Tools for Life
May 23, 2008 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Tools for Life: The last [blank] you'll ever need to buy.

After Allclad replaced my nonstick pan for the price of shipping when the notoriously short-lasting nonstick surface started flaking away after a year or two, I started wondering what other companies have similarly good warranties and similarly good (or better!) quality.
posted by sirion to Grab Bag (50 answers total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
The maglite. I know people who have had them for 20+ years. I've got one with an LED module (sorry, forgot where I got it) and it lasts forever at a brightness more than sufficient for reading.

My dad and I have had our swiss army watches replaced several times each, no questions asked.
posted by phrontist at 1:07 PM on May 23, 2008

Not sure about specific purchases, but you can return anything to Costco, providing you bought it there in the first place. We returned a Bowflex almost two years after we purchased it. Two years! They gave us our money back and all we had to do was tell them why we were returning it (which, of course, was that we had used it maybe once each year).
posted by carmelita at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2008

Craftsman hand tools have a similarly good warranty, though I'm not sure the quality is as good as it used to be.
posted by box at 1:10 PM on May 23, 2008

Craftsmen is well known for this. The tools aren't the highest quality, but they're pretty rugged, and Sears has always been excellent about replacing them free of charge when they do break.
posted by saladin at 1:11 PM on May 23, 2008

One minute too late, and I misspelled the company name. Sigh.
posted by saladin at 1:11 PM on May 23, 2008

The last casket you'll ever need to buy:

Satisfaction Guarantee - We guarantee that if you are not fully satisfied, the casket may be returned for a full refund.

from here.
posted by ddaavviidd at 1:12 PM on May 23, 2008

Zippo is also famous for their lifetime no-questions-asked warranty.
posted by zsazsa at 1:14 PM on May 23, 2008

Ah, this reminds me... Pelican Cases!
posted by phrontist at 1:17 PM on May 23, 2008

I had one LL Bean Backpack that got me through pretty much all of my pre-college. education. Whenever it would wear out, we'd send it back and get a new one.
posted by o0dano0o at 1:18 PM on May 23, 2008

Also (from googling lifetime guarantee), it seems that everything sold by Hammacher Schlemmer has an uncondtional lifetime guarantee.
posted by o0dano0o at 1:23 PM on May 23, 2008

Yes. LL Bean is awesome that way.
posted by bitterkitten at 1:25 PM on May 23, 2008

Doesn't specifically require extreme reliability, but the Cool Tools section of Kevin Kelly's website is supposed to be devoted to high quality goods:
posted by rhys at 1:46 PM on May 23, 2008

As far as backpacks etc go, Jansport has been pretty good to me. They used to (not sure now) have issues with their zippers for example and I've sent back a few packs (day and back) and they've either replaced or fixed everything, no questioned asked.
posted by elendil71 at 1:48 PM on May 23, 2008

Leatherman Multitool — 25 year warranty, very high quality.
posted by knave at 1:50 PM on May 23, 2008

Eddie Bauer says "If, at any time, you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, simply exchange it or return it to us for a refund. Your purchase is guaranteed for the lifetime of the product under normal wear and tear and/or defects in original workmanship." Several years ago I exchanged a backpack that had broken for a new one with no problems.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:50 PM on May 23, 2008

Le Creuset does the lifetime warranty thing.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:51 PM on May 23, 2008

You may find this prior question, which covers similar (but not the same) ground, both relevant and useful.
posted by dersins at 1:52 PM on May 23, 2008

X-Arcade joysticks. Seriously rad.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:06 PM on May 23, 2008

There's a bunch of companies with that kind of warranty. REI comes to mind, for example -- almost everyone I know has at some point returned something to REI that was used to pieces, and was given a refund or a new item, no questions asked.
posted by Forktine at 2:11 PM on May 23, 2008

I love my Spyderco.
posted by charlesv at 2:18 PM on May 23, 2008

Or to answer this a different way: sometimes you have a choice of something with a good warranty but crummy quality (like your pans that are flaking after a year) or something with good enough quality that the warranty isn't so important (like a basic cast iron pan that can hold up to decades of use). That, to me, is the difference between a "tool for life" and something backed by a good company but made for temporary use. There is a place for both, but they are really different things.

And then there are things that are designed to be repairable, compared to things that are designed to be thrown away after one cycle of use, such as between a pair of Birkenstocks and a pair of Nikes, for example.
posted by Forktine at 2:21 PM on May 23, 2008

My Canon digital camera suddenly evidenced a defect - about 3 years after we bought it. The company replaced it, paid for all shipping, and sent us the newer current model which is MUCH COOLER and worth at least ~$400. I'm happy. Who knew it would have FOLIAGE MODE?!? And AQUARIUM MODE?

