How Warranties Really Work

An ABC News article highlighted the importance of reading the fine print on product warranties. Think a “lifetime warranty” refers to your lifetime? Think again. Some companies define “lifetime” as the amount of time they think their product should reasonably last. The better news is that you may be covered by an unwritten warranty guaranteed by the federal government. An “implied warranty of merchantability” means that a product must do what it’s supposed to do. If your salad shooter doesn’t shoot salad, you should be able to return it even if the manufacturer has a no return policy. Under a “warranty of fitness for a particular purpose,” if a sales person tells you that a camcorder is suitable for low-light recording, it should perform well in that situation. The only exception with such warranties is when a product is sold “as is.” The article also said to be cautious when considering an extended warranty, noting that such warranties are used by fewer than 20 percent of purchasers.

Consumer Reports has also examined extended warranties and recommends taking a pass in most cases. One exception is when buying Apple products, which typically only come with 90 days of tech support. You should also check with your credit card company. Many automatically provide extended warranties at no cost.

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