There are many misconceptions out there when it comes to furniture warranties. They don’t always operate like warranties for cars or electronics. Furniture warranties cover things like manufacturer defects, but not performance issues – and differentiating the two areas can be tricky. Many companies also offer extended warranties to their customers at an additional charge, which can be even more confusing. How a manufacturer warranties its furniture says a lot about the furniture itself; you just have to listen.
What is a warranty?
When it comes to furniture, a warranty is an explicit, written assurance by the manufacturer that they will stand behind the quality of their products for as long as they specify. Legally speaking, there are three types of warranties:
- Full – An unlimited, full warranty is exceedingly rare. It has no time limit and does not restrict coverage to the first purchaser of the product – meaning the warranty would still be valid even if you bought the item for $2 at a yard sale. The warranty service is completely free of charge, including any shipping or installation costs when necessary, and the consumer can choose whether or not to take a full refund or a new replacement if the product cannot be repaired after a certain number of attempts.
- Limited – Limited warranties are much more widespread in today’s marketplace. It gives the manufacturer the ability to specify the duration of the warranty from the time of sale. The other components of full warranties generally apply to limited warranties – they are merely restricted by the timeframe set forth by the manufacturer.
- Express – Express warranties are a little more simplistic. They tend to come in the form of sales pitches made by the manufacturer or retailer during a sales transaction. They could also consist of something advertised in a mailer or on a television commercial. While an express warranty covers an oral promise made about the product, it’s important to note that only written warranties are covered under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act – which was enacted in 1975 to help protect consumers from deceptive warranty practices.
What is covered?
Almost all furniture companies will cover defects in their products. Just like if you purchased a pair of headphones from Best Buy and only one ear worked, a furniture company intends to get you a product free from blemishes and imperfections. If the furniture is delivered to you assembled, it should be put together securely and accurately. There should be no broken wood, glass, or fixtures, and no scratches (unless it is supposed to be distressed). If the furniture is upholstered, your stitching should be clean and consistent, with no loose strings or saggy fabric. Almost every manufacturer will guarantee that what you receive at home will look just like what you saw in the showroom, and if it doesn’t, they will either fix it or replace it.
What isn’t covered?
Furniture warranties generally exclude one thing: performance. They will make sure that you get what you ordered, but they aren’t going to guarantee that it is going to function how you want it to function. It’s not that the manufacturers are trying to be disingenuous here; they simply have no idea what you are doing to the furniture once it arrives in your home or business. Do you allow children to jump on it? Do you own 30 cats? Is it being used in a motel room? They honestly cannot cover the unknown.
When you have a mattress that develops a sag in the middle or a couch that practically traps you inside within a year, those problems are most likely going to be considered “performance” issues and not covered by the warranties. If a spring pops on the mattress or the couch, then that would be a considered a defect which would then be included. To clarify what isn’t going to be covered, always ask for a copy of the warranty in writing so that you can see what you are getting – and what you aren’t.
Be especially wary of any upholstery guarantees, and make sure they are in writing, too. Just like a standard warranty, most only protect against defects and won’t cover any actual performance issues.
What happens when you have an issue?
Furniture warranties differ from car warranties when it comes to servicing. If you buy a Ford and have an issue, you can take it to any Ford dealer to have it serviced. In the world of furniture, the manufacturer is going to want you to work through any issues through the exact retailer from which you purchased the item. Even if the retailer has another store that is closer to you, you will most likely have to go back to the exact purchasing location to work through your problems.
If the problem occurred during shipping, then you will want to approach the shipping company first for guidance on what to do. They will often handle the repairs or replacements themselves.
The warranty always gives the manufacturer the ability to fix the product without replacing it, so long as the remedy – or remedies – can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. It’s crucial to note here that also unlike a car warranty, you won’t be receiving a “loaner” couch while your other one is out for repairs. You could be missing a couch for weeks – if not months – for shipping and repairs.
Should I purchase an extended warranty?
There are many purveyors of inexpensive furniture that sell extended warranties to consumers at the time of purchase for an additional charge. Do your research on the companies that offer these; they are usually riddled with consumer complaints. If the company is reputable and the cost of the warranty makes sense based on the cost of your furniture, then an extended warranty could make sense.
On the flip side, when you purchase quality furniture from a dependable retailer, the warranties are never an extra charge. Most reputable retailers, like The Guest Room, will even extend the manufacturer’s warranty at no additional cost.
What’s the bottom line?
The better the warranty, the better the furniture quality.
If a manufacturer is going to guarantee their product for three to five years or even a lifetime, you will be able to see why in the craftsmanship of the piece. Sometimes, though, the warranty given by the retailer is just as important. For example, we carry an outdoor line called Summer Classics in the store. Online, you can only get a one-year warranty on the furniture. Depending on the purchase, The Guest Room offers customers a free three- or five-year warranty on the products.
One of The Guest Room’s fine furniture manufacturers, Smith Brothers, recently received a sofa purchased in the 1940s from a customer. They repaired it and sent it back to them, at no cost. When a retailer or manufacturer is confident in the quality of its products, they will stand behind what they sell – free of charge.