Maybe this is old news to everyone else, but aquarium mode?
posted by amtho at 2:25 PM on May 23, 2008

(By aquarium mode, I don't mean underwater photography. I mean taking photos of aquariums from outside the glass)
posted by amtho at 2:25 PM on May 23, 2008

We bought a large Sauder bookcase kit several years ago. In the middle of assembling, I discovered that one of the big (7-foot tall), heavy side panels had been milled incorrectly, completely removing the tongue that was to fit into the groove of another panel.

I got on the phone to their customer service, expecting to have to jump through a ton of hoops. I got a rep right away and explained the problem. Without a pause, she apologized, took my name and address and said they'd get a new panel out to me immediately, at no charge.

The next day, I was amazed to discover that "immediately" meant "overnight". I count them as a class act.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:28 PM on May 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

My Canon digital camera suddenly evidenced a defect - about 3 years after we bought it. The company replaced it, paid for all shipping, and sent us the newer current model...

I wish Canon had that same attitude about their video cameras. Our mini-DV cam went belly-up within the same post-purchase timeframe and all Canon would say is "send it to us with a $125 check and we'll take a look at it."
posted by Thorzdad at 2:30 PM on May 23, 2008

Forktine makes a good point. These two items are in the lasts-forever category, not the great-warranty one.

The Swingaway can opener.
The Starr bottle opener.
posted by box at 2:32 PM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dowco Motorcycle Covers If your heavy duty Dowco cover rips, send it to them and they'll send you a new one, no questions asked.

By the way, the Craftsman guarantee applies only to hand tools (not power tools) and excludes torque wrenches. DAMHIK.
posted by workerant at 2:40 PM on May 23, 2008

Patagonia seems to have a good guarantee, but I've never had to use it.

"We guarantee everything we make. If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to the store you bought it from or to Patagonia for a repair, replacement or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge."

posted by fijiwriter at 2:46 PM on May 23, 2008

I used to work in an outdoor gear store (an indie version of REI, basically). Most of the brands, like the aforementioned Patagonia, had virtually no-questions-asked guarantees. We had customers send back North Face, Marmot, Mountain Gear, etc stuff, and it was usually replaced or repaired free of charge. My North Face and Marmot clothing has lasted 10+ years and looks almost new.

My fiancé bought a sea kayak paddle that broke and the company replaced it even before he sent the old one back. He could have been making shit up for all they knew. I believe the company was Werner.
posted by desjardins at 2:59 PM on May 23, 2008

Gerber multitools are good too, and IIRC, have a lifetime guarantee. When I tried to go to the website, I got "Your organization's Internet use policy restricts access to this web page at this time. Reason: The Websense category 'Weapons' is filtered."
posted by desjardins at 3:03 PM on May 23, 2008

The Swingline stapler.
posted by box at 3:06 PM on May 23, 2008

Tilley Hats.
posted by timeistight at 3:26 PM on May 23, 2008

Nissan thermoses are top-quality for insulation. I've been burned in the afternoon by coffee from the morning. The guarantee is for five years.
posted by svolix at 3:30 PM on May 23, 2008

I bought a Briggs & Riley bag when I started college in 1994. Twelve years later, it was still in excellent condition except for when a small piece of metal wore out where the shoulder strap connected to the bag. They would have fixed it for me, no questions asked, except that some jerkwad stole it out of my car before I could send it in.

I replaced it with a similar Briggs & Riley bag that I foresee lasting another decade, if not two.
posted by baho at 4:08 PM on May 23, 2008

We just wore out a Swingaway can opener. It still worked, but the cutting wheel got so dull that my wife didn't have the hand strength to use it. Still a good value, though.
posted by jon1270 at 4:13 PM on May 23, 2008

Mephisto shoes are very well made and you can send them in for repair when needed.

I've had good experiences with both Briggs & Riley bags as described by baho, and with Tumi bags.

Al Mar makes very good pocketknives.

