I'm not great average terrible at using warranties on my products. There are many reasons why, and that needs to change. Warranties are a useful tool and they can save you a lot of money. I'm only going to talk about regular consumer products today, not cars or homes, because it would get way too long and boring to include them all in the same article. Plus, car and home warranties are only important to the few people who have serious issues with those particular topics. Regular consumer warranties affect all of us, all the time.
There are two parts to being a good warranty user: knowing your warranty rights, and having the required documentation. Both parts are important, and both parts are challenging.
Every item that you buy has some sort of warranty on it. There are two main categories of warranties: express and implied. There are also extended warranties, third-party extended warranties, and other special warranty programs.
Express WarrantiesExpress warranties (as in, "to express yourself," to communicate) is what most people think about when you say the word warranty. This is a written statement that comes with a product, spelling out the guarantees of the purchase, and the remedies available should the product fail to meet its guarantee. When you buy a Pampered Chef knife, it comes with a written warranty that it will continue to be a good knife for a certain number of years. Your receipt tells you what to do if your knife breaks or otherwise becomes unsuitable for cutting. However, express warranties do not have to be written. The problem with verbal express warranties is that there is a fine line between sales and warranties. "This is the only knife you'll ever need," is probably not a warranty but rather a sales tactic.
Implied WarrantiesAn implied warranty is the general understanding that a product is capable of performing the jobs that such a product should do. For example, you expect that a carton of blueberries would be edible, as that is the job of a blueberry. If you find that most of the carton is moldy, then you are using an implied warranty when you return them. Floors should be able to withstand being walked on, or they can't really be considered floors, right?* Express warranties are covered under state laws, but they are also covered under the Uniform Commercial Code, a set of federal acts that states can use to have some consistency in their laws.
Extended WarrantiesExtended warranties can be provided by the original seller of the product, or by a third party vendor. They can also be included in the price of the product, or they can be a separate product to be purchased. Extended warranties can cover any range of repair or replacement, for any period of time. The variety is amazing! If you have a product with an extended warranty, you definitely need to read the fine print on the warranty to find out what it will cover, when it is in effect, and how to get service under the warranty.
One valuable variation on extended warranties is the coverage provided by making a purchase with a credit card. Many credit cards offer extended warranties as a benefit of their card. A common example is extending the manufacturer's warranty by one year. This is a free benefit on cards that offer it.
Once you've learned what warranties you have, you have to jump the next major hurdle: having the required documentation. Most warranties require a receipt, and some warranties require additional paperwork or requirements. This is a big problem for me, as I try to clear out paper whenever possible. It is essential that you come up with some system for keeping and sorting receipts.
Do you have warranty successes or failures? Do you have any great tips for storing documents? I'd love to hear.
*This great example, and other thoughts, came from the Floors To Your Home blog. That author really knows his stuff!