We’d just like to make a quick comment regarding the “rumor” that goes around every so often regarding changes in the Craftsman warranty. We pretty regularly receive emails from readers relating Craftsman warranty experiences and asking about changes in the warranty, and we’ve recently seen some mention of it again on the web. It’s sort of funny to us that most bloggers seem to a) hear the rumor and worry, then b) call up Sears PR and ask if the warranty is going away.
As they’ll tell you — it’s not. It’s very unlikely that Sears will ever change or remove the Craftsman lifetime warranty.
However, “Is the warranty going away?” isn’t really the question we (as toolaholics) should be asking. Here’s what the warranty actually says, by the way:
Craftsman hand tools are guaranteed forever. If any Craftsman hand tool ever fails to give complete satisfaction, return it to Sears for free repair or replacement. This warranty gives you specific rights and you may also have other rights which vary from state to state. Other Craftsman tools are covered by limited warranties.
What we should (as toolaholics) be asking is, “What leeway does this provide stores — or Sears itself — in terms of interpreting the warranty’s wording, and how is the application of the warranty changing over time?”
First and foremost you’ll notice that the warranty says “repair or replacement” not “give you a new tool off the shelf.” Granted, many stores will indeed just grab a new tool off the shelf for you when you come in with your very worn, broken Craftsman hand tool. However, they’re certainly not required to. Some stores keep a cabinet full of “repaired” tools which they’ll trade out to you whenever possible.
Note: We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but since the individual salesperson will likely have the opportunity to either give you a “repaired” tool or a new one, you’ll definitely increase your chance of receiving a new tool by being nice. Seriously, try it.
But what if you really read the above warranty statement like a lawyer billing hourly? What’s a “hand tool?” Is a hammer a hand tool, or are we just talking about mechanics’ tools? While we haven’t done the specific research to be able to tell you exactly which tools have been included and excluded over the years, we do know from first hand experience that Sears has indeed varied the definition of “hand tool” from time to time. And one can’t help but notice the proliferation of “Companion” and other-branded tools on Sears’ tool shelves. We’ve even heard that Sears uses tool color (to some extent) to help identify which Craftsman tools are lifetime-warrantied and which ones aren’t.
Also, note that the warranty doesn’t say anything at all about how long they’ll take to provide you your repaired or replaced tool. Our experience has always been that they do so on the spot, but there’s certainly no written requirement that they do so.
So, in summary: The Craftsman lifetime warranty isn’t changing. The application of it, however, varies, as does the locus of tools covered under it. If you’ve got a box full of Craftsman tools, you’ll want to pay attention to this. And, if you’re considering the purchase of a Craftsman tool, it never hurts to check around a bit to make sure that the tool you’re purchasing is indeed covered under the lifetime warranty. (Or, if not, find out the specifics of the particular limited warranty under which the tool is covered.)
With that kind of information in hand, you can actually shop smart, comparing apples to apples — or warranties to warranties. It’s important to note that there are now a number of different consumer “hand tool” lines available which offer lifetime warranties, each of which apply the warranty in slightly different ways — i.e. which tools they cover, how you go about getting your “replacement or repair,” and so on.
Remember, it’s like ‘ol Joe says, “Knowing is half the battle.”
From Reader Comments: According to one reader who worked at Sears, ratchets are the only tools Sears commonly offers as a repair instead of an exchange. That’d also make sense to us as all of the emails we’ve received regarding replacement with used tools were about ratchets. Check out the comment for more info.