When a "Lifetime" Warranty isn't a "Lifetime" Warranty
When you buy a product with a "lifetime" warranty, you expect it to last a "lifetime." But the question is, whose lifetime? It turns out, that lifetime warranty could die an untimely death.
Stuart Karow's got a house full of broken windows; from the front room, to the office, to the bedrooms.
"That's why we're talking about replacing windows. They're failing," he said.
They were part of an expensive remodeling project from 1996, that included new siding.
"And we spent quite a chunk of change for a young couple on our first home, thinking it was a wonderful investment," he said.
All of it came with a lifetime warranty.
"I mean as a new owner I'm thinking, 'oh we've got a great warranty. We've got great windows. We're set for a lifetime,'" he said.
Now, all these years later, he needed to use the warranty, which meant first finding the paperwork..
"I looked one last time and that's the damned lifetime warranty staring me in the face," said Karow. "Lifetime warranty and I get a free window."
There it was in writing. There was a lifetime warranty on the glass, any defects, and it was even transferable.
The Federal Trade Commission says if a company promises a lifetime warranty, it has to tell you what that means.
- Is it the owner's lifetime?
- Is it the time he/she owns the product?
- Is it the lifetime of the product itself?
- Is it the lifetime of the manufacturer?
For Karow, it turned out to be the latter. Neither Columbus Energy Concepts, nor Orion Window Systems is still in business, which makes Karow's lifetime window warranty dead on arrival. So, he will have to pay for all the window fixes.
"Start saving money," said Karow. "And golly gee, I hope they're not another $20,000," he chuckled.
Before buying something with a lifetime warranty, make sure to read the fine print. Don't rely on what someone tells you it means.