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I know what you’re thinking: lifetime tool warranties are always hot!  But are they?

We’ve written quite a bit about them, ranging from an analysis of the specific wording in Craftsman’s famous warranty to RIDGID’s extension of their lifetime service agreement to cover cordless tool batteries — but we’ve always heard two complaints from readers via email and comments: 1) Not all warranties are easy to actually use, and 2) many warranties don’t cover critical parts or specific tools.

So with all this in mind, we ask you: are “lifetime tool warranties” hot enough to sway your buying decision?  Let us know in comments.


16 Responses to Hot or Not? Lifetime Tool Warranties

  1. Toolaremia says:

    If the warranty is generous enough to cover actual use without too many hoops to jump through, it is hotter than holy heck.

    The Craftsman hand tool warranty is a fine example of the ideal lifetime warranty. They replace a specific group of tools with -ZERO- hassle. So long as you pay attention up-front as to whether a tool is covered, you will never ever have to worry about it again. What’s better is they are either cheaper or the same price as other “lifetime guaranteed” tools, some of which have a real hassle to replace. It’s really a win-win for me and Sears: I buy their tools because they are more than good enough for me, they are priced right, and I can replace them at-will, and Sears gets a guaranteed customer.

    If, on the other hand, it’s a tool I will only use once, I don’t need to be high-quality, and will have no resale value when I’m done, I’m off to Harbor Fright.

  2. Harry says:

    A lifetime warranty on a poorly made tool gives you a lifetime of poorly made tools. The key to a good warranty is ease of service. You want to be able to swap the failed tool out quickly and get back to work. Mail service is too slow unless you have spare tools. I buy from all of the tool trucks and have gotten great service from most of them over the years. I had a Snap on dealer once that if I really needed something, he would find a way to get it to me even if it wasn’t on his scheduled day to stop by. Unfortunately, the quality of warranty service from some tool trucks is based on how much you spend or owe. The mobile dealers have to make a buck too. There’s also a difference from a failed tool and a worn out tool. If it’s worn out, most warranties don’t apply except for Craftsman hand tools. There are always horror stories of motivated Sears employees trying to save the store by refusing to warranty tools used for “professional use” because I still had my work uniform on when I was swapping out some items but, overall the Craftsman warranty on basic hand tools is sweet. I buy tools for for their durability, performance, fit, feel, and balance. The warranty is secondary because, I don’t want the tool to break in the first place. A lifetime warranty on a tool that breaks easily will cost you more in gas and time returning it to the point of purchase than, if you bought a better made tool to start with.

  3. Adam says:

    We have mostly snap-on tools at the shop, and i have mostly craftsman tools personally. With both, i would say that having the warranty is 100% worth it- but having said that, i have to say that i’d rather have a tool that would NOT BREAK in the first place, then have a cheap tool that gets replaced over-and-over again.

    Coincidentally, most of the better tool makers have lifetime warranties- i wonder why! After talking with most of my shopmates about tools over time, i’ve gathered that the biggest difference between snap-on and craftsman in terms of hand tools, is that the snap-on man comes to YOU instead of vice-versa. other then that they seem to have the same quality. I have some cheap cruddy tools i loan out to people, but i never use them unless i have to, as the tolerances and reliability of these tools make them ill-suited for my kind of work when i have better options at hand…

    Oh, one other thing about my craftsman hand tools- i’m not personally sure how hard the warranty is to get honored, because i’ve never had to replace any tools! At least not yet. I have one ratchet that’s starting to go, but with daily use it’s been ‘starting to go’ for over a year now and it hasn’t gotten any worse. and for 1/2 the price of snap-on for most hand tools, i’ll make the trip to sears. i buy a lot of the little fiddly specialized tools from our snap-on man, but all of my wrenches, sockets, and extensions say Craftsman on the side 🙂

  4. DaveD says:

    I had a Crasftsman socket (actually my Dad’s) that cracked when I was doing some work on my truck (I think changing the clutch). I took it down to the Sears store and they swapped it out, no questions asked. Recently I was changing rotors and pads on my car and was using an impact driver from Sears to loosen the rear rotor screws. The bit broke and when I went to exchange it they weren’t going to! I spoke with the manager and stated I was using it as intended and the only reason I ponied up for the $20 Craftsman instead of the $10 no name was because of the warranty. In the end he relented and exchanged it for me. I’ll still buy Craftsman for the warranty, but I’ll make sure what I’m buying is actually covered so I won’t have any hassles when the time comes.

  5. Patrick Waters says:

    As for how easy it is to replace a Craftsman tool, I can attest. Somehow my father broke a rachet and sent me to replace the thing at Sears. This is some ten years after he bought it, it’s covered in gunk and even has his initials carved into the side. I walk in, show it to the customer service counter, they point me in the tool section. I grab the same tool off the shelf, hand the guy the broken one and walk out. No forms, no mess.

