Lifetime Warranty MYTHS
The intent of LifetimeWarrantyMyths.com is to provide general background information for you and "food for thought" to consider when purchasing a product with a lifetime warranty.
This site is not intended to dispense legal advise. The content assembled here merely organizes and summarizes information readily available throughout the internet and through the judicial system. All of this information is of public record. In some cases we added commentary that is our opinion.
A recently trendy "Lifetime Warranty" is one being offered by some automotive dealers. A quick way to read between the lines on these so called no-extra cost offerings is to determine which company is behind the warranty. In most cases, these "lifetime warranties" are NOT backed by the original manufacturer nor the selling dealer. More typically, these warranties are from third party companies with names no one has ever heard of before.
What's the definition of a Lifetime Warranty?
Think about it - the term is frequently used by companies and individuals, but there is no standard definition for the term. Therefore, the concept means something different to everyone. The net result - consumer confusion. That works for the marketers exploiting the term, but against you, the consumer.
A good place to start the definition is whose lifetime does the warranty cover? The purchaser's? The manufacturer's? The product's?
The answer is (here is the big surprise!).....it depends.
The duration and applicability of a lifetime warranty depends solely upon the person or company who is implying the warranty. A consumer's expectations of that warranty is completely irrelevant.
The Federal Trade Commission Weighs In.
Although the Federal Trade Commission does offer suggestions as to how the guarantee should be used, there are no laws or penalties for it's misuse. The Federal Trade Commission has indicated that you should never assume that a warranty means YOUR lifetime, because, it RARELY does. Sadly, the term which once stood for something, has become nothing more than a casual marketing tool.
Lifetime Automotive Warranties
Circling back to automotive "lifetime warranties," as an example, it is our opinion that the strength of the underlying companies has yet to be tested. in most cases these are relatively new products from relatively new companies. Their products dovetail the manufacturer's warranty coverage, so, in effect, they don't begin to offer coverage until the original warranty concludes. In many cases that means the "lifetime warranty" isn't on the hook until at least 5 years or 60,000 miles has accumulated on the owner's vehicle.
What's it all mean? Well, it's nice to offer the promise of a Lifetime Warranty, but with the offer coming from an untested company that is years away from entering it's "claims zone," the question is what happens if they fail? Without a lifetime warranty company, do you have a Lifetime Warranty? It's not a factory program, so the factory won't honor the Lifetime Warranty.
Take a close read of those Lifetime Warranties. Who are they from? Many times, the warranty is actually from the dealership. Therefore, if a dealership entity merely changes ownership structure, does that warranty cease?
Some dealerships use a company to administer the warranty - that is, handle the claims. Some of these administrators, or claims handlers, are backed by insurance companies. But, is the warranty itself backed by an insurance company. If so, what documentation do you have?Sometimes, the selling dealer has no liability, so they won't need to honor the Lifetime Warranty. So even with a nice piece of paper that says "Lifetime Warranty" there's a real possibility that the consumer will end up paying for repairs out of pocket.