Most luggage out there has as warranty. Warranties typically range from 5 years to Lifetime warranties. I am going to do my best to help educate you on luggage warranties. In some cases, you are not going to like what you read, but I hope that I can inject a dose of reality and fair expectations.
I’m going to start with the most common warranty, the “Lifetime Warranty”. To start, this does not mean "your lifetime". This typically means the life of the luggage. Yes, the life of the luggage. Everything has a life and will eventually wear out. I always use the analogy of a pair of shoes. The more you wear the shoes or the number of miles you walk with those shoes, will determine the life of the pair of shoes. They eventually wear out and should be thrown out or mounted on the wall for their memories. The one thing we do know, the shoes are definitely going to wear out at some point. Luggage is the same. The more you travel, and the type of travel that you do, is going to determine the life expectancy of your luggage. Another factor that we need to take into consideration for the life expectancy of your luggage is the level of specifications and the workmanship of the luggage. Manufacturers are very free with slapping on the “Lifetime Warranty” designation on their luggage. Many manufacturers use this warranty to convince the consumer that their product is worthy of this designation, it is a sales tool. Some manufacturers calculate the potential costs of what this warranty is going to cost them based on the potential of consumers returning the product for failure or defects. Unfortunately, the lower the price of the luggage, the less likely it is to get returned. Most consumers will throw out the luggage rather than take the time to return or repair it. The higher the investment, the more likely the consumers are to try and extend the life of their luggage. When I use the word “unfortunately” with the lower priced luggage, this is due to these manufacturers understanding this dilemma and taking advantage of it with the “Lifetime Warranty” statement. They fully understand that their luggage was not manufactured to last an extended period of time. Their “out” is the term “Life”. The “Life” of the luggage. If the luggage just falls apart, the manufacturer will call that “wear & tear”, which is not covered under any warranty. If the luggage looks like it is falling apart, the manufacturer will call that “cosmetic damage” which again is not covered under the majority of the warranties. Then a step further, if those “outs” don’t work, the manufacturer will call the damage “airline damage”. As we all know, “airline damage” is the main source of damage to any luggage during travel. Airline damage is a whole different story for a later date.
If you are investing over $300.00 for a piece of luggage, you are most likely purchasing luggage that the manufacturer has pride in their brand and their product. This being the case, their warranty is probably fairly legit, and they will back it up as much as possible. Usually “Lifetime Warranty” means warranty against defects in parts, materials and workmanship. If a seam splits, wheel falls off or zipper splits open, those usually fall under these scenarios. If the luggage gets crushed, corner caved in or fabric worn through to create a hole, those issues usually fall under “airline damage”, wear & tear, or abuse. The only warranties that cover “airline damage” are stated very clearly within their warranty statements. Briggs & Riley’s “Simple as That Warranty”, covers airline damage for the life of the product. They started this standard and several manufacturers have followed suit, Eagle Creek's "No Matter What Warranty" is another one of the warranties covering airline damage for the life of the product. Some manufacturers offer this similar warranty covering airline damage for the first 1 – 5 years from the purchase date, TUMI covers airline damage for the 1st year. With each of these warranties, it is almost certain that “cosmetic damage” will not be covered. If your luggage is still functioning but doesn’t look as nice as it did the day you purchased it, you will need to chalk these travel scars as your history in the travels with this luggage. Some product looks battle tested with all of the bruises and dents. At some point, it does get embarrassing looking if your luggage looks like it is on its last leg of life. At that point you should admit that you got your moneys worth out of your purchase and either stay loyal to the brand that supplied you with the luggage that offered so many enjoyable trips, or upgrade to anther brand or product that you think might eliminate what you saw as weaknesses in your previous luggage.
The overall message regarding Lifetime Warranty, don’t believe that this statement means that the luggage is any better quality than luggage offering a 5-year warranty. Some of the best luggage in the world does not offer a Lifetime Warranty, and in some cases, only a 5-year warranty that does not include airline damage. Yes, this luggage is using the highest level of specifications that they feel is realistic, yet they don’t want to put their product in this category of “Lifetime Warranty” which they feel is an unreasonable expectation. Maybe after using their luggage for 100’s of trips, you finally have a failure. If beyond their warranty period, you will have the choice to pay for the repair on your own or replace the luggage. Sometimes the payment for the repair is worth it and certainly justifiable. Sometimes you might just want to send your piece of luggage to the grave and start a new relationship with a new piece of luggage.
Just because the warranty might seem better, this does not always mean the luggage is better. Would you rather have a piece of luggage that has a 1-year warranty that you were able to use 100’s of trips and never needed a repair? Or would you prefer luggage with a “Lifetime Warranty” that needed a repair every other trip? Sometimes it gets a little annoying to continue taking your luggage in for repairs in between your trips and needing to use a spare piece of luggage while the repair is being done. There is no easy solution here, but you might want to start with shopping at a reputable Travel Goods store that has history with most of the brands they carry, and knowledge of the specifications that the brands are utilizing. Ask the sales associate; “which brands do you see the least amount of times for warranty support?”, which will give you a good starting point. Then you can take into account the designs, functions, weight, colors, etc. Or, do what I do and put “Warranty” at the bottom of that list and get what I like first and figure that if I made an above average investment in my luggage purchase, the quality should be a given. If you pay $99.99 for a piece of luggage with a “Lifetime Warranty”, the odds are that you will be testing their warranty after every trip you take. Nothing is more annoying than a wheel or handle system breaking in the middle of your trip. There are plenty of other things to stress out about during a business trip, or vacation, rather than adding your luggage to that equation.
There are a couple of sayings, “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” Benjamin Franklin. Or, “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten” Aldo Gucci. They both say the same thing, you won’t regret a purchase of quality product.
Stay tuned for a blog on “airline damage”.