  6. ba614 says:

    I’m more interested in a quality tool than the length of the warantee. When a quality tool is used correctly it is rare for it to break. I don’t want the hassle of taking a tool back to be replaced and I especially don’t want to have to box it up and ship it somewhere to be repaired or replaced.

    I have bought alot of Craftsman tools due to the quality of tool at a good price. The lifetime warantee is just a bonus that comes along with the tool that adds value to the purchase. I have wore out rachets and got free no hassle replacement. That’s value! Any rachet is going to wear out if it’s used enough. The only Craftsman tool I’ve ever broke was a hex bit that must have been hardened to much as it broke like a piece of glass. Free no hassle replacement.

    I have tools made by other companies with lifetime warantee’s but if one of those tools break I won’t mail it back I’ll go to Sears and buy a Craftsman tool because they don’t usually break. I want a tool I can depend on not a tool that has to be replaced on a regular basis.

    Like someone else already said poor quality tools with a lifetime warantee only means you’ll be stuck with poor quality tools for a lifetime.

  7. Fong says:

    As toolmongers, we’re into the tools themselves and how they’ll help us do what we do. The warranty is necessary but secondary. I wouldn’t buy any tool without one but as many have already stated, it shouldn’t have the tendency to break in the first place. I’ve only replaced tools that break and not due to wear and have never had any trouble with Sears or Home Depot.

    In fact, back when the Big Box first came to town, I had just purchased a Craftsman Torque Wrench. The click mechanism broke in the first weak and since Sears was 20 minutes away, I drove 2 minutes to the Home Depot and they gave me a Husky equivalent in exchange for free. It was a promotional thing but what a great way to convert people.

  8. Jon Soroko says:

    Speaking as an attorney – who has learned an awful lot about tool from this site – especially the comments – I’m struck by how sensible and evidence-based readers’ comments are in this post.

    – DaveD’s local Sears behaves in a way that would lead a reasonable person to believe that they’re not happy about the warranty. And would like to discourage requests to honor the warranty. One doesn’t want to be legally correct – but the cost of having your rights honored be unpleasant (or require a trip to Small Claims court).

    My advice – partly summarizing what other readers have said – is this:

    – The broader and more unambiguous the language is (you don’t feel like you need a lawyer), the better;
    – a broad, ironclad guarantee isn’t enforceable against a company that doesn’t exist.
    – a great warranty that isn’t honored by the retailer – and which requires shipping at your cost – is useful relative to shipping cost. (Zippo lighter, good; sledgehammer, bad).

    Where we live – the People at Home Depot are vile and rude and we avoid it; no Sears anywhere near us. But we’re lucky to have 3-4 very good local hardware stores.

    So far – my best assurance of smart tool purchases has been Toolmonger.

  9. Fletcher says:

    A no-hassle, walk-right-in-and-we’ll-replace-it-without-hassle warranty goes a long way to convincing me I’m buying a quality tool in the first place. Sears, Home Depot et al would go broke with that policy if they were selling low quality tools.
    For the record, I’ve taken advantage of Craftsman’s warranty and was pleased by the no hassle, no forms, no questions nature of the replacement. I’ve recently been picking up more Husky tools (I find I prefer them over Craftsman’s current offerings) but have yet to try them on warranty replacements.

  10. ck1dog says:

    One interesting thing is that they (Sears) are used to exchanging things, which is nice. I have a 25′ tape measure that has been replaced literally a dozen times. They just reach into a drawer, and hand me one out of it to swap. They’re refurbs (you can tell), but it’s so fast and painless that I don’t mind doing it again in six months to a year.

  11. Rob says:

    Sear around here is pretty good they ask you for your name address and number but they keep it on file so the next time you come in you don’t have to give to them they also keep all of your power tool purchases with that
    so you don’t have to worry about the recite for the miter saw you bough
    4 and half years into the 5 year warranty they just cover it
    they also have rebuild kits for some of the ratchets they are free you come in with your busted one and they will give you the rebuild and i they aren’t busy some of them will even put it in for you in general I have stuff from the truck and from sears and else where I prefer to deal with sears than my either of the 2 local trucks and for the little figity stuff I go to
    the local tool house (KMS tools) the guys at KMS are good they sell tools from the whole range of crap to pro and they know which tools from the crap stuff are good buys and which ones are throw aways but they are stickier on some of the warranty stuff most wrenches and sockets are not a problem I have return a few gear wrenches there I don’t even thing I bought them all there but the same brand and the brand(signet) supports the store and they pass it on same with a few other things

    we have a princess auto their tools are harbor freight ish
    but the people at the store will be happy to give you another one
    no hassles and there as somethings like a engine stands and such that
    you can’t beat the price you would have to try to break it anyways

    quite frankly the warranty is nice to have I like to have a good tool first and foremost but when it come to warranty they are only as good as the people honoring them doesn’t matter if the tools is from the truck the store or the side walk if you can’t get good support for that tool then the warranty isn’t worth it

