Unlimited “No Fault” Lifetime Warranty??

There’s been a recent trend in the binocular industry to offer a “lifetime warranty” or “no-fault” warranty. Let’s think about that. What other products do you buy that come with that kind of warranty- cars, computers, televisions, cell phones, home appliances? Of course none of these come with lifetime warranties, it would be ridiculous to expect that! Why should binoculars be any different? Depending on how well you take care of them, they might last a couple years, or the rest of your life- that’s up to you. The implied message of the lifetime warranty is “our binoculars are so well made that they’ll last forever”. That’s nonsense of course. Speaking as somebody that’s been repairing binoculars for 24 years- no matter how well a binocular is made, it’s a precision instrument, and owners will find ways to break them. The question is, do you want to pay extra up front to cover the cost of an insurance plan, or would you rather pay the lowest-possible price for your binocular, take good care of it, and if you do happen to break it at some point- just pay the cost to repair it, or possibly replace it depending on how old it is, and perhaps upgrade to a new and improved model?

The first step in analyzing a warranty is to read the fine-print and know what’s covered and what’s not covered. Some manufacturers offer a ridiculously-long warranty period- 10 years, 20 years, even “lifetime”- but then exclude anything that’s not a “manufacturer’s defect”. The truth is “manufacturer’s defects” will usually be obvious on day one, and will certainly show up within the first year of usage. So it doesn’t matter how long the warranty period is, if it’s only covering manufacturer’s defects, it’s not likely to cover anything after the first year. After the first year, there are only a few things that can go wrong-

  1. The number one answer- the binocular was damaged from a hard drop
  2. The binocular was left outdoors 24/7 and now there’s internal fogging or water intrusion
  3. The dog chewed-up the rubber parts

If the warranty does not exclude accidents or abuse of product, then you have to ask- who’s really paying for that cost? Is the manufacturer eating it, just because they love their customers? Or did you pay for an insurance policy in the price of the binocular when you bought it? If you’re a manufacturer, and your cost to build a binocular is 30% of the selling price, you could probably afford to replace a binocular for any reason- and still be profitable. If your cost to build is more than 50%, replacing a binocular will make that sale a loss. Oberwerk’s cost to manufacture averages well above 50% selling cost, with higher-end products above 60%. With our thin margins, Oberwerk products can only only sold direct, and not through resellers. We do love our customers- so we offer to them great products at lowest-possible prices. Because of that, we simply can’t afford to replace binoculars that don’t have manufacturer’s defects. What we do is thoroughly inspect each and every binocular, to be sure it doesn’t ship with a defect, and to be sure the alignment is as perfect as possible. We then offer a 15-day satisfaction guarantee, where we’ll replace or exchange for any reason, and completely at our cost- or we’ll simply accept a return. We include a 2-year or 3-year warranty (depending on product) to cover any possible defects that don’t show up right away, which is probably more generous than the warranties on most other products that you buy. Beyond that, if something goes wrong- sorry, you broke it. We’ll take care of it, but we’ll charge a reasonable price to do so. We could change our warranty to a “lifetime limited warranty”- but that would just be a marketing gimmick as there will be no manufacturer’s defects discovered years after the purchase. You’d still pay for breaking it. Alternatively, we could mark up binoculars by an extra 30-50%, and then cover accidents like some manufacturers do- but do you really want to pay a higher price to cover the costs for customers that don’t take care of their things? Or would you rather pay a lower price, knowing that if you break it, you’ll need to cover that cost? If you’re the type of person that buys extended warranties, then perhaps a “no-fault unlimited warranty” is for you- because you’re paying for an extended warranty in the price of the binocular. If you appreciate a good value, and you take care of your possessions, then you might want to avoid paying up-front for “unlimited no-fault warranties”.