My favorite bicycle vendor refuses to offer a lifetime warranty on their products. Their argument is that they want to make something so good it doesn’t need a warranty. What the other manufacturers do is make something so cheaply that, with markup, they are expecting every item to be replaced by a warranty at least once and they still turn a profit. To do that, the manufacturing cost has to be incredibly low, which brings the quality down.
So this company simply says “We price our bikes right. You should get a lifetime out of it. If you don’t, talk to us and we’ll see what we can do, but we can’t promise anything, because we price our frames properly to be made well.”
It’s a bold choice since it requires an informed consumer. Your average consumer is going to look at the bike with a warranty and assume it’s better because “the manufacturer stands behind it.” In reality, the warranty actually tells you it’s made cheaply, but marked up enough to make replacement part of the equation.
We forget, though, about the hassle of replacement. If your bike fails, that is at least a month of dealing with a warranty replacement and riding the bus or driving when you could be on two wheels. If your dishwasher fails, you need to bring a plumber out to repair or replace it, and while parts might be covered under a warranty, labor sometimes isn’t.
Even with smaller objects, would you rather have a shirt that lasts, or one you have to replace? Aside from the price difference, the time it takes to shop for something is a real cost in our lives. I would rather pay twice as much for a shirt that lasts 3-5 times as long not just because it’s the better cost-benefit equation, but also because I really would rather avoid going shopping if at all possible, and the shirt that lasts saves me having to buy another shirt for longer.
The issue is the way we shop now. When I worked in a bicycle shop, I could talk through the cost-to-benefit analysis with a customer: what might last longer, be easier to fit into your life, or be easier to maintain. In which case, an extra $50 was never the deal breaker. While shopping online is amazing, it has a fatal flaw: the “sort-by-price” button. We all do it, to see what the absolute cheapest option is. Often, we buy it knowing it won’t last, because it’s the cheapest, and it’s so easy to buy another when it breaks.
This motivates manufacturers to make at least one option to be at the bottom of the “sort-by-price” list, out of fear of losing the market.
Next time you shop in reality, talk to the salesman about what items are returned most often for warranty repairs. What items seem to make the buyers happiest. Read the three star reviews online (5 star reviews are often from a week after the item was purchased, but three and four show an understand of pros and cons) before you buy, and if it costs 20% more but will last longer, consider the upgrade. It’ll save you money and time down the road.
Occasionally, Logix will invite guest bloggers to post on assorted financial topics. These posts may or may not represent our views