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Comparing Warranties:
Is a Longer Warranty Really Worth Anything?

Imagine you are trying to decide between two products. Both products have made it to your final decision round and you want to select the best one. What if one product has a longer warranty than the other? How much weight should you give that longer warranty? In our opinion, probably not very much.

Warranties are really more of a marketing tool than anything else for product manufacturers. Even though one company may offer a longer warranty, you should take some factors into consideration. For instance, what are the real terms of their warranty? How many hoops will they make you jump through to take advantage of the warranty, and in the case of some longer warranties, will the company even still exist?

If a company offers a ten year warranty on their product, what happens if your product breaks down in nine years? Will they give you a full replacement at no charge? Will they pro-rate the amount of use and give you 10% off a replacement, one you have to buy from them at their full retail price?

If the product is electrical, there is a good chance that certain electrical conditions are completely excluded from the warranty. If you buy a fan and the motor wears out before the warranty expires, is that covered? In some cases no, they'll replace the fan blade or the housing or the grill, but the switch and the motor may be excluded from the warranty.

What about the ease of getting a warranty replacement. Do you need a receipt? Do you have to have the original box? Do you have to ship it to the manufacturer at your own expense before they will ship a replacement back to you? Also how long will the replacement take. In some cases, like with water heaters, repairs or replacement can't wait, you need it working right away.

In some cases, the product isn't as expensive as the labor to install it is. If your water heater leaks before the warranty expires, the manufacturer may replace the water heater, but what about the plumbing cost? An installation can exceed the cost of a water heater, will the manufacturer cover that expense? The answer varies by product class and company. Some companies will send someone out to service the product and they'll bring the parts or replacement product with them. But that isn't how it works in all cases.

We don't mean to cast a negative light on all warranties. Some companies take great pride in their products and highly value their customer's satisfaction. Some companies will do whatever it takes to make it right. But there are just as many companies out there who promise a warranty but then make using it difficult or impractical to exercise the warranty. Along with the number of companies that offer more or less worthless warranties, is the practical consideration of whether you can wait for the warranty process to play itself out, or would you need to quickly purchase a replacement.

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