LL-Bean_Guarantee_blog3-300x196Our household has had a lot of good luck lately getting warranties to pay off. You know, those little cards included with your electronics, household item, or appliance that say, “If this gizmo fails within x months, we’ll replace it free of charge.”

My new mantra: Keep those warranties. And don’t hesitate to use them!

The backpack

My eldest daughter carries her high school books in a four-year-old Jansport backpack. And does she ever give that bag a workout. Many of her texts are still available bulky-book only; they don’t yet have e-book versions.

One day the zipper stopped working. It got off-track and neither my daughter nor I could figure out how to fix it. I was just about to take it to an alterations shop for a zipper replacement when it hit me: These backpacks are really nicely made. Is it possible they have some sort of lifetime warranty?

I checked the Jansport website and bingo! Yep, lifetime warranty if it’s clear that you didn’t do something drastic to the backpack to cause it to fail. For $10, I mailed in the bag and got it fixed for free. It was back in my daughter’s hands in about 10 days. I don’t think they even asked me to show proof of purchase.

This success gave me a jolt of optimism. What else in our household might be under fixable under warranty?

The alarm clock

A few years ago, I bought this great Moonbeam alarm clock from LL Bean. It wakes me with a gently flashing light that gets brighter and brighter until I turn it off. (It does have an audible, backup alarm that goes off if I miss the light, but it’s amazing how well the flashing beam cuts through my sleep!)

Unfortunately, the light stopped working, and a new bulb didn’t fix it. I procrastinated a bit about replacing it. I knew I could probably get by with a cheaper alarm, but I really loved my Moonbeam.

When I went to LL Bean’s website to buy a new one, I noticed that they, too, offered a great product guarantee. I could replace my three-year-old alarm clock at no charge. The company initially charged me for the replacement clock, but when I returned my defective one by mail, they refunded my money. Another win.

The vacuum hose

Several months later, the flexible hose on our fairly expensive canister vacuum kinked up. Apparently there are wires built into the hose that connect to the power head. The power head is the important part that touches the floor and sucks up the crud. However, as the hose kinked further, the wires got crimped and the power head stopped working.

I checked my paperwork, and wouldn’t you know it? The vacuum had a generous three-year warranty…but the hose failed at three years and two months! I figured I was out of luck. The new hose was $80.

However, I remembered that many credit cards automatically extend your warranty when you use them to make the purchase. I’d never taken advantage of that perk, but why not? I tracked back the vacuum purchase to my Discover card and found a copy of the transaction on a back statement.

I called Discover and they walked me through the warranty-claim process. It was surprisingly trouble-free. I simply got a written estimate of the repair from a service shop and sent it to Discover with the proof that I’d bought the original vacuum on my card. Within a week, the $80 repair price was refunded to my card.

Keep that paperwork!

After all these successful repairs/ replacements, I’ve become a bit zealous about warranties. As soon as I buy a product (like a laptop or phone) that could be expensive to fix if it fails, I scan the warranty statement and receipt and store those documents in a special receipt file.

I also make a point to buy expensive items on a credit card that I’m sure extends warranties on purchases. It’s also a card I plan to keep indefinitely. Even if a warranty issue comes up three years from now, I know I’ll still be a customer of that card company and eligible for warranty help. It’s also a good idea to buy from companies that stand behind their products for life.

The bottom line: Built-in warranties can actually save you significant bucks. Be sure to keep copies of them—and your purchase receipts—for costly items.

On the other hand, the financial experts I interview suggest staying away from purchasing store-issued “extended warranties.” The cost often is too high for what you get in return, and some retailers are notoriously stingy about warranty payouts. Buyer beware!