The best fingernail clipper I've found.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:59 PM on May 23, 2008

Seconding leatherman pocket tools. I've heard if you so much as blunt a blade doing something stupid you can send it back and they'll replace the piece in question. A 25 year warranty, while not "lifetime" is pretty damn good for something that gets such wear and tear.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:52 PM on May 23, 2008

We received a 3 piece set of anchor hocking baking dishes for our wedding (no receipt or anything). About a year later the meatloaf pan shattered when we put it away on top of the lasagna pan. We wrote anchor hocking enquiring how to get it replaced (10 year warrantee on the item) and they sent us not only the broken pan but also the rest of the set.
posted by Mitheral at 5:56 PM on May 23, 2008

Something else to consider in the lifetime guarantee / virtually indestructible equation is will you outgrow it? I'm specifically thinking of things like a table saw or other piece of equipment where the size, precision and number of features varies widely as you go from the low end model that the local big box hardware store stocks to what you can get at a high end specialty store.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:03 PM on May 23, 2008

Dont know if this is the kind of info you're looking for, but:

My honda civic hatchback is on its 16th year and runs like new. I expect it to last my lifetime at the rate its going. Just incredible.

I had a Hamilton wristwatch that I paid $50 for, looked great, and lasted 15 years and I sold it on ebay out of boredom. (And got more than I paid for it originally).

I had a GE television set that lasted 20 years and I finally threw it out out of boredom. I had a GE alarm clock that lasted 19 years and I finally replaced it out of boredom.

Fourthing LL Bean. I've returned jackets, bookbags etc and they've sent free replacements. Some of this was regular wear and tear that they promptly just replaced. They also offer to re-sole shoes (loafers, snow boots).

My Leatherman, swiss army knife, and my maglite are indestructible as far as I can tell. (You can get the LED converter for the maglite at

My Stanley tools are the highest quality tools in my toolbox in terms of effectiveness, ergonomics, the way they feel in your hand and get things done. I dont know if they have a lifetime warranty but I've never had to replace them and I generally dont buy any other brand if I can help it.

I had a Toshiba Satellite laptop that lasted 9 years and was running strong when it was replaced.
posted by jak68 at 8:49 PM on May 23, 2008

I have two pairs of Koss headphones, and for the price of shipping, they'll replace them, no questions asked. I've probably sent them in about 4 or 5 times, although this may be more of an indicator of the quality of them - the speakers like to break off the band.
posted by bertrandom at 10:24 PM on May 23, 2008

Felco garden pruners. They're like $50 a pair, but they work beautifully and have sharpenable / replaceable blades. The packaging includes an exploded diagram and parts list. The horticulturalist who owns the local garden center says he lost a pair after using it for 20 years, during which time it needed no maintenance aside from sharpening and occasional lubrication.
posted by jon1270 at 7:28 AM on May 24, 2008

Tweezerman tweezers used to say on the package, "Guaranteed to be the last tweezers you will ever buy," but I can't find that slogan anywhere on their website. At any rate, they'll sharpen them for free forever, repair them for five bucks, or replace them with new tweezers for half the price. They're also the best tweezers on the market.
posted by granted at 2:09 PM on May 24, 2008

I have a Landice treadmill and it has a lifetime guarantee on parts.
posted by mmascolino at 2:02 PM on May 25, 2008

Nthing the REI outdoor gear. I've got REI and Sierra Designs jackets I got in high school that I still wear (I'm 30). Both are still waterproof and no torn seams in spite of having crossed the continent both directions and been in many hiking/backpacking trips and worn around town constantly

Estwing hammers. Buy one and try to use it up and you'll still end up passing it down to your kids.

Cast iron C clamps. I have a set my grandfather stored in used motor oil and that still work perfectly in spite of being at least 50 years old.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:04 AM on May 26, 2008

Rapha bike clothing is really the ultimate in no-nonsense comfort, durability, and performance. I've slowly started buying all the Rapha gear I can (on sale, on ebay) and it's really the most comfortable and best performing stuff I own for serious bike riding.
posted by mathowie at 9:43 AM on May 28, 2008

I had 2 4 year old rain jackets replaced for free by Marmot
posted by dougiedd at 2:15 PM on May 28, 2008

Good advice here! A question.. when all these companies have lifetime warranties, would we need to original receipt? Lets say something breaks 3 years after the purchase, would Costco need the receipt? Or if you're returning say, a camera directly to the company, do they need the original box and all parts?

Are these things I should be saving just in case when I buy products?
posted by KateHasQuestions at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2008

Depends on the product and where you bought it. I've never bought anything at Costco, but I can say that Cutco knives have a lifetime guarantee against breakage and possesion of the knife is seen as the only prereq in exercising the warranty.
posted by mmascolino at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2008

Nthing REI, especially since they're replace anything that breaks or you want to return. Ever.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:55 AM on June 12, 2008

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