    I have had stuff that wasn’t even cover under warranty break and taken it into Kms tools to ask about a rebuild or what ever have you and been given a new tool this is their in house tool line of course

  12. Trey says:

    I’ve used mostly Craftsman, and am now switching over to Husky tools, mostly because they’re a little cheaper, and my local Sears is a half hour trip, while Home Depot is less than 2 minutes from my house. Both companies make good tools, but i’ve managed to break a few things over the years…

    Sears customer service is top notch! A few years ago, I took in an electric drill my father had given me – motor went out – and was told that didn’t carry that model, but they could “upgrade” me. I rolled my eyes, and the sales guy walked me over to the section where the drills are and suggested a pretty nice looking drill with significantly more options than the one I had. I told him I wasn’t really looking to buy a new one. He said, “oh no sir, there’s a few options you have, depending on what you’ll be using the drill for.” I picked one, and walked back over to the counter, he had me sign a sheet basically saying that my old drill was broken, and he recorded the number on the new one – no name, address, nothing else – and wrapped it up, and told me to have a great day! I called my dad and told him what happened. He started laughing and told me he bought that drill probably 20 or so years ago!

    Recently, I managed to break a Husky socket – and truth be told, I wasn’t exactly using it as designed – just went in to exchange it, and was asked if I wouldn’t mind bringing the entire set back, as they didn’t carry singles. So, about a week later, I returned with the entire set – still a little yucky from me spilling some motor oil in the case. They told me they didn’t have my set in stock, so they swapped me out for the next bigger set! Really nice people to deal with.

    So, in response to the question about lifetime warranties being worth it – heck yes, i’ll pay more for a well made tool, and the extra piece of mind is nice if I manage to frak it up is well worth it!


  13. Lou says:

    I’ve been using Craftsman tools for over twenty years now. I’ve used them in everything from machining to boat building and currently as an amusement ride mechanic. I’ve tried the other big name tools like Snap-on, Proto, etc. and always end up going back to my good ol’ Craftsman set because of their hassle free warranty. They do limit their warraties on some of their hand tools, but a properly used, well cared for tool can last a lifetime. Remember, all hammers are tools but not all tools are hammers!

    By the way, I’ve only ever replaced screw drivers, a measuring tape I dropped from about 40 feet up, a very old rachet and a level I left out in the sun a little too long. Most of the other tools I’ve had since I first bought the original set.

    Hammer up!

  14. Mike says:

    Generally speaking, warranties are only backups, but they imply that the maker has given it a good shot.

    I’ve had Sears replace a tap that broke without question. I always thought they were disposables, myself, but, what the heck. Not sure if someone made a mistake, but…

    I also had a fairly large friend who was abusing a 30mm socket working on his VW Bug with a rather lengthy (6′) cheater bar. When he took his 3rd broken socket in, THAT DAY, they exchanged it, with only the additional question being “So, gonna give it another shot?” He didn’t, but it was impressive that they didn’t give him any flack about it.

  15. Brau says:

    Absolutley valuable!

    As an ex-technician, now home hobbyist, I buy almost all my hand tools at Sears simply because of their no-questions-asked replacement policy on their lifetime warrantied tools. Even as a tech I regularly broke sidecutters and screwdrivers and Sears never balked once despite the fact I used them for trade purposes. As far as guaranteed tools go they are also among the lowest priced, meaning losing them doesn’t break the bank. (You don’t want to lose your $30 Snap-On sidecutters too often).

    My automotive buddies are a different breed though; a top quality guaranteed tool is paramount because they just can’t be heading out in their greasies to Sears to get a replacement while the customer waits. Strictly speaking they value premier quality over the guarantee and for that reason expressly use Snap-On and Mac. (but hey, they aren’t lugging their tools around town or losing them in people’s crawlspaces and attics like I occasionally was.)

  16. bricklayer says:

    As a commercial bricklayer i subject my measuring tape to much use and abuse. I have been a fairly loyal Craftsman tape user over the last 15 years and have noticed an increasing trend of local Sears’ refusal to honor the warranty on measuring tapes if the tape is returned with certain problems. Used to i could just walk in with a worn out tape, get a brand new one off the shelf and do the swap thing at the counter with no hassle of paperwork. Then it was “we’ll mail you a new one – only takes 4 to 6 weeks” and now I have to ask the salesman at the counter exactly what is covered and what is not. The ease of warranty exchange is no longer a sure thing with the tape measure.

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