The Lifetime Warranty Scam


One of the things, as a service tech, I get asked a lot about is “what is a lifetime warranty.” I’d say I get asked about this a few times a week — more now that this site is getting 1000+ unique visitors a day. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good answer to this question.

The Lifetime Warranty tends to be a bit of a shell game with most companies. They put “lifetime warranty” on a product and either assume a consumer won’t take the time to read the fine print or don’t even take the time themselves to write it. With some companies, such as Craftsman tools, lifetime means lifetime. If you have a problem with a Craftsman hammer in 15 years they will replace it with no questions asked.

Sadly, most other companies do not take to heart this old school attitude of honoring your word. They may define “lifetime warranty” as a time period as long as the equipment lasts — in other words, once the product “dies” it’s lifetime is over. This happens quite a bit with electronics and computer manufacturers. Another game of theirs is to set an arbitrary length of time for the life of a product — 3 years for computer RAM is pretty standard. Once you go beyond that length of time, you are out of the warranty coverage.

With fitness equipment, unless otherwise stated, a lifetime warranty generally means “7 years beyound the end of production cycle of the equipment.” For example, if you purchased a Horizon T54 (whose production ended in 2005), your lifetime frame warranty would only be valid through 2012.

When you look at that example you’ll see that a lifetime warranty isn’t quite as good as you initially thought and isn’t as goog as a 10 year warranty. The manufacturer is figuring most buyers will only use their equipment for a couple of years before discarding it…that thinking is kind of sad considering that a lot of this equipment should have a lifetime of 10 years or more. Here at the DOJO we do a lot of service on old Precor units from the 1980s which are still running fine. Same goes for Life Fitness and Star Trac.

There are a few vendors out on the net which use a “free upgraded lifetime warranty” as a selling point but really all they are selling you is a bill of goods — they’re selling you the perceived value of a lifetime warranty and not really anything worthwhile. In fact, if they’re offering you a lifetime warranty “upgrade” on a unit with a 20 year warranty then you’re actually being downgraded!

My warning to you, the consumer, is to be very careful when it comes to buying a piece of equipment based on a lifetime warranty. It may not be as good a deal as you’d expect. I’d ask for a 20 year warranty instead of the lifetime just to mess around with the vendor!

Whatever you do, make sure to read the fine print AND get clarification on the lifetime warranty if it isn’t provided for you. Don’t get caught by the Lifetime Warranty Scam.

-The Treadmill Sensei

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