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First, no retail stores claim to offer a “lifetime warranty,” at least not using those exact words. That said, many stores offer something like a lifetime warranty, which usually comes in the form of unlimited returns for as long as you own the product. A true lifetime warranty is something only certain brands offer if their products are defective. Brands like JanSport, Eddie Bauer, and Craftsman are the most commonly talked about ones that’ll cover defects.
In this explainer, I’ll get more into these nuances about lifetime warranties, along with pointing you in the right direction for retailers with long return policies so you can get your money back.
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What exactly is a lifetime warranty?
Usually, a lifetime warranty covers defects and workmanship. Most commonly, you’ll see it called a “lifetime limited warranty,” and this means that only defects are covered by the policy. And the “lifetime” wording here means that it’s for the life of the product (for as long as you own it). But it gets tricky because normal wear and tear is not covered — just manufacturer defects.
So you can’t, you know, try and return something just because you’ve had it for years and used it every single day and the fabric is wearing thin. At some point, companies and stores will make the determination that the product is reasonably “at the end of its life cycle” and it’s time to buy a new one.
A good rule of thumb is if your item is simply worn out because it’s so loved, you can’t return it under the pretense of a warranty. But if the zipper breaks two months in, yeah, that’s a defect and I recommend you try to get it replaced or repaired under warranty.
How do I use my lifetime warranty?
As much as I hate to say this, you’ll need to do the digging yourself on either the brand’s website or the website for the store where you bought it. Every case will vary.
Some stores and brands will want you to send your product in for repairs. Others will make you initiate a process to determine whether your claim qualifies under warranty.
Usually, higher-end brands are the ones that offer a lifetime warranty.
These brands offer a warranty if your items are defective or in need of repair.
One thing to note is that a lot of them (like L.L.Bean) used to offer an unlimited lifetime warranty in the past, no questions asked. But now they only offer a limited lifetime warranty for items that are defective or have manufacturing problems. Otherwise, their return period is just one year.
You’ll also note that most of these brands are higher-end. Basically, you’ll pay more out of the gate, but you’ll have the option to get repairs or replacements for defective products.
- Duluth Trading Company
- Hydro Flask
- Le Creuset
- The North Face
And a few stores offer a lifetime warranty without calling it that.
A few retailers offer something just as good as a lifetime warranty, even though they don’t officially use that terminology. Check it out:
Costco’s lifetime warranty
If you buy something at Costco and you’re at any point unsatisfied with your purchase, you can return it even if it’s years later. Even if it’s overly used. But use discretion so as to not take advantage of this policy.
There are a couple of exceptions to the Costco return policy, but not many. You only have 90 days to return electronics. And items like alcohol and cigarettes will have return policies that reflect local regulations.
Sam’s Club’s lifetime warranty
Generally, the Sam’s Club return policy has no time limitations and you can make returns whenever, for whatever reason. However, there are a few categories with restrictions:
- 90 days for electronics
- 30 days for motorsports items and commercial heavy equipment
- 14 days for cell phones
And alcohol and cigarettes follow local laws, the same as Costco’s policy.
Nordstrom’s lifetime warranty
Nordstrom is one of those stores that will take any returns under most circumstances, just to keep your business. Even so, the Nordstrom return policy depends on goodwill in that they request that customers deal with them fairly and not take advantage of the policy just to get brand new items at Nordstrom’s expense.