchaser in order to take advantage of a lifetime warranty. For example, if you happen to move and leave your fridge behind, the new homeowner won’t be covered unless they opt to get their own separate home warranty to cover the appliance. Most lifetime warranties are “non-transferrable,” which means they only apply to the original owner. Even if you have a lifetime warranty, the manufacturer can void the warranty once they stop manufacturing that specific product or the parts associated with it.
  • Limited lifetime warranty: This term means the warranty protects against damage or defects only for the parts, issues, and conditions explicitly specified in the fine print. With a limited lifetime warranty, the terms are up to the manufacturer, so it’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and what isn’t ahead of time in case anything goes wrong. In most cases, limited lifetime warranties are offered much more frequently than lifetime warranties. Labor is almost never included with a limited lifetime warranty.

If you ever need to make a claim under a lifetime warranty, you might face a few challenges. First, you may be required to provide the manufacturer with a valid receipt for the item you purchased, which must include the actual purchase date. If you’re filing a claim due to broken or damaged parts, many manufacturers require you to ship the defective product or part back to them. You may even be responsible for the cost of shipping the item.

Many warranties don’t cover the cost of labor, so it may be your responsibility to find an authorized service person near you who can make repairs. Plus, you’ll need to pay for the labor yourself out of pocket. Be prepared to take photos or videos of the defects and keep them handy in case the manufacturer needs them to approve your claim. Ultimately, it’s up to the manufacturer to determine if the issue is covered under your warranty.

Tips for understanding lifetime warranties

Many companies include a lifetime warranty to make their products more appealing to consumers. Before you purchase an item based on the warranty alone, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you thoroughly research the brand and read customer reviews before purchasing something with a lifetime warranty. Even if a warranty is offered, it doesn’t necessarily mean the product is good quality or that the company that makes it has good customer service.
  • Always read and understand the terms and conditions of the warranty before you make a purchase. If anything looks suspicious or you’re not happy with the fine print, consider purchasing a product from a different company that offers better terms.
  • Be prepared to mail defective or broken parts back to the manufacturer. In some cases, the manufacturer may even require you to return the entire product before they’ll provide you with a repair or replacement.
  • Keep all documentation of the product and any associated warranty information, including your product purchase receipt. This makes it easier for you if you need to file a claim in the future. It’s also a good idea to document any issues you have with the product so you can use it to state your case when you file the claim.

Once you understand how lifetime warranties work and what’s usually included, you’ll be able to make an informed decision before you purchase products for your home. The more you know about these types of warranties, the more prepared you’ll be to understand the claims process. Although most consumers think a lifetime warranty is for life, they often have limitations. Research the company and read the fine print to make sure you’ll have a decent level of protection if anything ever goes wrong. 

If you are a homeowner or are planning to buy a home, consider adding a home warranty to your to-do list. It’s a financial safety net that can shield you from unforeseen expenses related to your home’s systems and other components.